French business schools have retained their dominance as the best providers of masters in finance programmes around the world this year, with five of the country’s institutions among the top 11 ranked in the latest assessment by the Financial Times.
But other countries are strongly represented. There were four US schools in the assessment, led by MIT: Sloan, as well as a dozen in the UK, including London Business School. In Asia, the highest position went to Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management in China, with other strong institutions in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Demand for masters in finance qualifications remains strong: a survey by GMAC (the Graduate Management Admission Council) estimates that a third of business schools around the world experienced an increase in applications for master of finance and master of accounting programmes in 2021.
Meanwhile, specialist qualifications offering training in digital and analytical skills have surged.
There is also intensifying competition from providers of financial training beyond business schools’ masters programmes. These include an explosion of online courses, as well as offerings from start-up technology providers and professional qualification bodies, including the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.
But business education has been sharply disrupted since the pandemic first hit in 2020. This has limited in-person tuition and the movement of international students — and persuaded many candidates to pursue studies rather than enter or remain in an uncertain job market.
Olivier Bossard, executive director of HEC Paris’s MSc Finance, says: “This is a boom market for young people getting into finance. If anything, the pandemic has created a gap for entry-level jobs. There is demand from young people and demand from employers. Before, they were hiring for roles in corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions. But, now, it is moving back to financial markets.”
He also notes that, despite Brexit and an accompanying shift in thousands of financial services jobs from the UK to EU countries, London remains a significant industry employer and continues to offer many jobs to new graduates.
On average, three-fifths of students in schools ranked by the FT are international — drawn from countries other than where their business school is based — with the proportion above 90 per cent for a number of the institutions in the UK, US, Spain and Singapore.
In some countries, such as the US, the technical content of the masters in finance means the qualification is classified as a science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) degree, granting the right to post-graduation work visa rights. This can make it particularly appealing to students from other countries.
Geoff Garrett, dean of the USC Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles, says the degree was appealing both to faculty and to students “because it can be way more technical than an MBA, which is becoming such a generalist degree”.
Pre-professional masters in finance continue to dominate the qualifications being offered. However, a small selective group of business schools run post-professional masters courses for those who already have several years of work experience.
In a separate ranking, the FT assessed three leading post-experience masters in finance diplomas, with London Business School taking top place, followed by Cambridge: Judge and Singapore Management University: Lee Kong Chian.
All schools in the two FT rankings are internationally accredited, provide sufficient data for analysis, and are ranked on factors including the salaries of alumni three years after completion, graduate career progress and diversity by gender and international background of students and faculty.
MIT, followed by Tsinghua and HEC, led the rankings for highest average annual salary of graduates three years on from completing their pre-professional qualification.
However, Lucerne School of Business offered the best value for money, taking into account salaries compared with the programme costs and duration of study, while ESCP scored top for aims achieved and overall satisfaction.
The average masters in finance course analysed lasts 16 months. At University of Oxford: Saïd and Lund University School of Economics and Management they can be as short as nine months but four Swiss and two Portuguese courses extend over more than two years.