Best MBA Programs

How the Rotman School of Management built Canada’s Top MBA

Rotman takes the number one spot in our expanded survey of the reputations of MBA schools across the country

NEW! Our updated 2017 MBA guide is now available »

The main stairwell at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. (Rotman)

When it comes to reputation, there’s no beating Rotman. The prestigious University of Toronto business school has always been held in high regard on Bay Street, where many of its faculty established their careers. This year, our first comprehensive reputational survey ranks Rotman the No. 1 MBA in Canada, followed by the Queen’s School of Business and the Ivey Business School at Western University.

With a new $92-million glass tower on the U of T campus, a program that typically leads the Canadian pack in global MBA rankings and a dean whose C.V. includes a stint as senior deputy governor at the Bank of Canada, it’s not surprising that Rotman has a great reputation. It’s a “world-renowned institution with international connections,” commented one respondent. Another highlighted Rotman’s “professors, learning environment and knowledge acquired,” identifying the program as the best in the country. The curriculum’s high standing in international rankings (it won the No. 1 Canadian school spot in the Financial Times’ most recent ranking) also received frequent mention.

Should a school’s reputation actually matter to aspiring students? While some might dismiss reputation as a superficial measure of a program’s success, there’s no denying the allure of some degrees: 87% of respondents in our proprietary survey said that “having an MBA from a top branded program has great value.” Translation: A high-wattage degree can make a difference when graduates seek employment.

The survey, conducted by Rogers’ Consumer Insights Team, polled close to 1,000 Canadians about the 41 institutions that offer MBA programs in Canada. It also asked a number of questions about the value of an MBA education (more about our methodology).

Among the key findings:

■ 38% percent of respondents believe that an MBA degree is maintaining its value; 36% say that the value of an MBA is steadily or rapidly increasing.

■ A little over one-third (34%) perceive Canadian MBA programs to be better than internationally available MBA programs. Another three in five (59%) feel that the programs are comparable.

■ MBA graduates say they have seen average income increases of 24% as a result of obtaining an MBA degree.

■ In terms of cost, graduates say that average tuitions should be no more than $20,000.

At $95,100, Rotman’s is the most expensive MBA in Canada. Presumably Rotman’s prestige makes the cost of its program worthwhile. Still, not everyone can afford that price tag.

To assist students in making tough choices about how and where to spend their money, we’ve once again collected data from all of the universities across Canada and compiled a ranking based on key factors that may shape decision-making.

In previous years, our ranking methodology has put a strong emphasis on school reputation and the salary boost graduates see after completing their degrees. (Our survey results confirm these priorities: knowledge and learning, income improvement potential and prestige were identified by respondents as the three most critical factors in an MBA education.) This year, however, a substantial number of schools couldn’t provide the salary data we requested, so we’ve eliminated it as a factor. The methodology still awards points for criteria that include program length and tuition costs (assuming lower is better), amount of work experience required and the quality of the classroom experience.

The resulting ranking—which puts HEC Montreal in the top spot—offers 10 schools worth considering if you’re looking to do an MBA in as short a time as possible at a relatively low cost, while still attending an institution with a reputation that will make your degree stand out.

While readers interested in applying to a program appreciate our listing of Canadian MBA schools, the idea of ranking isn’t popular with all of the institutions. Six universities opted out of providing data for ranking purposes this year: Toronto, McGill, Western, British Columbia, Windsor and York. Some said compiling the exact data requested was challenging as well as a drain on resources; others disputed the weightings we assigned to our methodology. And several questioned whether it’s possible to do an apples-to-apples comparison of programs that vary in so many small but significant ways (for example, longer programs sometimes come with a valuable work placement that makes the extended timeframe desirable).

While we believe the 10 programs featured on our list are excellent schools, this list doesn’t provide a full picture of the Canadian MBA landscape, nor does it factor in individual needs. It may, however, serve as a useful starting point for students seeking to make a choice from an ever-increasing array of options.

NEW! Our updated 2017 MBA guide is now available »