Choosing a university is far from easy – with so many places to go and courses to study, picking the right one is a minefield. But what if you based your decision according to where the CEOs of the world’s most successful companies spent their college days?
Times Higher Education has found out which universities were home to the top business men and women of 2017. The Alma Mater Index 2017 (“alma mater” being Latin for “nourishing mother”) ranks universities according to how many qualifications they have awarded to chief executives of companies that feature in Fortune magazine’s Fortune Global 500. This list is a compilation of the world’s 500 largest companies by revenue, whose earnings in 2015 totalled $27.6 trillion (£22.3 trillion).
From the survey, it appears that having a degree from a world-leading university is the way to go for a stronger chance of a career in a business powerhouse. It also seems that domestically educated chief executives are preferred at the helm of an organisation: almost two-thirds of the companies on the Fortune Global 500 list are run by chief executives who have a degree from the country where the company is based.
Information on the education of chief executives was researched using biographies, company websites, press releases, industry association websites, conference speaker biographies and news sources. Where a chief executive has qualifications from more than one university (including undergraduate and master’s degrees, doctorates and other postgraduate qualifications) the companies’ revenues are attributed to each university that has awarded their chief executive a degree.
The index is limited by the public availability of information, and it was not able to find details on all individuals’ educational history. Nonetheless, the results give an insight into the academic background of the business elite.
Top five universities that have educated the most global business leaders
Harvard Business School in Massachusetts enrolled 936 students on its two-year MBA course in 2016. It has an impressive research department and catalogue of published work, including Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal, written by Professor Eugene Soltes.
Harvard has awarded 29 qualifications to 26 chief executives of companies with a combined 2015 revenue of more than $1.4 trillion.
In 2015, Stanford had its 125th anniversary. Stanford’s Graduate School of Business offers a two-year MBA programme and a one-year MSx management programme along with several other course options.
Notable alumni in business include the founders of Google (Sergey Brin and Larry Page), the head of Netflix (Reed Hastings) and the co-founder of Nike (Phil Knight).
Stanford awarded 14 degrees to 12 chief executives of companies worth a total of $729 billion.
HEC Paris is a business school that claims in its mission statement to be “training the global leaders of tomorrow”.
Focused on nurturing close connections to the corporate world, HEC Paris has an impressive alumni network including the CEOs of L’Oréal, EDF and Allianz France. It offers a master’s in management, an MBA and a summer school for recent graduates looking to sharpen their business acumen.
HEC Paris awarded 12 degrees to 12 chief executives running companies with total revenues of $516 billion.
École Polytechnique is a science-focused institution, boasting one of the world’s best engineering schools. Renowned for its 20-laboratory-strong research centre, it says that innovation in the sciences and economics is the key to its success.
The university educated 11 chief executives and awarded 11 degrees, but their companies generated more revenue than Stanford’s alumni, with a total 2015 revenue of more than $840 billion.
Situated in New York, Cornell University and its College of Arts and Sciences offers a wide range of undergraduate courses, ranging from medieval studies to game design.
Cornell awarded 10 degrees to seven chief executives, whose companies had a total revenue of $547 billion.
The Alma Mater Index 2017 top 100
|Rank||Rank in THE World University Rankings 2016-17||University||Country|
|1||6||Harvard University||United States|
|2||3||Stanford University||United States|
|5||19||Cornell University||United States|
|6||13||University of Pennsylvania||United States|
|8||10||University of Chicago||United States|
|9||5||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||United States|
|11||NR||ENA, École Nationale d’Administration||France|
|14||1||University of Oxford||United Kingdom|
|15||170||University of Cologne||Germany|
|16||39||University of Tokyo||Japan|
|17||201-250||University of Stuttgart||Germany|
|18||32||New York University||United States|
|19||20||Northwestern University||United States|
|20||4||University of Cambridge||United Kingdom|
|21||72||Seoul National University||South Korea|
|22||112||University of Göttingen||Germany|
|23||=36*||University of Illinois||United States|
|24||16||Columbia University||United States|
|25||201-250||Polytechnic University of Milan||Italy|
|26||NR||China Europe International Business School||China|
|28||601-800||Tokyo University of Science||Japan|
|29||8||Imperial College London||United Kingdom|
|32||45*||University of Wisconsin||United States|
|33||195||National Taiwan University||Taiwan|
|34||18||Duke University||United States|
|35||601-800||China University of Petroleum (Beijing)||China|
|36||=80*||University of Pittsburgh||United States|
|37||601-800||Auburn University||United States|
|38||60||University of Southern California||United States|
|39||NR||Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications||China|
|40||56*||University of North Carolina||United States|
|42||169*||Texas A&M University||United States|
|43||33||University of Melbourne||Australia|
|44||351-400||Hanyang University||South Korea|
|45||14||University of California, Los Angeles||United States|
|46||7||Princeton University||United States|
|47||21*||University of Michigan||United States|
|49||12||Yale University||United States|
|51||113||University of Bonn||Germany|
|52||78||RWTH Aachen University||Germany|
|54||182||University of the Witwatersrand||South Africa|
|55||301-350||University of Kent||United Kingdom|
|56||251-300||University of São Paulo||Brazil|
|57||801+||Southwest Jiaotong University||China|
|58||501-600||Harbin Institute of Technology||China|
|59||NR||Harbin Engineering University||China|
|60||9||ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich||Switzerland|
|61||NR||Dongbei University of Finance and Economics||China|
|63||82||Technical University of Berlin||Germany|
|64||NR||Babson College||United States|
|65||59||Delft University of Technology||Netherlands|
|66||51||Brown University||United States|
|67||401-500||San Diego State University||United States|
|68||141*||Rutgers University||United States|
|69||501-600||Xi’an Jiaotong University||China|
|70||143||University of Notre Dame||United States|
|71||NR||Hefei University of Technology||China|
|72||351-400||Iowa State University||United States|
|73||10||University of California, Berkeley||United States|
|74||68||Pennsylvania State University||United States|
|75||351-400||University of Houston||United States|
|76||121||University of Virginia||United States|
|77||251-300||Sapienza University of Rome||Italy|
|78||601-800||University of Science and Technology Beijing||China|
|80||NR||École Centrale Paris||France|
|81||70*||Purdue University||United States|
|83||401-500||Huazhong University of Science and Technology||China|
|84||501-600||Complutense University of Madrid||Spain|
|85||NR||Bowdoin College||United States|
|86||201-250||University of Cincinnati||United States|
|87||201-250||Shanghai Jiao Tong University||China|
|88||NR||Essec Business School||France|
|89||165||University of Auckland||New Zealand|
|90||201-250||Boston College||United States|
|91||401-500||Lehigh University||United States|
|93||173||University of Waterloo||Canada|
|94||NR||Pepperdine University||United States|
|95||201-250||University of Iowa||United States|
|96||69||Erasmus University Rotterdam||Netherlands|
|98||182||Northeastern University||United States|
|99||601-800||Northwestern Polytechnical University||China|
|100||201-250||Korea University||South Korea|
NR= not ranked
Access the full table and methodology.