In the turbulent world of business school rankings, 2014 will go down as a vintage year. The mixture of celebration and howls of protest that accompanied the results of the BusinessWeek MBA ranking that published on earlier will endure for another two years, before the pioneer of MBA rankings publishes its next results.
Biased? Maybe. Flawed? Probably. Limited? Certainly. Business school rankings are an ongoing source of controversy. And the annual Ranking of the MBA Rankings compiled by MBA50 for 2014, which combines the results of the big major MBA rankings of the last 12 months by region, is not short of surprises and upsets. There is a new #1 among the top US business schools, as well as the business schools of Canada and Asia. A snapshot of the results appears at the end of this article.
Harvard, Stanford and Chicago – which one ranks #1 across all the MBA rankings of the last 12 months?
Having invested a small fortune to get your MBA from a top school, I can understand the disappointment when the business school you graduated from tumbles in business school rankings. You’ve invested in a brand name, and want that investment to endure. But as you review what each of the five major media rankings sets out to measure – and the methodologies are different for each ranking – remind yourself of their inherent shortcomings, and think about what the two years has done, or will do for you both personally and professionally. That should add up to far more than a handful of places on a media ranking.
Even the editors of the rankings, who see page views and advertising revenues soar with each edition, are the first to acknowledge the limitation of rankings for prospective students.
The BusinessWeek staff acknowledge: “Don’t let rankings alone make your school decision for you. Our rankings and school profiles offer a thorough picture of the current landscape of full-time MBA programs, but deciding where to go to school is a personal decision. A school that is right for one student may be wrong for another.
Della Bradshaw, business education editor at the Financial Times reminds: “Rankings are a useful tool, a snapshot in time. They are the starting point in your search for an MBA, not the finishing line.”
And Bill Ridgers, the business education editor at The Economist admits that comparing “a one-year Danish program with a cohort of 50 students with a two-year American one with 1,000 is tricky. Some would say futile.”
So why bother with rankings at all? Many observers will question the expansion of the BusinessWeek corporate recruiter survey from a relatively small group of 566 corporate recruiters in charge of MBA hiring for their company to a sample of 8,358 that include recruiters who returned to their alma mater to hire in ones and twos. And the narrow range of questions that make up the survey sent out by The Economist leads to clustered results that produce big rises and falls every year.
But think how uninspiring it would be if the same schools filled the same places in the rankings every year. When the Japanese car industry challenged the dominance of the Big Three from Detroit back in the 80s they raised the bar on quality and value for money, and consumers were the winner. Duke’s position at #1 in BusinessWeek, Yale’s impressive climb into the top 7 of both the FT and BusinessWeek in 2014, and Darden’s place at #3 in The Economist from a mid-20s ranking a decade ago challenge the status quo of the M7 group – Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, MIT Sloan, Columbia and Kellogg – and send a salutary lesson about stakeholder satisfaction that would be worthy of a Harvard case study on disruption.
Does this ranking suggest that ‘younger’ top business schools are more in tune with the expectations of both students and recruiters? Established in 1969, Fuqua is one of the youngest leading business schools, and until this year the highest it ever ranked in Business Week was in 2000. Employment reports are among the best ever, and the satisfaction expressed by students in the BusinessWeek survey underline the school’s success.
And though Yale University goes back to 1701, the Yale School of Management was launched in 1976 – the year that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple. The Palo Alto tech firm, which prioritises the customer experience, is now the largest publicly traded corporation in the world by market capitalization. IBM, founded in 1911, is not. Lessons from business for business schools? With Ted Snyder at the helm at Yale SOM, a dean whose tenure at Michigan Ross and most recently at Chicago Booth showed a shrewd understanding of how to deliver a great student experience matched with a strong recruiting strategy, we might expect the New Haven school to continue its ascension.
So where to now for the Harvard Business School, founded in 1908? The school’s tumble to #8 in BusinessWeek is the lowest position for the school in the ranking’s 26-year history. Much of this is due to the student survey, with BusinessWeek citing the role played by ‘the perception that the school caters to elites while neglecting women and minorities.’ It seems that even the mighty HBS might need to take a look in the mirror. But as the dean Nitin Nohria demonstrated with the furor caused by a NYTimes article about a culture of sexism and secret societies, he is prepared to tackle these issues head on. Any anyway, in 2014 Harvard ranked #1 in the Financial Times and US News, and attracted more applicants to the MBA program (9,543 for the Class of 2016) than any other business school, so they are unlikely to think their business model needs a radical overhaul.
The story of change, and the emergence of rivals to the MBA crown is equally apparent in Europe, Canada and Asia. As the MBA50 Premiership 2014 illustrates (see below), the trinity of London Business School, INSEAD and IMD is being challenged by pretenders from Spain, France the UK, and even MBA newcomer Germany. The European School of Management & Technology (ESMT Berlin) jumped straight in to this year’s BusinessWeek international ranking at #3, on the back of strong endorsement from employers. Created in 2002 by 25 leading German corporations, the school’s founders and benefactors include BMW, Deutsche Bank, McKinsey and Siemens, and illustrates the changing attitudes to the MBA in Eruope’s strongest economy.
Meanwhile the gap is closing between Switzerland’s IMD, and a cluster of pretenders to the crown that include IE Business School from Spain, HEC Paris from France and Cambridge’s Judge Business School. IE dislodged LBS from the top spot among European business schools in BusinessWeek, while HEC Paris came first among European schools in The Economist. And though Cambridge University has been around for over 800 years, the 25-year old Judge Business School entered the BusinessWeek ranking at #6 this year.
In Asia, the three top places in the MBA50 Premiership are held by schools from China, with CEIBS Shanghai posting particularly strong results. Canadian business schools remain cagey about their involvement in MBA rankings, with only York – Schulich participating in all four international rankings. This suggests that schools are picking their battlegrounds carefully, and only participating in rankings where they think they will do well. What’s all that aboot, eh?
But before looking at this year’s Ranking of Rankings, it is interesting to take a look at the long term trend.
BusinessWeek, 1988 to 2014 – As the historic table of results illustrates, until Duke grabbed the crown in 2014 only three business schools had ever held the #1 position – Kellogg (5 times), Chicago (4 times) and Wharton (4 times). And while 18 business schools have made the top 10 since 1988, only 3 had featured in the top 5 every year since the BusinessWeek ranking began – Wharton, Kellogg and Harvard. Despite this year’s topsy-turvy results, such enduring success over a quarter of a century says a lot about the reputation of these schools, and also the quality of experience delivered over time. But while MIT Sloan was at #4 in 2000, at the height of the dot.com boom, they have been outpaced by Carnegie Mellon in the current tech boom.
Financial Times, 1999 to 2014 – When the Financial Times published its first MBA ranking in 1999, the Harvard Business School claimed the #1 spot ahead of a familiar list of top US business schools, including Columbia, Stanford GSB, Wharton and MIT Sloan. Fifteen years later, and Harvard is again #1, with only the London Business School representing European business schools among the top 5, and MIT Sloan now further down the list. The consistent performance of the top 10 suggests that when it comes to MBA salaries, which make up 40% of the FT’s methodology based on the weighted salary and salary increase 3 years after graduation, MBA programs with strong placement in financial services and consulting have typically outperformed others.
The results in 1999 did not include a single business school from Asia or Australia, and only three from Canada. Today, two Chinese schools feature in the top 20, with a total of 22 schools from Australia, Canada, China, India, Singapore and South Korea in the top 100.
US News, 1990 to 2013 – Comparing this year’s results with those of 1990 you see how little has changed among the top 10 schools on the list. Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT Sloan and Northwestern’s Kellogg still occupy the first five places, and as our table below indicates, none of these schools have ever fallen lower than #6 in US News. MIT Sloan claimed the #1 spot back in 1995, the only time the business school has achieved this feat in any of the big 5 rankings. Other than that one exception 18 years ago, Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB have dominated US News, ranking #1 a total of fourteen times each. They have shared the #1 spot 5 times since 1990, including the 2013 ranking published this month.
The Economist, 2002 to 2014 – When The Economist published its first MBA ranking in 2002, Northwestern Kellogg was #1, a position it held for the next two years. The school then saw its dominance slip, falling as low as #23 last year, before gaining ground again in 2014 to rank #14. This performance is much in line with its standing in the Financial Times ranking, where Kellogg lost ground from 2006 onwards, slipping to #24 in 2008. The arrival of Dean Sally Blount from McKinsey has since seen the school climb steadily in both international league tables.
Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business is the other US business school to have ranked #1, back in 2011. Spain’s IESE Business School and Switzerland’s IMD have also topped the ranking in the last decade, but while the former has maintained its position among the top 10 schools in the last five years, IMD has seen an alarming reversal of fortunes in recent years, mirroring a similar decline in BusinessWeek. UC Berkeley Haas, one of the most selective MBA programs in the world, is firmly rooted in the top 7, mirroring its performance in US News. Surely another serious rival to the M7?
So how did schools perform in the annual Ranking of the MBA Rankings compiled by MBA50 for 2014? MBA50.com has calculated their overall performance by looking at each ranking position compared to other U.S. schools, and taking an average of those results divided by five. This is not scientific approach, and there is no attempt to weight any one ranking greater than the others.
Well the big news among the top US business schools is that Stanford GSB has displaced Harvard at #1, based on its top ranking in Forbes and US News.
Perhaps even more surprising is the fact Chicago Booth has also climbed above Harvard Business School to #2. Though HBS came top in the FT and shared the top spot in US News, it’s position in BusinessWeek means that when you take an average of the five major media rankings the fall to #3, just ahead of Wharton. These four schools place heads and shoulders above the rest.
Columbia Business School has climbed 3 places to #5, while Duke Fuqua, Michigan Ross, Yale SOM and UCLA Anderson have all had a good year. Further down the list the University of Washington Foster, Rice University Jones, and Michigan State all moved up 5 places in to the top 30. MIT Sloan, UV Darden, Cornell Johnson, largely because of their performance in BusinessWeek.
(*Ranking figures above are relative to other U.S. b-schools) – Click here for the full US Business School results
See next page for European, Asian and Canadian business schools…
In Europe, whose results do not include US News, the London Business School continues to dominate, with INSEAD close behind for the third year in a row. In addition to the gains made by IE, HEC Paris, Cambridge Judge and ESMT, the UK’s Warwick Business School has surged into the top 10, though the school does not take part in the BusinessWeek ranking. Imperial College London is included for the first year now that they participate in at least two of the major rankings.
(*Ranking figures above are relative to other U.S. b-schools) – Click here for the full European Business School results
Despite the political unrest in Hong Kong, the city remains a key attraction for MBA students, with the University of Hong Kong pipping HKUST for the #1 spot. IIM Ahmedabad is the only top Indian school to take place in two major rankings, but loses its #2 position as CEIBS Shanghai ranks strongly. National University Singapore (NUS) also had a good year, and the ROI of the program scores highly with Forbes.
(*Ranking figures above are relative to other Asia Pacific b-schools) – Click here for the full Asia Pacific Business School results
And finally Canada, where as mentioned earlier most of the business schools chose their rankings involvement with great care. University of Toronto Rotman shares the top of the table with HEC Montreal, with Concordia Molson featuring for the first time.
(*Ranking figures above are relative to other Canadian b-schools) – Click here for the full Canadian Business School results
And the final word on the rankings is a repeat from 2012. They all measure different things – but what measures of a business school matter to you?
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