Everywhere you look you can find a new set of MBA rankings. Some offer ratings of full-time, part-time and executive programs, others rank schools based on their ROI and average salaries while others focus on specialties such as finance, marketing and entrepreneurship. We’ll dig into the ratings and find out which ratings list is most appropriate for each set of criteria and which schools top the different lists.
Welcome to MBA Podcaster—the only source for cutting-edge information and advice on the MBA application process. I’m Janet Nakano. MBA school rankings, while plentiful, are also complicated and confusing with different schools topping different lists every year. But when you know what they are measuring, rankings can be a good source of information to help you make a decision on which schools to apply and which school to choose. We’ll demystify some of the most commonly known and commonly used MBA rankings by speaking to the people who write them. We’ll hear from Business Week, Financial Times, US News and World Report, and The Princeton Review.
Harvard ranks #1 on the US News and World Report’s 2007 list of top business schools while Financial Times called it #2. On Business Week, Harvard came in at #5 while The Wall Street Journal put it at #17. What do these rankings mean, and how can it be of use to you? Let’s find out by understanding how each source evaluates schools. Louis Lavelle is Business Week’s B-school editor. Business Week ranks full-time and Executive MBA programs, international schools, as well as schools by specialty like finance, management, marketing, and entrepreneurship. Lavelle says Business Week’s rankings don’t measure salaries after graduation or job offers like many of the other lists. But, he says, they base their full-time MBA rankings on three factors.
“One is an exclusive survey that we do for the ranking of students at more than a hundred top MBA programs. These are graduating people that have just left the program. It’s like a five or six page survey where we’re asking them to evaluate their program. And the second is a survey of corporate recruiters. We get the recruiters names from the schools themselves. So we know these are the people that are actually recruiting on those campuses. And we go to those companies, get the top person who’s doing the recruiting for the entire company for MBA’s, and we survey those people. So, that’s usually a few hundred people there. And the third part of it is an intellectual capital ranking. Basically, we take a look at the faculty of each of these schools that we’re ranking, and we take a look at how many articles they’ve published in academic journals, and we score them that way. So, the first two surveys count for 45% each, and the intellectual capital rating counts for 10%. And that’s the final ranking right there of the entire thing.”
In Business Week’s 2004 rankings, North Western’s Kellogg School came in at #1, Stamford was #4, and New York University was #13. Lavelle says that the rankings should serve as just one way to evaluate business schools.
“They should consider that all rankings (or any ranking really) should be sort of like the beginning of their consideration of a B-school and not the end. They should look at more than just the ranking. For instance, they can go to our website and call up a profile of every school that they’re interested in, and really sort of analyze the programs based on what they want out of them. If starting salary’s the most important thing, then look at that. If the curriculum’s the most important thing, look at that. And decide based on the merits and not just on the ranking. The ranking’s important, but it’s not the be all and end all. It’s just one number—an important number—but, like I said, not the only number out there.”
Louis Lavelle says Business Week releases rankings every two years. The new rankings for full-time MBA programs will come out in the middle of October. The US News and World Report rankings use a different set of criteria. Bob Morse is their director of data research. “I think what makes our rating the most different is that we’re using the most data that’s representative of the actual students, student body, and they’re measuring placement. And we’re getting input from the academic community. So, our ratings are much, much less based on opinions. The Wall Street Journal is based entirely on opinions of recruiters. Business Week is almost entirely based on opinions of recruiters and students and only has a minor amount of quantitative data.”
US News releases their rankings annually. They rank full-time, part-time and Executive MBA programs including ten other specialty areas like international, non-profit, accounting, and marketing just to name a few. Morse says their rankings for the full-time MBA program is based on a number of factors.
“We do a survey of business school deans and MBA program directors. And another factor is a survey of MBA corporate recruiters or the corporate contacts. Then, we have the admission data for the most recent-entering class, their GMAT, undergraduate GPA, acceptance rate. Then, we have a measure for the success of the career, the placement data, salaries, percent of jobs at graduation, and percent three months after graduation. Ours is 25% for the business school deans, 15% from the recruiters, and then placement data is 35%, and the admissions data is 25%.”
Harvard is the #1 business school on US News. MIT and Kellogg are both at #4 while UCLA’s Anderson School makes #10. Morse says you can use the US News ratings as a tool to choose which schools you’ll have a good chance of getting into.
“Our ratings take into account the credentials of the students. So, in other words, there’s some self-selection going on amongst students. If you don’t have the highest undergraduate GPA, or the highest GMAT, then you may not stand a chance of getting into the very top schools in our rating and you already know that. So, you would try to match your admissions profile to some of the data in our table because the first thing you have to do is get in a school, right? You can talk about what’s the best one the recruiters think of, or the ones the students like the most. But you still have to get in. So you can look at ours to see which ones you’re most likely to get in. And then look at some of the specialty areas, and come up with something that fits both the location you’re looking at and your admissions profile and some of the areas you’re interested in becoming an expert in. The rankings should be part of a choice because in business, there’s no bar exam. Or like in medicine, there’s a national licensing exam. So where you’ve gone to school plays a big part in the kinds of jobs that are going to be available to you.”
The Wall Street Journal’s rankings are based solely on how appealing schools are to recruiters. Recruiters rate students and schools on 20 different elements—some of which include communication and interpersonal skills, ability to work in teams, personal ethics and integrity, curriculum, and faculty expertise. The Wall Street Journal ranked The Tuck School of Business #1; Yale University #5, and Stamford #15. While the recruiters’ opinions are important, Bob Morse says it’s good to keep this in mind: “Not all hiring is done by recruiters. So, it’s not necessarily that all the jobs are going through the recruiters. And the recruiters may not have the same interests in mind as the students. Like our rankings are showing which graduates are the highest paid; whereas, the recruiters may want to go to a school where the people don’t demand as much money. And our rankings—Harvard, and Stamford, and Wharton, MIT or near the top— show their students get the highest salaries starting. Now, it’s true that not everybody is going to get into those schools. However, if you’re faced with a choice, and you had of choice of going to Stamford or Harvard, or the top five of the Wall Street Journal, but you were going to make 30% less at some of those schools, which one would you be better off going to? That’s a question they have to consider. It’s not that everybody has a choice of going to all these schools, but you have to understand what the rankings are measuring.”
The Financial Times ranks global, full-time, and Executive MBA programs. Della Bradshaw is their business education editor.
“We actually do five rankings every year. But the most significant one of those is the full-time global MBA ranking which we publish in January. And that ranking is based on about 20 criteria which fall into three main categories. The first one is how well alumni do after they graduate. So, we actually measure three years after graduation. The second one is the international perspective of the course which we measure through internships and faculty and the international complexion of the students. And then the third one is the sort of ideas generation. So, it’s about which schools are producing the big, new ideas in management. So, we’re looking at research, PhD programs and so on.”
This year, The Financial Times ranks Wharton at #1, London Business School at #5, and Insead at #8. Bradshaw says the significant difference between the FT rankings and the others is that while Business Week and US News have international lists; The Financial Times integrates all business schools.
“We all use very, very different measurement tools we use student satisfaction and corporate satisfaction. US News is much more statistically based. We’re looking at career progress of alumni and research and which of these schools is going to turn you into a top, local manager. But the big difference with the FT ranking is the FT is a global ranking. So, you might see a school which might compare at #20 in our ranking which would compare at perhaps #12 in US News, for example. And, in fact, that’s effectively the same ranking because once you put in schools which are not US schools then, of course, the US schools will often move down to lower places. But there are global business schools in the top ten which are world-class business schools on the par with the top business schools.”
Bradshaw says the rankings should be used as a tool.
“We always say with our ranking that it takes a snapshot of data at a point in time. If we use different criteria, we get different results. But these are the criteria we believe are important. And the rankings reflect the importance of the 20 different criteria within our ranking. What I’ve actually seen over recent years is that students are actually using rankings much more intelligently. So, they’re actually looking at how they are different and been able to, for example, factor in the different factors which would, for example, make the US salaries possibly higher than the French salaries. Some students would want to go to a US business school; some want to go to a business school with a PhD program with a big research university, and some would want to be internationally mobile. That’s one of the things that we measure—the international mobility of the students once they graduate.”
The Princeton Review publishes an annual book on business schools. Their 2006 edition of the best 237 business schools has 11 separate rankings including toughest-to-get-into where Harvard ranks #1. University of California Berkeley’s Haas School ranks #3 on the best career prospects list. Robert Franek is Vice President and Publisher of Princeton Review Books.
“We reach out to both students as well as to administrators at specific schools to come up with our best career prospects, and we have ten schools on that list. So, it’s both that qualitative and quantitative data. So, thinking about the quantitative side we’re thinking about employment opportunity for students. So, is there campus recruitment? Are there internships? Are there mentorships available to students? But then, when thinking about a student’s perspective, what is the actual practical gain of those internships and mentorships and other resources that are available to the students? Not only are they accessible to that student, but do they feel that this compels them to have a good academic experience? Has it led them on to a great career prospect at the end of that venture?”
The Princeton Review also ranks professors, greatest opportunity for women and minority students as well as best campus facilities and campus environment. Franek says you can use these lists as a starting point in search for your best school.
“I think ranking lists serve a great purpose. And The Princeton Review is certainly unapologetic about putting out ranking lists. But I think to give a good and clear nod to accessing student opinion and using our top ten ranking lists and those ten different categories as a good jumping-off point. So, if you are a woman and looking to move on to a business school or a minority student, looking at those specific ranking lists from The Princeton Review will yield you ten schools in each that have provided a compelling experience based on student assessment. So, thinking about those schools will simply make you a savvier shopper by reading the profiles of those schools and thinking about what exactly the experience is there. Whether you choose to go to one of those ten or not, it will make you savvy in the questioning that you have for other schools that you might be considering in your area.”
Stay tuned to hear more about the MBA Tour. I’ll be talking with The MBA Tour’s Senior Consultant about what applicants from Asia should consider when thinking about attending a foreign business school. We also have specialized podcasts for applicants from India, Latin America and Canada on our website, mbapodcaster.com/mbaforum. Be sure to join us next time. You’ll learn why August is the month to start that application process. Remember you can register for your weekly MBA podcast as well as read transcripts of our programs on our website mbapodcaster.com