The Sum Of All The Business School Rankings

The Sum Of All The Business School Rankings 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 Bloomberg 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 Business School, Stanford GSB and Chicago Booth - which one ranks #1 in 2014?
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 Bloomberg 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, particularly when results can change so much from year to year? Some observers grumble that the expanded Bloomberg 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 includes school alumni creates a bias. But few researchers would decry a larger sample size, and alumni bias isn’t new. Nothing in previous years’ methodology suggests alums were weeded out, and BusinessWeek used statistical methods to adjust for the bias.

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. Hence the importance of knowing what any of these rankings is measuring.

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 K +0.02% – 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 BusinessWeek 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...

Read full story: Forbes

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