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How much weight should you place on MBA rankings?

Last month we reported on the recent business school ranking from the Financial Times. The ranking showed that U.S. schools still fare a bit better than European schools and also continue to outshine Asian schools.

The FT ranking:
Stanford Graduate School of Business topped the 2012 FT Global MBA ranking for the first time, whereas previous winners were ranked number two (Harvard Business School) and three (Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania). The following spots went to London and Columbia Business School, Insead, MIT Sloan, IE Business School, Iese Business School and Hong Kong UST Business School .

Three Asian schools entered the FT ranking for the first time in 2012. The highest ranked was the University of Hong Kong on 37th position. Guanghua School of Management at Peking University placed as number 54, and the Seoul-based Sungkyunkwan University SKK Graduate School of Business entered at rank 66. Other non-U.S. business schools in the top 100 were five Canadian institutions, three from Latin America and two from Australia.

UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business achieved the biggest gain of any school in the top 25, climbing 11 steps in a single year to be ranked 14th, up from 25th in 2011. Other top 25 gainers included Cornell’s Johnson School (ranked 24th), Duke University ’s Fuqua School (ranked 15th), Northwestern University`s Kellogg School of Management (ranked 16th) and Oxford ’s Said School (ranked 20th). Business Schools that lost some of their shine were the Indian School of Business, CEIBS and Yale’s School of Management .

13 schools made no return from the previous ranking and were dropped from the list. Amongst these were Arizona State University’s Carey School, which had been ranked 64th before, UC-Davis (ranked 83rd), the College of William & Mary’s Mason School (ranked 86th) and Pepperdine (ranked 92nd).

But how is it possible that schools that were ranked fairly well only a year ago got dropped completely? And how much weight should you base on rankings like these? (See below where we compare a few rankings for you.)

The explanation is easy but not really satisfying. Rankings have to use certain data and it is important to note that all publications have their very own criteria. The Fi-nancial Times, for example, places a lot of weight on compensation. The newspaper surveys alumni three years after their graduation and compares salaries before and after business school. If alumni from certain schools report a higher salary increase, this might eliminate other, potentially very good schools from the list. That’s why it is so easy to disappear or appear on the list and it is not necessarily linked to the quality of teaching at the school. This might also explain why European schools can`t keep up with their U.S. counterparts in this ranking as the European economic crisis has hindered salary increases in recent times.

If you are currently pondering where you should apply, rankings should not be your only selection criteria. Ask yourself for example:

1. Which business school does suit you location wise (you might be thinking about the region you want to work in for example)?
2. Does the school offer the subjects/types of programs that you need for your industry?
3. What do you want to achieve with your MBA (change of industry, management position, higher salary, more global outlook, etc.)?

MBA Channel’s Comparison of Business School Rankings

As Business Week, Forbes and U.S. News don’t rate business schools worldwide - or rate non-U.S. schools separately – like Business Week – we find their rankings hard to compare with the recent Financial Times ranking. But Forbes placed Harvard first and Stanford second whereas U.S. News opted for Stanford first place and Harvard second place in its 2011 rankings. Business Week awarded first place to Chicago`s Booth and placed Harvard second and Stanford fifth in its 2010 rating. In its non U.S. ranking it gave first place to Insead.

Poets and Quants I
Poets and Quants II
Financial Times

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