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US schools dominate Economist ranking of MBA programmes

British magazine The Economist has released its annual ranking of full-time MBA programmes. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business climbed to the top spot for the fifth consecutive year, beating traditional contenders from other rankings like Harvard, Stanford and Wharton.

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Second and third place went to the Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business respectively. Harvard and Stanford followed on 4th and 5th spot, whereas Wharton only ranked number 12. International schools came in on number 8 to 10 with Spain’s Iese Business School, France’s HEC School of Management and Australia’s University of Queensland Business School. Insead was ranked 13th and Spanish IE Business School 16th . The only British school in the top 20 was Warwick Business School. London Business School which was ranked in the top 20 in past years is now only on 25.

Commentators like John Byrne from Poets and Quants criticised the ranking heavily: “Booth’s steadiness at the top of the new 2016 ranking belies the absolute chaos beneath it”, Byrne wrote in an article on the website. “This year, 28 out of the Top 100 ranked MBA programs experienced double-digit increases or declines. Some schools fell by more than 30 places in a single year, while others rose more than 20 spots. At least a dozen schools climbed by double-digits. Even among the Top 25 schools, where business school rankings tend to be far more stable, the average movement for an MBA program this year was slightly more than 4.1 places up or down.”

As one example Byrne cites Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management which was ranked second best this year after having made the top spot regularly more than a decade ago (1988, 1990, 1992, 2002 and 2004). It’s fair to say that Kellogg’s journey in the Economist ranking has been a fairly “wild ride”. The school gained five places from the last ranking, whilst in 2012, the school’s MBA programme was only ranked 20th.

Another example is the up and down of Swiss school IMD: “Oddly, Switzerland-based IMD, which refused to participate in this year’s ranking after a precipitous 11-place fall in 2015, recovered lost ground by ranking 23rd, a nine-place improvement over its 2015 rank of 32 but still far from its first place showing in 2008”, writes Byrne.

The roller-coaster is maybe explained when looking at the methodology behind the ranking as the Economist calculates a wide variety of factors: For the 2016 ranking, the magazine weighed the percentage of graduates who received a job offer within three months of graduation, the student assessment of their programme's career services, faculty quality, student diversity, the overall education experience, the post-MBA salary, the percentage increase between pre-MBA and post-MBA salary as well as the breadth of alumni network.

Apart from this plethora of ranking criteria, the tables also place high value on student satisfaction, therefore calculating a very subjective component into the ranking which is responsible for schools soaring or plummeting over the years.

Overall, the Economist ranking of full-term MBAs is a good example why rankings should only be used as a guide but never as a deciding factor. Each school offers certain elements that might or might not work for particular students and consequently these should be calculated into a decision at least the same way the rankings are considered.

Economist Ranking

1 University of Chicago – Booth School of Business, United States

2 Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management, United States

3 University of Virginia – Darden School of Business, United States

4 Harvard Business School, United States

5 Stanford University – Graduate School of Business, United States

6 Dartmouth College – Tuck School of Business, United States

7 University of California at Berkeley – Haas School of Business, United States

8 University of Navarra – IESE Business School, Spain

9 HEC School of Management, Paris, France

10 The University of Queensland Business School, Australia

11 Columbia Business School, United States

12 University of Pennsylvania – Wharton School, United States

13 INSEAD, France

14 UCLA – UCLA Anderson School of Management, United States

15 Yale School of Management, United States

16 IE University – IE Business School, Spain

17 Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT Sloan School of Management, United States

18 Duke University – Fuqua School of Business, United States

19 New York University – Leonard N Stern School of Business, United States

20 University of Warwick – Warwick Business School, UK

Read more at The Economist and Poets & Quants

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