The Top Five: Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Wharton & Dartmouth

by John A. Byrne on

Harvard Business School's Baker Library. Photo by John A. Byrne

There are significant and telling flaws in every MBA ranking, no matter where it comes from or how it is put together. The vast disparities in rank across the major rankings shows that where a school ranks is more a function of the methodology than any overall indication of quality. That’s why we carefully studied the pros and cons of each ranking, weighted each of them based on their authority and credibility, and then used all of those inputs to come up with our own ranking.

The beauty of this methodology is that each of the five major MBA rankings—BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report, Financial Times, Forbes, and The Economist—are brought together for the very first time. By blending these rankings using a system that takes into account each of their strengths as well as their flaws, we’ve come up with what is arguably the best and most reliable ranking of MBA programs ever published. This composite index also naturally accommodates some of the wild disparities that you find from one survey to the next. Consider the University of California’s excellent Anderson School of Management. The Economist ranks it 50th, well behind L.A. rival the University of Southern California and the University of Notre Dame. The Financial Times puts UCLA at 33rd. BusinessWeek rates it 14th, U.S. News at 15th, and Forbes at 19th. Those are some pretty big differences of opinion on UCLA’s Anderson School. We think it’s the 16th best school in the U.S., a rank that is the sum total of all of them, adjusted for the authority we believe the major rankings have.

Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Wharton and Dartmouth Rank At the Top

To some long-time watchers of MBA education, there may be little surprise at seeing the Harvard Business School and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business at the very top as No. 1 and No. 2. The most influential ranking by BusinessWeek, however, has never had either Harvard or Stanford in the top spot. Through 11 rankings over 22 years, BusinessWeek has awarded that accolade to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management five times, to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School four times, and to the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business twice. In the global MBA rankings published by The Financial Times, last ranked Harvard first back in 2005. Since then, Harvard has lost out to Wharton (four times in a row) and to London Business School (in the current 2010 FT ranking). The highest rank Stanford has ever achieved in The Financial Times ranking is third and that was four years ago in 2007.

But the power of this newest ranking by Poets&Quants is that it awards consistency across the various surveys, eliminates the greatest anomalies in any one ranking, and takes advantage of the largest amount of qualitative and quantitative data ever compiled in a single study of the best business schools. One problem we could not overcome: it was impossible to make this a true global ranking because BusinessWeek and Forbes separate international schools (with Forbes carving up the overseas market into one-year MBA programs and two-year MBA programs), U.S. News doesn’t rate any non-U.S. institutions, and the Financial Times and The Economist mix them. The lack of standardization across the surveys prevents a fair and credible blending of non-U.S. schools. However, it is possible to rank the non-U.S. schools separately, and that’s what we did.

Differences in Rank Can Be Statistically Insignificant

Unlike the majority of rankings, we also give you our index numbers, which gives you an understanding of how far ahead or behind one school is over another. In many cases, the differences are so slim that they are statistically insignificant, yet most of the organizations that rank schools hide this data from you. So you can see that Wharton at an index number of 95.6 is only 1.2 percentage points behind Chicago in this ranking. Showing you index numbers provides you with the analytical context to better make decisions on which schools to apply to and which schools to say yes when accepted. The index numbers reveal where the statistical differences are so slim as to matter very little. Also, don’t assume that if one school has an index number twice as large as another that it is twice as good. It may be, or it may not be. The difference between No. 1 Harvard, which tops the index at 100, and No. 20 Indiana University, which has an index number of 47.9, is obviously far greater than two-to-one.

P&Q Rank & School Index BW Forbes News FT Econ
1.  Harvard Business School 100.0 2 3 1 3 5
2.  Stanford School of Business 97.8 6 1 1 4 7
3.  Chicago (Booth) 96.8 1 4 5 9 4
4.  Pennsylvania (Wharton) 95.6 4 5 5 2 9
5.  Dartmouth College (Tuck) 89.0 12 2 7 14 6
6.  Columbia University 88.0 7 6 9 6 20
7.  Northwestern (Kellogg) 87.5 3 8 4 22 15
8.  MIT (Sloan) 84.9 9 14 3 8 19
9.  California-Berkeley (Haas) 80.0 10 12 7 28 3
10. New York (Stern) 77.9 13 17 9 13 13
11. Duke (Fuqua) 75.9 8 13 14 20 28
12. Michigan (Ross) 73.9 5 18 12 28 25
13. Virginia (Darden) 70.5 16 9 13 31 24
14. Cornell (Johnson) 69.7 11 7 18 36 32
15. Yale School of Management 69.0 24 10 11 16 27
16. California-L.A. (Anderson) 60.1 14 19 15 33 50
17. Carnegie-Mellon University 57.2 19 23 16 34 33
18. North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) 55.5 17 15 21 46 39
19. Texas-Austin (McCombs) 53.9 21 11 16 52 49
20. Indiana-Bloomington (Kelley) 47.9 15 25 23 57 46
21. Emory (Goizueta) 46.5 23 22 27 34 52
22. Brigham Young (Marriott) 44.6 22 16 33 83 NR
23. Southern California (Marshall) 41.8 25 32 20 57 36
24. Georgetown (McDonough) 40.9 NR 31 24 38 48
25. Notre Dame (Mendoza) 37.5 20 38 31 71 34
26. Washington U. (Olin) 33.0 28 41 19 50 65
27. Maryland-College Park (Smith) 31.8 26 29 45 43 51
28. U. Washington (Foster) 31.7 27 40 33 78 31
29. Southern Methodist (Cox) 30.8 18 33 49 96 88
30. Vanderbilt (Owen) 29.6 30 30 36 57 64
31. Minnesota (Carlson) 28.4 ST 26 24 75 62
32. Georgia Institute of Technology 27.2 29 44 26 NR NR
33. University of Iowa (Tippie) 24.3 ST 20 42 64 61
34. Ohio State (Fisher) 24.2 ST 39 21 67 45
35. Michigan State (Broad) 22.3 ST 21 46 65 NR
36. Rochester (Simon) 22.0 ST 37 27 48 NR
37. Texas A&M (Mays) 21.0 NR 24 33 54 NR
38. Univ. of Connecticut (Storrs) 17.4 ST 27 79 NR NR
39. Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison 17.1 NR 35 27 67 54
40. Boston University 16.3 ST 61 31 61 40
41. Purdue (Krannert) 13.9 ST 45 36 54 NR
42. Arizona State (Carey) 13.8 ST 56 27 89 NR
43. Penn State (Smeal) 12.9 NR 28 48 NR 58
44. Univ. of California-Irvine 10.7 ST 58 36 72 NR
45. Wake Forest (Babcock) 10.6 NR 34 46 NR 77
46. Rice University (Jones) 10.4 NR 47 39 44 77
47. Boston College (Carroll) 8.4 NR 46 39 47 NR
48. Illinois–Urbana Champaign 8.3 ST 63 42 52 87
49. Babson College (Olin) 4.6 ST NR 54 99 NR
50. George Washington Univ. 4.3 ST 73 55 57 NR

Footnotes:

NR – Not ranked. Because the Financial Times and The Economist include many non-U.S. schools in their rankings, a larger number of very good MBA programs at U.S. schools remain unranked by those two publications.

ST – Second tier. BusinessWeek ranks the top 30 business schools and then identifies a group of 15 more schools in an unranked “second tier.”

Methodology: Schools on each of the five major rankings were scored from a high of 50 to a low of 1, the numerical rank of the 50th school on any one list. Then, those sums were brought together, weighting the BusinessWeek ranking 30%, the Forbes ranking 25%, the U.S. News & World Report rankings 20%, the Financial Times rankings 15%, and The Economist ranking 10%. These differing weights reflect the authority and credibility we believe each of these rankings have in the business school universe. For a deeper explanation of the strengths and weaknesses of each system, see how we think the most influential rankings stack up against each other. To be included in the Poets&Quants analysis, each school had to receive a ranking from at least three of these most influential lists of the best full-time MBA programs.

  • kate

    I say Stanford wins out..but then I’m biased

  • Joe

    hmm… This is an idea that has been debated in the BW forums for eons. I hope you convice those people who will say, what??? Tuck over Sloan??? No ways!!

    Lol. Good luck. I’m sure this wesite will get a lot of traffic by Round 1.

  • Josh

    It seems that Wharton has been displaced over the last decade. Ten years ago it was considered to be the best business school in the world, now it is rarely ever listed in the top three and struggles to make the top five. What do you attribute this to? Lack of alumni support? Lack of innovation? Improvements by other schools? Lack of academic rigor?

    I personally have no idea, but their graduates seem to be either rock stars or wayward, and the rock stars are fewer and further between.

    Is this an admissions office issue? Or a general complacency?

  • Ven

    Good site and a great start!

    I used to follow John’s BusinessWeek podcasts before. Seems like the same ranking by another source. Was hoping for some drastically different rankings here, unless it is in the works on this site.

    The current ranking universe lists the same schools more or less by the same criteria but nothing substantially useful. For example, I’d like to compare Stanford to Seton Hall. Why are these schools ranked differently? A comparative analysis like that would be useful rather than just the top 50 or 100 school rankings

    Unlike other ranking sites you seem only focused on B-schools. Some thoughts to consider:

    1) With the shaky economy these days, two-year full-time programs are not popular when compared to part-time, or one-year programs as quiting a job to pursue a full-time degree doesn’t make any economical sense. I can’t go by the best 50 rankings because lots of these top schools don’t offer part-time MBAs. There are no comprehensive rankings for part-time and one-year programs which are increasingly sought out by future MBA candidates.

    2) Also was hoping for the ranking to have a more global focus, with schools in China and India, along with US schools in other booming economies as these economies are producing the next generation of business leaders.
    For example: Which schools are top companies in China, India, and Brazil hiring from? Does companies such as Baidu, Haier, Tata or Infosys hire from the top US schools or hire locally?

    3) For future MBAs, specialization is becoming very important. For example, bio-tech, pharma and the IT industry is growing ever more popular. Unfortunately, there are no extensive rankings in this area. Where is Merck, Johnson and Johnson, or Genetech looking to hire bio-tech type MBAs?

    4) With money in short supply and unemployment rates high, MBAs might turn to public school MBA degrees. An exclusive public MBA school ranking would be quite useful.

    Good luck, John. Wishing you and the site all the best.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Thanks much Ven. Those are great suggestions, and I’m already at work on a number of them. So we’re thinking alike on how to improve the amount of information that can help applicants match up with the best schools for them.

  • jerry parker

    This is a great website and start, but Forbes, Economist, and FT have no credibility on their b-school rankings – just look at how they ranked the schools. I think this needs to be revised.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Jerry, thanks for stopping in and looking around. I think one of the things we’re trying to bring to the ranking game is an honest assessment of just how good or bad each ranking is. My sense of it is that every ranking has significant flaws and that it’s important for applicants to understand those flaws to interpret what they’re reading. By knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each ranking system, you’re able to properly discount the result in a way that makes the ranking most useful to you.

  • Prashanth Idgunji

    Great site, I am an avid follower of BW’s rankings and have used John Bryne’s earlier posts to gain tremendous knowledge about US universities. This has helped me pick the right college and universities for my 2 daughters. The site is great but would need to be more international rather than US focused.

    US is getting to be more hostile for international students and it would be great to have more options nearer home for higher studies

  • Brian

    Finally a ranking that actually makes intuitive sense to those familiar with these schools. While one can argue over a specific school’s ranking (as Joe cotends about Sloan v Tuck), in aggregate the rankings make sense. No list is perfect but this list approximates the “wisdom of the crowd.”

  • GBS Stud

    Good to see Emory back in the top 25! GMAT scores are competitive with UTAustin, but hey, everyone loves a good state school…understandable

  • http://www.accepted.com Natalie Grinblatt

    John,

    Good to see you back in the limelight :-). You changed the way schools conducted their business back in 1988 and its never been the same. I’m just curious about the ranking of international schools. Many of my clients apply to US and International School and I’d love to see you rank them all. I also think there is an interesting methodology not based on school yield, but based on matriculation when admitted to multiple schools. During my MBA at Michigan, I took a great course with Michael Johnson (now Dean of the Hotel School at Cornell) on Consumer Behavior. No ranking has looked at this angle yet. Best of luck to you on this new venture.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Thanks Natalie. We did a ranking of non-U.S. schools as well, but it’s problematic in mushing the two together due to methodology issues.

  • Anthony Ehimare

    What ranking does Univeristy at Buffalo, NY MBA falls into

  • Kathy Vuksanaj

    Thanks John. It’s great to see the multiple lists combined for one ranking. I forwarded the list to my daughter. She’ll be looking into schools for her masters in the next year.

  • Quant

    I’m sorry to say, but I don’t think this methodology is terribly valid. You don’t get better data by factoring in bad data. BW naming Chicago and Kellogg as the best 2 programs in previous years, and their huge shifts from ranking to ranking, should be enough to disregard their findings entirely.

    Your site is full of references to what “everyone” knows. And everyone knows that US News is the only ranking that generally matches with peoples’ perceptions of reality. Obviously you know this too, because if your top 2 schools didn’t match up with theirs, your credibility would have instantly been sunk. Unfortunately, the rest of your rankings differ, and simply do not accurately reflect where the best students apply, and where they choose to go, as much as US News does.

    You should just stick with US News as the rankings reference point (rankings are only the beginning of the discussion anyway), get out of the rankings analysis game, and continue to write more excellent in-depth articles comparing real qualitative and quantitative data.

  • Scott Foster

    John,

    Thanks for the great website. I have question given your rankings. Would it make sense for me to pay to go to Emory when I can have a full ride at The College of William & Mary? I know Emory is a better business but here in the Mid-Atlantic William & Mary is considered a solid school. Does the difference in the two schools justify the $85,000 difference?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    That’s a tough one. William & Mary is a very good school, but clearly not an Emory. Here’s what I would do: I would call up Emory and tell them about your free ride. Perhaps, they can whittle down that $85,000 difference and help you. Otherwise, before you decide, I would strongly urge you to visit both schools and spend a full day at each. Attend a couple of classes. Have lunch with a couple of students. Ask to meet with the head of the MBA program. This two-day investment, even if you have visited the campuses before, will help you make up your mind. On the face of it, I would pay the $85,000 difference and go to Emory. But allow yourself the two days to make absolutely sure. This is too big and too costly a decision to make without a little more thought. And let us know what you do. Good luck, Scott.

  • Karl

    I don’t understand why mediocre b-programs make the rankings. Just because a school’s enrollment is approx. 1,000 students it does not make it great. What about the quality of education? On the other hand, how about boutique b-schools that have outstanding faculty and notable alumni yet never make the rankings? I’m convince we need to do away with this none sense.

  • Chris

    Will there be an updated P&Q ranking soon, reflecting this year’s Economist and BW rankings?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Yes. It’s done. Just writing the accompanying stories.

  • JD

    John:

    Any luck on the comparison between Tuck and Kellogg??

    thanks.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Not yet, unfortunately. Will try to do before year’s end.

  • Ark

    John,

    Any thoughts on Yale SOM? I’ve heard multiple people say that its an “up and coming school” and that it will likely be a Top 10 program within 5 years. Any merit to these claims?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    If Yale SOM was a stock, I would buy right now. The reason: the arrival of Ted Snyder as dean next year. He is a mover and shaker and is primarily responsible for the huge success the University of Chicago’s Booth School has had in recent years. In many cases, deans are largely fundraisers and their impact is small–due to the dominance of tenured faculty who essentially run the departments and schools. It’s take quite a leader to change this dynamic or to understand what he or she can change and shouldn’t change. Ted is that kind of leader. I think he will be very successful in smartly leveraging the Yale brand in ways that previous SOM deans couldn’t.

  • Ark

    Thanks – really helpful. Any plan to profile the school at any point?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Ark,

    Absolutely. This is all a work in progress. We only launched less than four months ago. I expect there to be hundreds of the B-school smackdown reports as well as dozens of in-depth profiles. Yale will be in the mix as soon as I can get to it. We’re currently working on smackdowns on Tuck vs. Kellogg as well as Chicago vs. Wharton. Check out our first in-depth profile on Stanford: http://poetsandquants.com/2010/12/05/profile-stanfords-graduate-school-of-business/

    Best,
    John

  • AzhakMansor

    John, why do west coast schools always glean more applicants? Is weather a factor or is it simply because of applicants’ post-MBA career aspiration? In addition, on top of consulting and financial recruiters, is there any hospitality industry recruitment in these top schools?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Ah…a few reasons, I think. First off, Stanford and Berkeley are exceptional business schools. Secondly, they are both feeders to Silicon Valley, tech and venture capital, fields that many MBAs find especially attractive and lucrative. And finally, there is the lure of California itself. It’s not a bad place to spend two years of your life, whether at Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA or USC–the four best business schools in the state. Not sure about the hospitality recruitment but I would check UCLA and USC or the University of California at Irvine and Davis if that is your interest.

  • AzhakMansor

    Thanks for the info John. You mentioned there is the lure of California itself, why is that? (I am not from the states) Thanks for your eagerness to help John but you can save the hospitality recruitment info/statistics for the smackdowns between those schools when they become available. No worries. I recently read from a site that the hospitality industry has become a popular MBA recruiter in top schools and it pays well. However, I did not see the industry’s presence in the published smackdowns and would like to learn more about the industry.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    California is a very livable state. You have the ocean, the mountains, the vineyards, all within reach. San Francisco and Los Angeles are two very different cities, but they also are two of the best cities in the country. It’s culturally rich and open minded as well. And then there is the “California Girl” mythology propagated by The Beach Boys song. Anyone else want to help Ashak understand California’s lure?

  • Melissa Thomas

    Businessweek up at 30%?!? Forbes at 25% but US News only 20%?!? Wow, your methodology is as backward as the Businessweek methodology. How is weighting rankings with horrible methodologies higher than ones with decent methodology a good methodology?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Melissa,
    Again, this is all based on judgment–but very informed judgment. It is not true that any of the rankings you mention have “horrible methodologies.” There is no perfect way to rank business schools. Each system has strengths and weaknesses. You can see the reason for these weights in our analysis of each ranking system: “Turning the Tables: Ranking the Rankings.” BW and Forbes gather proprietary data that otherwise wouldn’t be available. That data is very helpful for applicants to make their decisions. U.S. News largely ranks on the basis of information that schools provide and some of it is finessed by the schools. Is should be no surprise that BW is weighted more than the others because it has long been the most influential of all the MBA rankings.

  • Kellogg MBA

    Hi John,

    I am a little surprise P&Q ranked Kellogg and Columbia actually rank behind Tuck. Wondering what’s the rationale and reasoning behind that? Thanks

  • MBAFinance

    Hi John – great work, love the site. Know you’ve mentioned that it’s in the pipeline, but wondering when you’ll have the Chicago vs. Wharton smackdown published? I swear by these, and have a big decision upcoming in the next few months.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    MBA Finance,
    Definitely on the way.

  • NewMBAStudent

    Hi John,

    Your website has been a tremendous help during my MBA research / application process, and will certainly be of great use to me as I have to now choose between a number of great schools that have offered me a place. I wanted to echo the comment made above which expressed surprise at Tuck’s higher placement than Kellogg in your ranking, and request your thoughts on this again.

    Thanks for your help and for all of your effort in creating this website. I’m sure it will be of great help to countless MBA applicants in future.

  • MBAStudent

    Emory or Notre Dame One Year MBA?

  • Justin

    Hi John,

    I love Poets and Quants, but could I request an update to the above aggregate rankings?

    Thanks!

  • JohnAByrne

    Working on that right now. Expect to publish on Monday morning.

  • Justin

    Thanks! I cant seem to find it. Can you post a link here?

  • JohnAByrne

    Justin,

    Sorry, my error. I meant this coming Monday. Takes awhile to do all the updates on the accompanying profiles but we’re almost there.

  • Justin

    No problem! Looking forward to it!

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