Dartmouth’s Tuck School vs. Harvard Business School

There’s a world of difference between these two excellent graduate schools of business. Most notably:

Geography: Both schools are in the northeastern corner of the U.S. known as New England, but the difference between Hanover, New Hampshire, and Boston, Mass., is a world apart. Hanover is the quintessential New England college town. It’s quaint, picture perfect after a fresh snowfall, and fairly isolated. You fly here into a tiny airport in West Lebanon, tsix miles south of Hanover. When the weather turns bad, you face a white-knuckle flight onto the short landing strip that’s carved into a mountainside. Sleepy Hanover rolls up the sidewalks pretty early, with little variety in restaurants and bars.  The Canoe Club, on Main St. in Hanover is pretty much it. Boston is a two-hour drive from the Tuck School and is one of the world’s most dynamic and inviting cities. Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is just minutes awa from Harvardy. So is world-class arts and culture of all kinds. But the winter months can be just as brutal in Boston as it can be in Hanover.

Size: With a target class size of 240 students, the Tuck School serves up an “intimate scale” MBA program with one of the smallest total MBA entrollments of any elite school. It’s the difference between being in a core class with 50 fellow students versus 90 at Harvard: it’s easier to get “air time” in a class at Tuck without being a hog and it’s more likely your professor knows everyone in the class. When 50% of your grades are based on class participation, that’s a more comforting fact. The small size of the place certainly assures that every student knows each other. In fact, it’s almost close to impossible for someone not to have had a fellow student in a class or a club. “It’s like the old TV program ‘Cheers,’” says Tuck Professor Paul Argenti, who has also taught at Harvard. “Everybody knows your name. You can mold an incredible world when you take in only 240 students a class.” On the other hand, everybody knows your business. At Harvard, you can more easily pick and choose the groups you want to attached yourself to. Total full-time MBA enrollment at Tuck is only 510, versus Harvard’s 1,837.

Culture: The size and location of Dartmouth create a fairly unique culture and one that is very different from Harvard. While it’s a myth that competition is cut-throat among students at Harvard, it’s also true that the HBS environment is more competitive and less collaborative than Tuck. In fact, a few years ago, some recruiters told faculty here that Tuckies were too nice and respectful of each other. Tuck profs have since notched up the competitiveness in the classroom. Still, it’s nothing like Harvard. The bonding that occurs at the Tuck School among students is second-to-none due to its size, the fact that most first-years reside on its compact B-school campus, and because of Hanover itself (there aren’t many places to disappear). Very close relationships are formed between students and faculty at Tuck for the same reasons. Tuckies are decidedly an outdoorsy bunch: in the winter, students are likely to engage in ice hockey matches, skiing, and ice skating; in the summer, they’re off hiking on Mount Moosilauke on the edge of the White Mountains National Forest, rowing and canoeing on the Connecticut River, or playing rugby and squash. Harvard’s culture is not nearly as tight-knit or outdoorsy.

Facilities: The campus of Dartmouth’s Tuck School is a compellingly attractive mix of brick Georgian buildings and modern state-of-the-art brick and copper clad buildings. The Tuck campus is nicely compact: 11 connected buildings, most of them brand new or newly renovated. Stell Hall, with its beautiful cathedral ceiling, carved oak interior and welcoming fireplace, sits in contrast to the soaring glass atrium and massive granite hearth in the newly constructed Raether Hall. Both spaces–reflecting the old and the new–are among the most impressive faciliities of any business schools. Tuck’s three residence halls arguably make up the best MBA dormitory complex in the world. Harvard Business School, on the other hand, is like a university onto itself with 33 separate buildings on 40 acres of property along the Charles River. Harvard has its own state-of-the-art fitness center, a massive library, and a chapel. Strategy guru Michael Porter and his Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness even has his own building on campus. There is no other business school that can even remotely match Harvard for its expansive classrooms and study halls. Yet, there is something special at Dartmouth which gives Harvard a run for its money despite the difference in scale.

Teaching Methods: The case method is a core part of the curriculum at both Tuck and HBS. But at Harvard, the case study thoroughly dominates. Sure there are team projects, simulations and experiential learning in the mix, but it’s primary learning tool at Harvard is the case study. There are 30 cases in a course. The ten courses you’ll take at Harvard in the first year alone will require that you read 300 case studies. As a current HBS student who blogs under the non de plume “MilitarytoBusiness” explains, the average student in a 90-plus person class gains air time to comment on a case every other class. “That means that the professor determines half of your grade on an average of 15 comments over the period of three-to-five months. That’s not an incredibly deep well of information to help differentiate 94 highly talented students,” he says. That is the consequence of case studies in a 90-plus person class environment. Obviously, the system breeds a certain level of competition. If you’re at Tuck, a lot of the cases you’ll be taught were created at Harvard. If you’re at Harvard, pretty much none of the cases you’ll be taught are from Tuck. The more singificant difference may well be the increased accessibility of the faculty at Tuck given its size and location. Tuck boasts one of the lowest faculty-to-student ratios of any business school so profs have far more time here to spend with students than teachers do at most other schools. Faculty often have students over for dinner in their homes, something that is much less likely to occur at a big city school such as Columbia, Chicago, Harvard, or Wharton.

  • danition69@gmail.com

    This article is from 2010, which is when Tuck was in top 5

  • Randy B.

    Tuck is not top 5. Unless you got a full ride at Tuck, I don’t see why anyone would not go to Harvard.

  • Whaaa?

    How is Tuck considered one of the five best MBA programs in the world when it’s not even considered one of top 5 schools in the US?? Tuck vs. Harvard? Really?

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  • Dtg03

    John,

    When is the next installment due and what programs will it be? This is a great series! I know they are labor intensive so my intention isn’t to rush, just curious.

  • Daniel
  • Rob callum

    C’mon John, you gotta do UCLA vs USC. This is an age old rivalry and I’d love to see this smack down

  • Rahul

    Thanks a lot John for this insightful comparison. These two are my top targets and I am sure to attend one of them starting 2013. Q: Do both HBS and Tuck consider candidates with a post graduate business education (not an MBA though)? Also, from an affordability perspective which one is better – average student debt at graduation? Would be great if you could share your views on these. Thanks in advance. Rahul

  • Richard,

    Good luck with your decision. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

  • Richard W

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! These are the exact two schools that I have my heart set on, but couldn’t decide which one I liked more. This definitely helps summarize a lot of my intuitive thoughts.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Sandy,

    Believe me, I’m frustrated that I haven’t gotten them out. But they require a lot of work including updates of 150 school profiles. And there has been a lot of other urgent stuff that I felt was important to bring to the readers.

  • Sandy

    I have been eagerly waiting for those rankings, I thought you wanted them out by Nov first week. But you have since then certainly published some great articles that demystify this MBA myth, which have been much more important. So the wait hasn’t been too long!

  • Sandy,

    Yes, Tuck was ranked first by The Economist this year and second last year–before the smack down was published. Obviously, we need to update and will as soon as we get our next big project–the new rankings–out.

  • Sandy

    Thanks John,
    Tuck ranked 6th by the Economist? I thought it was #1 this year and within top 4 in last year’s ranking. Both the schools comparable on a long term basis. Do you think it is the number of CEO’s and recruiters that sets HBS so further apart from its peers?

  • AmericanMBA

    Harvard way ahead of Tuck. Hardly have i known anyone taking Tuck over Harvard. Even heard of people taking Kellogg over Harvard on basis of ‘school fit’ of collaboration. May be useful for those who have gotten a lot of $$$ from Tuck and nothing from Harvard but otherwise not on par schools.

  • Anuj Datta Roy

    Quite an excellent comparison giving intricate details not covered by others. Good job!!

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    HI John, I notice the data here for percent employed of the classes at both Harvard and Dartmouth 3 months after commencement are dramatically inconsistent with your other article on the MBA job market. See my point?

  • Will do, for sure. Just need to find the time over the next few weeks.

  • Daniel

    @jbyrne

    Thanks for these really awesome insights into what makes Tuck and HBS special. I’ve been really enjoying your pieces covering the top business schools.

    I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind going a little bit down the rankings to talk about your thoughts about schools in the 10 to 20 range. I’m a student at Cornell Johnson and would really like to hear your thoughts on whats good and whats lacking for schools like our’s and how we could improve.

  • chris walters

    The economist ranking is actually out of date.