In the rankings, Harvard tends to edge out Stanford. The P&Q rank–which factors into consideration all the major rankings weighted by their individual authority–puts Harvard at number one and Stanford at number two. These are the up-to-date rankings from each ranking organization.
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Historical Rankings by BusinessWeek:
The biggest question is how come Harvard or Stanford have never placed number one in the most influential MBA rankings published. Over a 22-year period and 11 biennial rankings, BusinessWeek has only put Harvard at the head of the class once–in the most recent 2015 ranking. Stanford has never topped that ranking. Harvard, with its largest graduating classes and east coast pedigree, has definitely been ranked far more consistently over the years. HBS has generally came in the number three spot, going as high as two twice and as low as number five on three different occasions. Stanford has had a more inconsistent run, going as low as number 11 in 2000 and as high as number four in three different surveys in 1994, 2002, and 2004. The answer is understandable. BusinessWeek measures customer satisfaction. While students rate these schools very highly, recruiters often have other issues. At Harvard, some corporate recruiters balk at the price tag. At Stanford, some recruiters dislike the fact that so few of the school’s MBAs are on the open market. Too many of them are headed for newer companies or directly become entrepreneurs that recruiting at Stanford is often frustrating for many companies. That’s generally why both schools have never been number one in the BusinessWeek survey.
Historical Rankings by The Financial Times:
Unlike BusinessWeek’s rankings, The Financial Times includes business schools from all over the world. So the FT is ranking both Harvard and Stanford against such places as London Business School, which ranked number one in this survey in 2010 and 2009, and INSEAD, which ranked fifth these last two years. Over the years, Harvard has bested Stanford in 9 of the 11 years charted below. Only in one year did Stanford edge out HBS, in 2008, when Harvard fell to fifth and Stanford came in just ahead at number four. Even so, Harvard has topped this list only twice in 11 years (the biggest winner in the Financial Times surveys has been Wharton which has been ranked first on nine separate occasions and second twice). Given some of the peculiar factors that the FT throws into its methodology, including “international mobility” and the percentage of women faculty, neither of which has anything to do with quality or customer satisfaction, both Harvard and Stanford have performed fairly well over the years.