Winners & Losers in The Economist’s 2010 MBA Ranking

by John A. Byrne on

When The Economist unveiled its 2010 MBA ranking recently, the magazine made clear that there were some dramatic changes in the results. As the magazine put it,  “Our latest ranking is probably the most turbulent in that short history. Usually, schools move up or down just a few places year on year. This time around, however, swings have been wilder.”

Just how wild, however, wasn’t easy to discern because users were not able to access the full global ranking of 100 schools on The Economist’s website. The problem was fixed over the weekend to allow us to more clearly examine what we had earlier dubbed a “roller-coaster ranking.” (Also see our earlier analysis comparing the new ranking to the Poets&Quants ranking).

Our analysis shows that the single biggest loser in the ranking was Vierick Leuven, the Belgium-based business school, which plummeted 37 places in a single year, down to a rank of 47th from a rank of 10 in 2009. Britain-based Ashridge dropped 32 spots, to a rank of 67 from 35 a year earlier. Obviously, such massive changes in a ranking over only 12 months raises significant questions about the credibility of The Economist’s ranking methodology. How can a school that The Economist says is the 10th best in the world fall to a rank of 47th within a single year?

The biggest losers were all non-U.S. schools, with five of them based in Britain. Oxford University’s Said business school fell 24 places, while Cambridge University’s Judge School of Business dropped 19 spots. With only one exception, the biggest winners in The Economist’s 2010 ranking were U.S. schools, led by Washington University’s Olin School of Business in St. Louis which jumped 20 places to a rank of 45th. The University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Vanderbilt’s Owen School both rose 18 spots. Marshall jumped to a rank of 16 this year from 36 in 2009. Owen leapfrogged to 46th from 64th a year earlier. Hult International, the renamed Arthur D. Little Institute of Management, jumped 17 places. The one exception to a U.S. rout was ESADE in Barcelona. ESADE rose nine places to finish with a rank of 20, versus 29th in 2009.

The Economist attributed most declines by non-U.S. schools to falling career opportunities and starting compensation for graduates of the best European schools. The Economist places 55% of the weight of its ranking on pay and employment rates at graduation. The data The Economist used, moreover, was not for the latest graduating class, but instead for the Class of 2009, a particularly difficult time for the economy and for the MBA market. If the magazine waited just a few more weeks, it would have been able to crank out its ranking with the most recent numbers for the Class of 2010. BusinessWeek’s new ranking will be disclosed on Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. That latter date allows BW to report up-to-date information rather than year-old data. (For a list of The Economist’s top 50 schools and how the ranking compares with others see The Economist 2010 Ranking.)

At 19th-ranked London Business School, for example, average salaries of new MBAs dropped from $117,000 for the Class of 2008 to $100,600 for the Class of 2009. The Economist also reported that percentage of students employed within three months of graduation plummeted a full ten percentage points, to 81% from 91% for the Class of 2008. At IMD in Switzerland, average salaries fell to $114,415, from $127,200. “This compares badly with many of the American schools where the drop has not been as dramatic,” The Economist said. The publication cited salaries at Berkeley which essentially remained stable at a $108,400 average.

BIGGEST YEAR-OVER-YEAR LOSERS IN THE ECONOMIST RANKING

School Difference in Ranks 2010 Rank 2009 Rank
Vierick Leuven (Belgium) -37 47 10
Ashridge (Britain) -32 67 35
University of Melbourne -27 44 17
Oxford University (Britain) -24 71 47
Hong Kong — UST -22 52 30
Cambridge (Britain) -19 30 11
Rotterdam (Netherlands) -16 57 41
Warwick (Britain) -12 34 22
London Business School -11 19 8
Univ. of Hong Kong -10 48 38
Int’l Univ. of Monaco -9 51 42
IE Business School (Spain) -6 22 16

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BIGGEST YEAR-OVER-YEAR WINNERS IN THE ECONOMIST RANKING

School Difference in Ranks 2010 Rank 2009 Rank
Washington Univ. (Olin) +20 45 65
Vanderbilt (Owen) +18 46 64
USC (Marshall) +18 18 36
Hult International +17 27 44
Emory (Goizueta) +16 36 52
Univ. of Virginia (Darden) +13 11 24
UCLA (Anderson) +13 37 50
Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) +12 21 33
Indiana (Kelley) +11 35 46
ESADE (Spain) +9 20 29
Columbia Business School +8 12 20
MIT (Sloan) +6 13 19

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