2011 U.S. News Ranking of the Best B-Schools

by John A. Byrne on

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business edged out Harvard Business School to gain first place honors in the 2011 U.S. News & World Report ranking out today (March 15). The two premier schools were in a dead tie in the ranking last year.

The top ten saw only slight changes. The big news already reported due to a sneak preview: Yale University’s School of Management cracked into the magazine’s top ten by tying New York University’s Stern School for tenth place. Yale was 11th last year, while NYU was ninth. Wharton, No. 5 in 2010, moved up two places to grab a tie with MIT Sloan School at number three.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management dropped one spot to fifth place, to fall into a tie with its long-time rival, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which also had been ranked fifth in 2010 by U.S. News.

The U.S. News ranking has come under heavy criticism of late from none other than bestselling author and New Yorker staffer writer Malcolm Gladwell who recently attacked the magazine’s methodology. His conclusion: the ranking is largely the result of completely arbitrary judgments made by the magazine and have little if anything to do with the quality of the schools or the programs they offer. Nonetheless, the U.S. News ranking–while not as influential as either BusinessWeek or The Financial Times–does carry considerable weight among the general public. (One other note: As a marketing ploy, U.S. News claims this is a 2012 ranking to give it greater shelf life. It is based on 2010 data and released in 2011 which is why we label it a 2011 ranking.)

U.S. News said it surveyed more than 430 accredited master’s programs in business to come up with its ranking. Typically, the magazine ranks 100 schools. This year, it has 111 schools that are ranked. The magazine only ranks U.S.-based schools, unlike BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, or The Economist which publish global rankings, either combined or separate.

The magazine ranks U.S. schools every year, using a vast amount of information and data. The methodology takes into account its own survey of B-school deans and MBA directors (25% of the score), corporate recruiters (15%), starting salaries and bonuses (14%), employment rates at and three months after graduation (7% to 14%, respectively), student GMATs (about 16%), undergrad GPAs (about 8%), and the percentage of applicants who are accepted to a school (a little over 1%).

How does U.S. News decide how much to weight each of these factors? Robert Morse, director of data research for U.S. News, once told a reporter that the weights are based on “our accumulated judgment.” Explains Morse: ” Our rankings aren’t social science in the sense that we’re not doing peer-reviewed rankings; we’re not submitting our conclusions and our weighting system to a group of academics and letting them decide if they are right or wrong. We do meet regularly with academic experts about the relative importance of the factors that we use.”

So how did Stanford edge ahead of Harvard this year and break through last year’s tie? According to U.S. News, Stanford bested its East Coast rival on the “recruiter assessment” survey (gaining a 4.6 out of 5.0 score vs. Harvard’s 4.5), on its acceptance rate of applicants (6.8% vs. Harvard’s 11.2%, on average starting salary and bonus ($131,949 vs. $131,759), on average undergraduate GPAs (3.69 vs. 3.67) and average GMAT scores of incoming students (728 vs. 724), and on 2010 graduates employed three months after graduation (92.4% vs. 90.1%. There is only a significant difference in one of these measures–the percentage of applicants accepted–which can easily be attributed to Stanford’s much smaller intake of students and the allure of California, factors that have nothing to do with the quality of one institution over another.

Harvard, meantime, bested Stanford in only one of the metrics used by U.S. News to rank business schools: percentage of MBAs employed at graduation (78.6% vs. Stanford’s 75.8%). The two schools had identical “peer assessment” scores of 4.8 out of 5.0. All told, the differences between the two titans of graduate business education was two index points–Stanford was awarded 100 points and Harvard was awarded 98 points. By the time you reach the last school in U.S. News’ top ten, which is Yale University’s School of Management, the index score falls to 81, the peer assessment score drops to 4.1, and the recruiter assessment score hits 4.0 (see the next page for a full table of the data used by U.S. News to rank schools).

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  • Shounak

    Hi, I want to know how Wake Forest MBA compares to the similar schools in its range i.e. schools in the 35-50 bracket. I know that the school has a new Dean who is the ex-Pepsi CEO and the school has really been moving up the rankings leaving behind its previous competitors such as William & Mary, Case Western far behind. Your take on this?

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

    I’m keen on Wake Forest right now largely because of the new dean. I’ve interviewed him when he was CEO at Pepsi and can tell you that he is a highly competitive leader who will want to do whatever it takes to make Wake Forest the very best it can be.

  • Birchtree

    Mr. Byrne,

    Great website and so useful! Thank you.

    My question relates to the Cornell-Queen’s Executive MBA Program and your thoughts regarding it’s positioning in the EMBA landscape. I am excited by the flexibility and access it offers while earning an MBA from Cornell and Queen’s, two premier Universities (one Ivy League). The courses look excellent and appear very rigorous. Is this a top quality program and one to pay close attention to? Will the rankings grow…I know it is penalized in some rankings due to it’s collaboration with another school…seems unfair?

    Also, how highly ranked do you envision the MIT Executive MBA Program will be? And is MIT a higher recommend?

    Thank you very much.

  • http://www.usu.edu/ Eric Schulz

    Do you have the 50 survey questions you used at BusinessWeek published anywhere? I’d like to get a copy of them, as we are creating a tracking study for the Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, and it would be nice to be measuring the same things you were at BW.

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


    I don’t but I can ask BW to see if we can get them and publish. In the alternative, I do have the 35 original questions, almost all of which are still on the survey. Let me see what I can do.


  • http://www.usu.edu/ Eric Schulz

    Thank you John. That would be great to get.

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


    Contacted BW yesterday and discovered that it keeps those questions confidential. There is currently no place where you can find them. If you think it’s helpful, I could re-publish the core 35 questions that were made public years ago. Just about all–if not all of them–are still on the current questionnaire.

  • Bruce Vann

    12. Duke 78 4.3 4.1 23.7% 3.40 697 $118,923 63.6% 76.9%
    13. Virginia 77 4.0 4.1 26.3% 3.41 699 $119,278 69.0% 82.7

    Why is Duke ranked higher than Darden? I mean it’s a great school. Don’t get me wrong but Daren has higher gpa, gmat, starting salary, % employed at graduation, % employed some time after graduation. Duke beats Darden only in peer assessment and selectivity. I’m surprised that the other metrics don’t outweigh those two. Go figure.

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


    The peer assessment score is given the most weight of any metric by U.S. News. It counts for 25% of the methodology. That’s largely the reason why Duke is ranked just a tiny bit higher than Darden.

  • http://www.google.com/ Lucy

    Gosh, I wish I would have had that ifnormoatin earlier!

  • Bruce Vann

    Thanks John. The Wahoo in me won’t agree with the measure but you’ve explained it well.

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



  • Michael

    Hi John,
    I posted a couple months ago. I´m the 42 year old American/L.A. born executive from Mexico City. I was looking at the emba programs at UT, Michigan, UNC, Kellogg (miami program,) and UCLA-UAI (americas program.) Anyways, I narrowed it down to UNC, Kellogg, and UCLA. I’ve been admitted to UNC and Kellogg and should be hearing from UCLA in a week or so. For me, it´s down to Kellogg and UCLA-UAI. I’m really drawn to the prestige of Kellogg, while the UCLA program, all costs in, should cost me about 50K less. As far as format, they couldn’t be more different. The Kellogg program is 24 mos long, with trips to miami once a month with two long summer breaks. The UCLA-UAI progam is modular with 6, 12 day modules, once a quarter, and I’m done in 14 mos with no work between modules except for two. As far as the modular format, I worry a bit about being sequestered for 12 days non-stop and not haveing any real study time alone – Time to step back and then nail the tougher material. Most people whom I ask, contemporaries, counsel me to go the the program (UCLA-UAI) which I can most quicly put in my rear view mirror considering my age and experience. I’d appreciate your perspective. Thanks, Michael!

  • florence odong

    Kindly guide me on admission for PHD at Harvard business school or Straford


  • Christie

    Does anyone know when the US News peer assessment surveys are sent to deans and MBA directors?

  • paras

    why they do not have 100% placements!!!???…..whats the average offer per student???

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


    That’s because some graduates will hold out for their dream jobs or simply can’t land a job within the reporting windows of “at graduation” and “three months after graduation.” Average offers are not reported–only average starting base salaries.


    why they do not have 100% placements?????…whats the average offer per student during placements!!!







  • JK Prez

    Sir, is there any survey or research done ,about job/salary 2-3 years after so much talked about highly paid or offered salaries during campus placement to MBAs from elite business schools , how many were fired or promoted in 2-3 years of joining highly paid job, wish to know ratio of success or even continuity of job after 2-3 years

  • rdx

    @Paras – I don’t intend to be preachy, but typing in capitalized letters is akin to yelling (in real life, that is), and is viewed as being rude on the internet. And, you could probably go easy on those question marks, and exclamations as well.

    To answer your question, most schools do require a certain minimum number of years of work experience to be considered for admissions. A high GMAT score would definitely indicate an ability to take on the heavy academic load of an MBA program, but I doubt it would compensate for fewer real-life experiences – something business schools would look for you to possess in good measure.

  • Said Mohammad

    Amazing how Texas with a booming economy, so I hear, has the lowest MBA salary. I guess not everything is big in Texas.

  • Jrubin

    With no state income tax and a lower cost of living, employers don’t have to pay as high a salary to someone in Austin as you would pay in New York.

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