The Least Credible MBA Ranking Ever?

The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine came out today (Sept. 20) with one of the most questionable rankings ever published.

In a ranking that purports to identify the top 25 business schools for entrepreneurship, the list fails to include what most people generally regard as the best business schools for entrepreneurship. There is no Stanford, MIT Sloan, Harvard, Wharton, or Berkeley among the top 25, even though these schools are five of the top six on U.S. News’ ranking of the best MBA entrepreneurial programs.

Of the ten best schools on LinkedIn’s new entrepreneurial ranking for producing founders of startups, only two schools make this top 25 list.

If anything, this is a list that reminds everyone how rankings have gotten completely out of hand. This is the ninth annual survey by Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine, a shameful exercise intended to gain publicity for these two brands. Typical of each of this rankings over the years, there’s little clarity over the methodology and the result is a ranking designed largely to allow Princeton Review and Entrepreneur to gain hits on their websites. (see our story last year: Princeton Review’s Shameful Ranking).

Though they offer no explanation for the absence of the best schools in this field, it’s largely due to the fact that Stanford, Harvard, MIT Sloan, Wharton and many other schools consider this ranking to be so lacking in credibility that they refuse to cooperate with Princeton Review and Entrepreneur.

So what does the new ranking show? Babson College, which is number one in the U.S. News survey, retained its number one ranking for the third year. Babson is followed by Brigham Young University, Virginia’s Darden School, Chicago Booth, and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

All told, 13 of U.S. News’ Top 25 schools are not on the Princeton Review list. It’s not that the U.S. News ranking is without its own considerable flaws. It is based solely on a poll of business school deans and MBA directors who, after all, have no direct knowledge of or experience with the entrepreneurship programs at other schools. Still, U.S. News clearly explains how it is ranking these programs, offers ties where the underlying data suggests there is no meaningful difference between one rank and another, and generally the top half of the U.S. News ranking has greater authority than the bottom half (largely because those schools are named by far more deans and directors than the bottom half).

In the news release on the new ranking, Princeton Review and Entrepreneur vaguely claim that the ranking is based on “teaching strong entrepreneurship fundamentals in the classroom and staffing departments with instructors who are successful entrepreneurs” along with “excellence in mentorship, and providing experiential or entrepreneurial opportunities outside of the classroom.”

There is no transparency on how these factors or any other ones used are measured or weighted in the methodology. Nor are there index numbers to accompany each ranked school (such index numbers would show you whether one rank is significantly different than another).

The people who put together this ranking would get a solid F grade in the most basic statistics course taught in business school. An F grade in journalism school would be a charitable gift. More likely, any reputable J-School would toss these jokers out of the classroom for violating every standard of ethical reporting.

Amy Cosper, editor in chief of Entrepreneur, says in a statement that “this ranking provides a unique look at top schools that offer the type of training, encouragement and direction that nurtures entrepreneurial skills. It’s an excellent resource for those interested in academics as a pathway to their goals, and it can help tremendously in the discovery process to finding the right program.”

She’s partly right. The ranking is truly unique—of all the crazy best b-school lists this one is without doubt the absolute worst.

How The Princeton Review Ranking Compares With U.S. News & LinkedIn Studies

U.S. News 2011 Rank LinkedIn 2011 Study Princeton Review Rank
1. Babson College (Olin) 8 1
2. Stanford 1 Missing From List
3. MIT (Sloan) 3 Missing From List
4. Harvard 2 Missing From List
5. UPenn (Wharton) 6 Missing From List
6. Berkeley (Haas) 4 Missing From List
7. Texas-Austin (McCombs) NR 8
8. USC (Marshall) NR 10
9. Indiana (Kelley) NR Missing From List
10. Arizona (Eller) NR 7
11. UCLA (Anderson) NR Missing From List
11. Michigan (Ross) NR 5
13. St. Louis (Cook) NR Missing From List
14. Rice (Jones) NR 9
14. Syracuse (Whitman) NR Missing From List
14. Chicago (Booth) NR 4
14. Virginia (Darden) 9 3
14. Washington (Foster) NR 16
19. Columbia 7 Missing From List
20. Maryland (Smith) NR 22
20. UNC (Kenan-Flagler) NR 12
22. Northwestern (Kellogg) NR Missing From List
23. NYU (Stern) NR Missing From List
24. Brigham Young (Marriott) NR 2
24. Marquette Univ. NR Missing From List

Source: U.S. News & World Report 2011 Specialty Ranking for Entrerpreneurship, 2011 LinkedIn Study, Princeton Review/Entrepreneur 2011 Ranking

Notes: U.S. News ranks the top 25 based solely on the opinion of business school deans and MBA program directors; LinkedIn ranks only ten schools on the basis of members who identify themselves as founders or co-founders of startups.