BusinessWeek’s Historical Rankings

Over the course of 12 separate rankings in the past 24 years, BusinessWeek has ranked Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management first more often than any other business school. In five of the 12 times, including the first three consecutive biennial surveys from 1988 to 1992, Kellogg reigned supreme under legendary Dean Donald Jacobs. And the school made a stunning comeback in 2002 and 2004 under Dean Dipak Jain, who now leads Europe’s best business school, INSEAD.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School is the next big winner with four first-place finishes. The current number one school, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, has won this accolade three times.

Harvard Business School and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, widely considered the two top schools in the world, have never finished first in the BusinessWeek survey. Harvard’s best showing has been second place on three different occasions, while HBS was third in four separate surveys. Stanford has never done better than fourth place, which it has achieved three times. In 2000, Stanford fell to its lowest rank in the BusinessWeek survey: a shocking 11th place finish.

How is it possible that the two business schools generally regarded by most observers as having the best full-time MBA programs have never captured the BusinessWeek crown? Chauk it up to methodology. BusinessWeek largely ranks schools based on two surveys that it does every other year. One surveys goes to the latest graduating class of MBAs and is essentially a customer satisfaction survey. The second survey goes to the most important and influential corporate recruiters who hire the most MBAs.

Harvard graduates may simply have higher expectations than others. Because many of the scores are bunched closely together, that could easily be the reason why Harvard has never been number one.

The recruiter survey, meantime, could be biased against smaller schools that attract fewer corporate recruiters. This might very well be Stanford’s problem in the BusinessWeek survey. And the recruiters who go to Stanford often come away with fewer MBAs than they would like to hire because a large percentage of the class would prefer to work for smaller startups in Silicon Valley that are not traditional mainstream hirers of MBAs in the survey sample or are more likely to start their own companies at graduation.

When you combine the rankings for all 12 years, the top three winners are Kellogg, Wharton, and Harvard Business School (see below table). Thanks to its more recent resurgence, Chicago Booth is now fourth on the all-time list, with the University of Michigan’s Ross School in fifth place.

Over the 24-year span, the most noticeable changes have occurred further down the list. In the early years, for example, the University of Rochester’s Simon School and Purdue University’s Krannert School did much better in these rankings than they have more recently. On the other hand, the school with the most improvement is arguably UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, which is currently ranked eighth by BusinessWeek, though it has ranked as high as 19th place.

The schools that are currently at or equal to the low point in their BusinessWeek rankings include New York University’s Stern School, which once ranked as high as 13th but is now 18th, UCLA’s Anderson School, which once placed as high as ninth and is now 17th, and the University of Texas at Austin, which once ranked 17th and is now 25th.


Rank & School                            Index   2010 Rank   Highest Rank   Lowest Rank
  1. Northwestern (Kellogg) 100.0 4 1 4
  2. Pennsylvania (Wharton) 99.4 3 1 5
  3. Harvard Business School 98.6 2 2 5
  4. Chicago (Booth) 98.0 1 1 11
  5. Michigan (Ross) 96.4 7 2 8
  6. Stanford GSB 95.5 5 4 11
  7. Columbia Business School 93.7 9 6 14
  8. Duke (Fuqua) 92.6 6 5 13
  9. MIT (Sloan) 92.1 10 4 15
10. Dartmouth (Tuck) 91.8 14 3 16
11. Virginia (Darden) 90.7 11 5 16
12. Cornell (Johnson) 90.3 13 5 18
13. UCLA (Anderson) 88.6 17 9 17
14. UC-Berkeley (Haas) 87.1 8 8 19
15. New York (Stern) 86.9 18 13 18
16. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 86.7 15 9 19
17. UNC (Kenan-Flagler) 86.4 16 8 19
18. Indiana (Kelley) 86.2 19 7 21
19. Texas-Austin (McCombs) 68.5 25 17 25
20. Yale School of Mgt. 61.4 21 14 24
21. Rochester (Simon) 58.8 43 21 2T
22. Washington Univ. (Olin) 58.2 40 16 NR
23. Vanderbilt (Owen) 53.9 37 19 2T
24, Purdue (Krannert) 52.7 41 20 2T
25. Southern Cal (Marshall) 49.8 26 17 NR

Source: BusinessWeek full-time MBA rankings Notes: 2T indicates that BW put this school in an unranked second tier Methodology: To create this combined ranking of 12 separate BW rankings over 24 years, we assigned 100 points for each first place finish, 99 points for each second place finish, and so forth. We allotted 50 points for each second tier showing.

(See following page for the table that provides a full historical look at BusinessWeek’s rankings through the years)