Just Another Rather Silly MBA Ranking

by John A. Byrne on

Last year, a record number of graduating students at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business chose to start their own companies. Some 16% of the Class of 2011 shunned traditional MBA jobs in favor of the start-up world, a three-fold increase from the 5% in the early 1990s and a third higher than the earlier 12% peak during the dot-com bubble.

Harvard Business School’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship now boasts 34 professors who teach 26 courses on all aspects of entrepreneurship in the second-year elective curriculum. Indeed, every single member of Harvard’s class is now required to create a micro-business that is funded by the school. And Harvard’s annual business plan contest offers more than $170,000 in prize money to winners and runners-up. Yet, Stanford and Harvard are nowhere to be found in the 2012 ranking of the best business schools for entrepreneurship published this week by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine. Neither are Wharton, MIT Sloan, UC-Berkeley Haas, or Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business.

MANY OF THE BEST SCHOOLS SIMPLY REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS RANKING

How come? Because those schools refused to participate in one of the most questionable rankings published annually. Indeed, of the ten best schools for entrepreneurship identified by U.S. News & World Report, six fail to even make the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur list which came out Sept. 24. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: If anything, this is a list that reminds everyone how rankings have gotten completely out of hand. This annual survey by Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine is nothing more than a shameful exercise intended to gain publicity for these two brands. Typical of these 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 earlier critique: 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. Good for them. Shame on the business schools who jump on this bandwagon, promoting the idea that this list has any credibility whatsoever.

BABSON IS NUMBER ONE FOR THE FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW

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 fourth year. Babson is followed by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Brigham Young University, Rice University’s Jones School, and the University of Texas’s at Austin McCombs School of Business. In the news release on the new ranking, Princeton Review and Entrepreneur vaguely explain their methodology this way: “The Princeton Review conducted its surveys of school administrators from April through June 2012. The wide range of data the education services company used to evaluate the programs and tally the rankings included: the schools’ levels of commitment to entrepreneurship inside and outside the classroom, the percentage of their faculty, students, and alumni actively and successfully involved in entrepreneurial endeavors and the number and reach of their mentorship programs. The Company also considered their funding for scholarships and grants for entrepreneurial studies and projects, and their support for school-sponsored business plan competitions.”

The absence of some of the best business schools from the list leads to some very strange results. Michigan’s Princeton Review/Entrepreneur ranking is two versus 11 in U.S. News. The University of Southern California’s Marshall School is ranked 21st by Princeton Review, but 10th by U.S. News. The same nearly counterintuitive result occurs with Columbia Business School: Princeton Review ranks it 23rd in entrepreneurship, while U.S. News ranks it much higher at 14th.

The U.S. News ranking, of course, is not 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 the higher ranked schools are named by far more deans and directors than the bottom half where the results become quite thin).

(See following page for a table comparing U.S. News’ ranking of the best B-schools for entrepreneurship with the Princeton Review/Entrepreneur list)

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