The Economist 2012 MBA Ranking

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business reclaimed the top ranking today (Oct. 4) in The Economist’s 2012 list of the world’s best business schools. Chicago, which placed second last year, pushed aside Dartmouth College’s Tuck School, which topped the ranking in 2011.

It is the third time that The Economist has ranked Chicago first in the 11 years of ranking the best full-time MBA programs. Booth was at the top of the list in 2010 and in 2007.

The Economist originally reported that the University of Virginia’s Darden School came in second, followed by No. 3 Tuck, No. 4 Harvard, and No. 5 Columbia Business School. But within 24 hours, the magazine acknowledged it had made an error in calculating its 2012 ranking and switched out Darden for Tuck and Tuck for Darden (see Oops! The Economist Fixes Its New Ranking).

The Economist said that Booth moved into first largely on the basis of its ability to open new career opportunities for its graduates. “In this regard, Chicago has few peers,” the magazine claimed. “Its graduates find employment in the widest range of industries; its students gushed about its careers service when marking it for The Economist.”


According to The Economist, the average salary of new graduates at Chicago was $113,217—well below the $127,189 achieved by MBA graduates at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business or the $121,785 achieved by MBAs at Harvard Business School. But Booth MBAs reported a 63% increase on their pre-MBA salaries versus a 56% premium for Stanford grads and a 44% increase for Harvard MBAs.

It was a non-U.S. school, however, that scored the biggest gains over pre-MBA pay in the top 25. According to The Economist, graduates of the University of York’s Schulich School, ranked 16th overall, reported the highest pay increases—a whopping 165% over what their graduates earned before getting the MBA degree. IESE of Spain, ranked ninth overall, also scored high, reporting an increase of 153%.

According to The Economist, Chicago Booth scored first in three key dimensions of its ranking: opening new career opportunities, the diversity of recruiters on-campus, and student assessment of the careers service. The school ranked fifth in “personal development and educational experience” and sixth in both faculty and student quality. Booth did less well on some other measures, notably its alumni network. The Economist ranked Booth 41st on the “breadth of its alumni network,” 31st in “alumni effectiveness,” and 20th on the “internationalism of alumni.” In contrast, the Tuck School ranked first in “alumni effectiveness.”

Common to many MBA rankings, compensation and placement loom large in The Economist’s methodology, accounting for 38% of the ranking’s weight. Alumni opinion is another key ingredient, representing nearly a quarter of the final results. Along with The Financial Times, The Economist is the only other major ranking organization that purports to measure the quality of full-time MBA programs all over the world. It’s also the only ranking for which surveyed students give input on weightings, which are changed slightly from year to year


This year, North America and Europe accounts for all the schools in the top 25. The highest-placed school from outside those regions is the University of Queensland, at 27th. The highest placed Asian school is the University of Hong Kong, which ranks 41st. The biggest winner in this year’s ranking was Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedahad, India, which jumped 22 places to rank 56th this year, from 78th last year. The biggest loser? Both Vierick Leuven and University College Dublin’s Smurfit’s School plunged 25 spots to rank 66th and 63rd, respectively (see Winners & Losers In The Economist’s 2012 MBA Ranking).

While all rankings are somewhat controversial, The Economist’s is especially so—largely because year after year it tends to be filled with many counter intuitive results. Despite Schulich’s impressive 165% returns over pre-MBA pay this year, for example, the school surprisingly plunged seven places in The Economist’s ranking to ninth from 16th a year earlier. The Economist does not explain why schools go up or down in any given year and also does not publish the underlying index numbers to allow users to see how close one school is versus another.

Over the 11 years that The Economist has published its rankings, Harvard, Stanford and Wharton—widely regarded as the top three business schools in the world—have never been ranked first by the magazine. In fact, Harvard has been rated as low as 13th by The Economist, Stanford as low as eighth, and Wharton as low as 21st.


Indeed, many of the best U.S. schools commonly are ranked below European institutions that most business school observers believe are not nearly as good. The reason: An international bias that gives an 11% weight to criteria at which non-U.S. schools will excel (citizenship diversity, ratio of students to foreign alumni chapters, and the number of foreign languages offered. As a consequence of these metrics, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management was ranked 20th this year behind No. 16 York, No. 14 HEC Paris, No. 12 London, No. 10 IMD and and No. 9 IESE. The No. 25 University of Bath’s School of Management also is ranked higher than No. 26 Yale’s School of Management or No. 29 Duke University’s Fuqua School.

Immediately, there was some controversy over the data The Economist used to rank business schools. A spokesperson for the Tuck school, for example, believes there was “an obvious error in Tuck’s rank for faculty quality. The rank shown (>100) is simply not possible given the data we submitted (and the facts). This rank is then part of the rank for Professional Development and Educational Experience and ultimately the overall rank.”

The Economist ranking is based on an initial selection of 135 leading business schools around the world. All 135 schools were invited to take part in a two-stage survey, which requires input from schools and students/alumni. Of these, The Economist said it was unable to rank 17 schools, either because the failed to respond to the survey or did not provide enough data to be ranked. A total of 15,550 students and graduates participated. The global top 100 schools were gleaned from the remaining 118.

Yet another drawback is that The Economist uses year-old data to crank out its results from the Class of 2011, even though schools are now releasing data on the Class of 2012. This is due to the time the magazine begins collecting data for the annual ranking. Bloomberg BusinessWeek, whose latest ranking will be published in early November, will include Class of 2012 salary and placement data, though BusinessWeek does not rank on the basis of pay or placement.

(See following page for The Economist’s ranking of top schools over the years)


    Yes …But the way they select and have Women and IIT Biased attitude ..I wouldn’t have ever ranked them even within Top 100. Do they ever go and check the performance of the IIT ians in their workplace and the value addition they have given Pre MBA? In an in house exam pattern like the IIT how could they have 6 or 7 Points? Where as they reject people with NIT or Govt Engg College background coz they have poor marks in their Engineering exam. Shouldn’t the 6 Pointers and 7 Pointers from IIT be treated the same way ?

  • BostonBabe

    Garbage ranking. Harvard and Stanford are number 1 – hands down. LBS and INSEAD should be top 5-6…how can IESE and IMD be above LBS and INSEAD?

    And Tuck?? Sorry, I barely consider them a top 10 US school much less top 3 global…The fact that tuck and darden dominate this ranking shows how stupid. On another note, I love the economist as a magazine…but they should get out of the ranking business.

  • Dmba

    I agree, Fuqua is a top tier school and comes in at 29? Goes to show how flawed these ‘rankings’ really are.

  • Jamie Templeton

    The Economist ranking system gets more and more laughable as the years go by. Wharton at 13? Kellogg at 20?? LBS at 12? INSEAD at 19?? Seriously??!!! Nothing against Darden, Tuck, Haas or IESE, but just because people who
    went there liked the school and maybe even participated more actively and
    enthusiastically in the survey than students from the US/Euro Elite schools shouldn’t change the rankings this drastically. In fact it undermines the great progress made by Darden, Tuck, Haas, et al by publishing a non-credible list such as this one.

    system unfairly rewards a system just because it is attracting less
    “elite” students with much lower pre-MBA salaries. So a Harvard might
    bring a jump from a 7 to a 9.5 in terms of salary since most HBS accepts
    have pretty great pre-MBA salaries to start with and they are probably
    looking at the quality of work rather than just a pure increase in
    salary while picking their post-MBA job. A Darden on the other hand
    might have a 4 to 7.5 jump for its grads and the system rewards that
    more. That is fair enough to judge the bang for the buck but IMO should
    be weighted appropriately and not become the primary source of ranking.
    Proof is in the pudding – do a quick survey on people who leave a Tuck for an
    INSEAD, or a Darden for Stanford, etc. I’m sure it would be close to a
    100% rate putting aside people who may have a strong over-riding personal reason to choose any particular program. HBS/Stanford are still unquestionably the top 2 overall,
    INSEAD/Kellogg tops for Consulting, Wharton/LBS/Chicago for Finance.
    Dont fall for the rankings rollercoaster…pick a college with a brand
    and legacy that will last you a lifetime.

  • Louis, clearly you’re an idiot. You’re not even using the word “troll” right. Let me help you out. And if you have more names to call me then come say it to my face. Have a nice day.

  • srqw2w

    Fuqua at 29 is quite a shock. I have always considered it to be a school with tremendous potential and upward trajectory (improving yield rates etc.). Wharton at 13 and Kellogg at 20 just prove that this particular ranking has become an absolute farce! I don’t know how the editors can publish this garbage with a straight face!

  • P-Sauce

    Darden is #3, Tuck #2, Economist had a typo

  • Louis

    what a troll.

  • Interesting to see IIM A making the cut in the list of Global top 100 schools.

  • Go Darden!!!