BusinessWeek’s 2012 Business School Ranking

by John A. Byrne on

For the fourth consecutive time, the Unversity of Chicago’s Booth School of Business hit the rankings jackpot, retaining its number one title for having the best full-time MBA program in the U.S., according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Following Chicago Booth is a familiar cast of elite business schools. Harvard Business School retained its No. 2 rank from 2010 in the biennial MBA sweepstakes by BusinessWeek. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School was No. 3 again, while Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management played musical chairs for the No. 4 and No. 5 positions.

The magazine’s 2012 ranking, published today (Nov. 15), contains many surprises, however. The Johnson Graduate School at Cornell University, for example, jumped six places to rank seven from 13th in 2010. Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School rose four spots to 11th from 15th, and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business also saw a four-place gain to rank 15th from 19th. The University of Texas’ McCombs School rose six places to finish 19th from 25th in 2010.

In a separate ranking of the best MBA programs at non-U.S. business schools, BusinessWeek ranked London Business School No. 1, moving aside INSEAD which fell to second place. IE Business School in Spain was third, followed by Queen’s College in Canada and Oxford University’s Said School in fifth. For Oxford, the rank of fifth represented a 11-place climb from 2010 when it was ranked 16th. IIn an online chat earlier today, editor Geoff Gloeckler explained the reason for Oxford’s big move forward. “Oxford has seen steady improvement in their student satisfaction score over the past three rankings cycles,” he said. “Also, the school’s employer score jumped quite a bit after a less-than-stellar 2010. Oxford is one of only three schools in the ranking that finished in the top ten of all three rankings categories. The other two schools are LBS and INSEAD” (see London Tops BW’s Non-U.S. School Ranking).


The losers? Columbia Business School and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business both fell by five places to 14th from 9th and 13th from eight, respectively.  “Columbia’s drop was mostly due to student satisfaction,” Gloeckler said. “In 2010, they were 10th in the student rank, this year they fell to 20th. A lot of the student complaints were about the core curriculum, which is going to be changed starting next year. Columbia did move up one spot in the employer rank, though.”

In fact, it’s the worst showing by Columbia in the BusinessWeek survey since it began in 1988 when the magazine ranked the school 14th. Some MBA students are pointing a finger at Dean Glenn Hubbard who had been former Governor Romney’s economic advisor during his losing Presidential campaign. He had been embarrassed and ridiculed in the Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job, something that hardly lent him credibility has a leader of the institution. Columbia’s fall is largely due to a ten-point drop in the school’s student satisfaction portion of the BusinessWeek analysis to a lowly 20 from 10 two years ago (See Winners & Losers in the 2012 BW Ranking).

The BusinessWeek ranking, the first regularly published MBA ranking and often considered the most influential in the U.S., is based on three core measurements: a student satisfaction poll, an MBA recruiter poll, and a measure of a school’s intellectual capital. Polls of students and recruiters are each given a weight of 45% in the overall methodology, while the remaining 10% comes from the magazine’s measurement of published articles by a school’s professors in key academic and practitioner journals. This year BusinessWeek received 10,439 responses for a response rate of 56% on its student Web-based survey. The magazine also surveyed 566 corporate recruiters and received 206 responses for a response rate of 36%.

The BusinessWeek ranking is like no other. Most other rankings include such things as average GMATs, grade point averages, starting salaries, and percentage of graduates employed at graduation and three months later. Instead, the BW listing is the closest one can get to a “customer satisfaction” ranking.


Like any other ranking of business schools, it is not flawless. Though BusinessWeek employs statisticians to comb through the data to verify its integrity, students come to each of these schools with very different expectations that can result in significantly different grades they award their institutions. There is also concern of widespread cheerleading by students who want to push their schools ahead in the rankings so their degrees have more prestige. These issues alone are in all probability what has kept Harvard and Stanford from ever placing first in the BusinessWeek survey.

Those students come to campus with high expectations and are less likely to care about how a ranking impacts the status of their degree. So they are prone to be more demanding and more honest in their answers to BusinessWeek’s questions. They graduate with the highest starting pay packages and know that a Harvard or Stanford MBA can pretty much open any door in the world.

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  • InterestedParty

    Glad about the agreement – I know other schools deserve much of the attention on these boards but I am a little surprised at how little props Cornell receives and especially at how little positive attention it has received given its strong moves on the NYC campus, # 7 BW ranking, one of the few schools with growing applications – seems like exciting momentum…one to keep an eye on!

  • Somo

    Yes 15th globally, BUT 8th in US!

  • LongHornJoe

    @0f68a43601f548120a8fe9b87c0305f0:disqus Thanks for clarifying that. I only looked at the numbers but not the details on that list. I think 8th is a fair ranking and I would personally rank Duke around that number as well. Great school but there are a few more that are slightly better. But can’t go wrong either way. Rank 8 is correct..with MIT and Tuck at 6 and 7. H/S/W and the 2 Chi town schools making the top 5.

  • Orange1

    What’s with the Cornell love-in? I remember years ago that Fuqua got the same treatment when BW boosted them. And since Snyder joined Yale I heard it would rank with the best of the best in no time. I did look at Cornell and think Ithaca is fantastic but as I mentioned before, big jumps up and down lose their validity with me. Do think it is a very good school but if the NYC campus on Roosevelt Island is for engineering/computer science, how does that give the business school momentum?
    I also looked at Tuck and this whole thing about the two schools being in the middle of nowhere just doesn’t ring in terms of the rankings. Trust me, companies looking for solid candidates would scour the middle of Maine if the quality is there.

  • Boss

    Tuck is the golden school offers only full time MBA. whatever rankings say, I find it very hard to turn down Tuck for any school but Harvard or Stanford. It is very very strong program and has very special reputation of prestige and quality. there you will get a solid education and join unparalleled alumni network.

  • InterestedParty

    I understand and agree with your points about Cornell and Dartmouth in terms of perceived locational disadvantages, but it is an issue for some and has been used as a criticism over the years, again unfairly IMO. So unfortunately, I do believe a presence in a major business centre/city has some real long term advantages – if only for perception and demand by prospective applicants.
    To that end, I think the campus in NYC for Cornell is a potential game changer. Cornell already offers two MBA granting programs in ithe NYC area, both for executives – one at the Cornell Club in Manhattan, and one outside of the City at IBMs Palisades Campus. Also, Cornell’s new Dean Dutta, from INSEAD, is an expert on the commercialization of innovation/technology into the marketplace. Interestingly, Google is a major supporter of this effort and has donated office space and resources to be associated – a great partner to be sure. The Johnson School at Cornell has also dedicated substantial resources into the long term planning on the new NYC campus.
    I agree that in the short term the NYC Campus will be oriented towards science and engineering – innovation really, however over the intermediate and long term Cornell Johnson will begin granting MBA degrees there – it is not a leap for them, as they already have two MBA degree programs in the NYC area and Johnson faculty are involved at every level of planning on this new campus.
    I think this is a positioning for Cornell for a major long term competitive advantage and marries some of the University’s great strengths in engineering with business.

  • Orange1

    But can NYC support three top 10 or 15-type B schools?

  • Josh

    Huge hit to the credibility of the BW Rankings — they made a huge blunder in reporting the highest salary paid to an MBA grad. It was a million dollar mistake. See the story on P&Q and Mr. Lavalle’s comments in the section below. They have issued a full retraction. This should give good support to the critics of this ranking — the underlying data is flawed and questionable. This is a huge “gotchya” moment. Critics 1 — BW 0

  • InterestedParty

    Great question – and the answer is yes without question, IMO! NYC has the scale, scope, and perhaps most importantly, the demand, to do so, more than nearly any city in the world. More importantly though, competition is a good thing – the status quo is orderly but does not necessarily breed excellence. Having another Ivy League business school in town will compel all three schools to improve their game – in the end benefit accrue, I believe. Boston has Harvard, MIT Sloan, and Dartmouth Tuck (by a couple of hours extension anyway) – so certainly, at many times larger, NYC can handle Columbia, Cornell, and NYU…and I think happily will.
    Again, nothing is overnight, and Cornell has always been a great business school, typically within the top 15, with some years being slightly better and some slightly worse – I just think this NYC campus has the potential to re-orient it to being considered more a top 10 player going forward. It will be an evolution and not a revolution in my IMO – but momentum is a powerful tool and gets into the psyche of potential applicants and employers quickly. With growing applications, stronger placement stats, very satisfied students, a new dean, a new campus coming on-line in NYC, and a very strong and globally recognized Ivy League brand to leverage – I just think this is one to watch and is an exciting prospect in the BSchool world. Good Execution by the Johnson School will be key…but the raw materials are coming together…thx

  • MercerGrad

    We have been saying this for ages now. Just imagine how much other “data” are tampered and manipulated. If they got something like this wrong — i.e, the highest paid 2012 MBA grad – just imagine how many more landmines are in those rankings. I think we should completely disregard all of the tainted data. Would you drink a glass of milk knowing there is a drop of feces in it?

  • InterestedParty

    I hear what you are saying – but BW reported the data as reported by the School. The school caught the mistake and corrected the error – I think this was unintentional. In any normal distribution of data, any number that is way above or below the mean should be questioned – this was no different, but it does not mean the ranking is flawed – far from it actually IMO.
    In fact, I believe the BW rankings are very likely the most useful rankings – becuase they better measure the things I am more concerned about – satisfaction and future prospects. I really do not care or believe that one school is better or worse than another school because its average GMAT is 10 points higher or lower. I think the better school is unequivally (100%), the one whose students/graduates reported the best outcome in placements (relative to my interests) and overall satisfaction of the experience. I already know which schools are regarded as prestigious – I do not need USN to tell me that. Just because MBS made an error in reporting a salary to BW, this does not call into question the many benefits of their ranking. HBS has had a few notable people recently charged with crimes – does this mean that HBS is now not worth attending? Far from it obviously. USN is fine and I respect it – but admission rates and GMAT scores are too simple to properly judge a business school IMO – that is the easy part – BW gets to the real deal far better than any other ranking IMO.

  • Josh

    Thanks for your reply. I made a similar point to John Byrne and I will reiterate the same again. I understand it did not factor into the rankings. But that said, if BW did not question this number before publishing the results, then I question the rigorousness and attention to detail of the BW MBA rankings team. If they did not “smell” something here and do some digging before reporting it, I wonder how many other mistakes went unnoticed. These mistakes are in the realm of schools trying to “game” the rankings by having kids report stuff. This makes me question the vigilance of the BW team. But that said, I applaud the fact that they came out and admitted as much. Kudos to them for that.

  • InterestedParty

    I understand and appreciate your points – but if you go in that direction, than I think all rankings publications have the same risk profile – right? Because the publication in question is reporting admissions stats, or placement stats, or average GMATs, or average GPAs, depending on which ranking one is questioning. The rankings organizations take the reported data and apply it to their respective models. Any data that lies way above or below average should be suspect, but the assumption is made that the reporting schools are providing reasonably accurate data – which I believe by and large they are…but I agree there is risk that schools try and “game” data to their advantage…
    All rankings are flawed – none are perfect, nor can be – but they are nevertheless very useful and interesting and I think by and large do a decent job of capturing important information….Thx!

  • carioca

    Stupid way to rank schools among themselves. How can you say a school is better than another by taking a look at the number of people hired by top 3 consulting firms??

    That depends so much on the size of the class. Easier to put 50 people at McK from a class of 900 people (Harvard or Insead – 5.5% of the class) than from a class of hardly 300 people (Haas or MIT – 16% of the class)

    And I don’t even mention than most of these new consultants were already sponsored by their consulting companies which means that they didn’t even go through any recruiting process, and thus does not prove that the school is better than another to make these guys be hired by top 3 consulting firms…

  • llavelle

    My point exactly. I’m not sure how many of the consulting hires at top b-schools were people returning to the firms that sponsored them, but when we did a few mini-rankings of the “go-to” schools for top mba employers we did exactly what you suggested…correcting for the size of the class. Here’s the ranking of go-to schools for McKinsey:

  • Michael Gill

    Hi Lewis,

    I’m not sure what the grounds are for your comment, really, or to which “facts” you refer. Instead, I am alluding to a comment made by John Byrne ( @jbyrne ), who is the mastermind behind Poets & Quants and very likely the most well-versed man in the universe with regard to b-school rankings. About a year ago, he made the following comment in a separate thread:

    “For many years, there was a trio of U.S. schools at the very top: Harvard, Stanford, and Chicago. In the 1990s and 2000s, Wharton shoved aside Chicago and effectively replaced it. Now, after Chicago’s first place finish in three consecutive BusinessWeek polls in 2006, 2008 and 2010, and Wharton’s fall in the FT rankings in recent years, I would say it’s pretty much neck and neck. You may prefer Wharton and that’s fine. It’s a terrific school. But it’s simply not true that Chicago Booth is a safety school.”

    Chicago is hardly a newcomer here. Again, my previous post intended folks to not let your preconceptions misguide you into thinking what you know is necessarily fact. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if you assume that what you think you know is actually the truth.

    In a separate note, Forbes has taken a stab at doing what John Byrnes does with the aggregate rankings, without applying the thoughtful weights which John does for each ranking:

    Warm regards,

  • justsaying

    As a student at Johnson, I have classmates who did in fact choose Johnson over Columbia and Tuck….

  • NNW32

    John, when should we expect?

  • DCA

    Louis – While I agree that INSEAD is a strong school, INSEAD’s employment statistics are biased. The vast majority of those students going to McKinsey were sponsored by McKinsey to attend business school. Additionally, most of them are non-US students that will work in non-US McKinsey offices following graduation. McKinsey only sponsors students to attend a couple international schools (LBS/INSEAD). So given the limited number of choices and INSEAD’s one-year program (McKinsey gets its employee’s back quicker), INSEAD “places” best at McKinsey.

    Otherwise – Too much emphasis is placed on rankings (especially BW’s ranking). Booth over Harvard and Stanford? Come on.

    The strong brands will remain strong brands. In the end, recruiting and placement dictate which school is best. I attended one of the “top” schools referenced, I can say that regardless of rankings, I saw candidates from the same 5 schools at every final round interview I went on. This list was not representative.

  • INSEADer

    I can assure you that Mckinsey, Bain, BCG, Booz, AT Kearney, Goldman Sachs, and many elite firms, do sponsor students at the top US schools as well. I partially do agree that most of the Mckinsey hires at INSEAD is for international offices, but many top american consulting and banking firms generate revenue from abroad higher than from inside US, so being in an international office is an advantageous just to mention, 70% of GE revenue come from international operation. 50+% of mckinsey and bain revenue come from global operation. in fact, we have seen some INSEAD alumni who lead the offices of one of MBB in Chicago and LA I guess! we should admit that in consulting world, INSEAD is the ruler, no doubt! to be elite and leader in consulting business, you need to deeply understand people, cultures, politics, trends, …etc, from a global prospective, I believe no school on the planet could give such a horizon but INSEAD.. just my thought though..

  • cheetarah1980

    In the 90s Stanford and Booth (GSB back then) weren’t even in the conversation when talking about, “What’s the #1 business school.” Back then it was Harvard, Wharton, and Kellogg. InterestedParty is definitely right in the fact that history is what really builds the perception of what the rankings should be and it takes perception a while to catch up with recent history. At the same time that same perception also forgets older history. Based on the rankings across the board it would show that right now Booth is significantly and consistently chipping away at the HSW trifecta, but people are still stuck on the common knowledge from 2005 that the top three are HSW and have completely forgotten the 90s when it was HWK. It will be interesting to see what the “common knowledge” on rankings is in 2020. I have a feeling it will be HBS/B/Stanford (in some order) while the rankings consistently show another combination of three.

  • cheetarah1980

    GO BIG RED!!

  • cheetarah1980

    Why do so many people assume that Ivy League = rich family? I am not naive enough to not acknowledge that the Ivy Leagues probably have a higher percentage of students from wealthy families than other schools. However, that does not mean that the majority of Ivy League students and alums come from wealth. The vast majority of Ivy League students are on financial aid. When discussions of prestige in regard to undergrad institution come up for some reason the Ivies are either overly reveered as the end all and be all or unnecessarily devalued as a bastion of undeserving rich kids. I think the truth is much closer to the middle.

  • cheetarah1980

    Notice how most of MBA Over 30’s criteria for ranking b-schools are tied to some measure of entrepreneurship. Hahaha. The point is what makes a school the best is going to differ from person to person. BW is just giving it’s criteria for what makes a bschool the best.

  • Strauss II

    Truth is that many people desire to attend HSW because of their prestige. Part of that prestige comes from the fact that HSW have a higher proportion of kids coming from HYP and their kin. We are all guilty of perpetuating the Ivy League’s (myth of) desirability by adcoms. Booth is a great school but it would be perceived (yes, perceived) to have lower quality of students (compared to HSW) because it is not an automatic choice for many ivy leaguers. Maybe that will change one day…maybe not. Fact is, people apply to HSW because thy want to be part of an elite network (for future employment, favors, connections, etc) …and to maintain that network adcoms look to fill their classes from other elite networks aka Ivy League, top companies, etc.

    Clearly, you can see that this is a self perpetuating cycle. So if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em…

  • liberation26

    Louis! These numbers are misleading. It may be true that McKinsey picked up 107 people from Insead. But it’s also true that Insead is the No.1 choice for “company sponsored” students who are just returning back to the same company. The 107 includes those students..

  • Dumbass

    Liberation, get liberated from your malfunctioning brain, no matter what program, usually close to half of the students going to consulting are sponsored. Yes, I am talking about CBS or HBS or INSEAD. Go look at their career reports and dig around poetsandquants.

  • FlyingSq

    There are some inaccuracies in your comment which I figured I would point out.

    1) I haven’t seen any information stating that Google is a major contributor to the school, and I am a Cornell alumni. Where did you hear that?

    2) The new school is an engineering school, and that too an applied engineering school. It has nothing to do with the MBA program. The amount of interaction between engineering and MBA students in most schools is about zero, even for schools with very strong engineering programs like Stanford.

    3) As a NYer I can tell you no one from NYC would think of Roosevelt Island as a part of Manhattan. Not that it matters. But, it’s known to people variously as either “Welfare Island” or the place where there was a big insane asylum :)

  • Jay Dee

    Actually it makes a BIG difference to potential students. Most want to know if they can get the MBA degree to transition to a new job/company, such as MBB. If they majority of FT hires at INSEAD are simply sponsored employees, that significantly changes the desirability.

  • HBStimes

    + how do you even start comparing 2 year and 1 year programs…

  • ottenbaum

    Louis, your study is a total fallacy and you coming here to answer questions with such attitude proves that you suck.

    Here are 3 reasons why you should change your job:

    1/ You assume that applicants choose schools based on the marketing of the school! Breaking news: the average applicant is smarter than you are and take into account much more/relevent parameters than you can even think of.

    2/ You compare schools based on the number of MBB hires (!!!). Ohh crap, turns out some schools have 3 times more MBA students then some others on the list you just gave us. Turns out INSEAD has a huge pool of students who go back to their sponsors, MAINLY because it takes 1yr hence, costs less to the sponsor, not necessarily because it is better.

    3/ Your methodology smells like crap. Almost every point of your methodology is as subjective as one could imagine. Do I really care that Indiana’s student are supposedly more satisfied then HBS students? What the heck does that mean anyways??

    Why would anyone do such as stupid ranking without questionning himself? You are a total sell-out, and you obviously get money from Booth/INSEAD to advertise for them. Luckily no one gets fooled by your crap.

  • WhatI SayisTru

    I actually went through B-week’s methodologies a couple of years ago, but forgot most of it. I don’t really understand how Harvard (I don’t actually go there) is not at least number 1 or 2 in Intellectual Capital Ranking. Most of business school (at least top 10 that I know of) use HBS cases. HBS also have the most professors.

    How is Duke of all schools in the list number 1 in Intellectual Capital Rank, then followed by Cornell? By sheer size Harvard, Wharton (UPenn) should be near the top. ?

  • avivalasvegas

    Fuqua is a serious competitor to Yale and Stern. That makes them a top 10 program (i.e among the top 12 business schools) and no more. Stern’s and Yale’s (relative) proximity to New York give those schools a significant edge that Fuqua may never really be able to overcome.

  • MBA Prospect

    When will BusinessWeek publish their new ranking?

    Does anyone have the publishing dates for all ranking?

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