More Schools Say ‘No’ To The Economist

The Carlson School at the University of Minnesota was one of 17 schools that refused to participate with The Economist

The Carlson School at the University of Minnesota was one of 17 schools that refused to participate with The Economist

At least 17 business schools, including many highly prominent institutions, declined to participate in The Economist’s new 2014 ranking. The director of one highly ranked MBA program which pulled out of the ranking this year said The Economist has a “shambolic” methodology to rate business schools.

Many of the schools that refused to play are far better than some of the schools on The Economist’s list of the 100 best MBA programs in the world published yesterday (Oct. 9). The U.S. institutions that have bowed out include Babson College, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, Purdue University’s Krannert School, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A group of prominent Canadian schools also decided against cooperating with The Economist. They include the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, McGill University’s Desautels, and the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School.


The Economist ranking relies heavily on surveys filled out by the schools. The school-provided data on those surveys accounts for 80% of the methodology used to crank out the ranking. The remaining 20% is based on surveys sent to current MBA students and recent graduates. So if a school refuses to provide data, The Economist can’t rank it.

The Economist said it invited 144 schools to participate this year and identified the 17 schools that declined to provide data. The group of schools saying no also includes such well-known British institutions as Ashridge, Imperial College Business School, and the University of Manchester.

Most schools that refuse to participate have significant issues with the methodology used by The Economist and the peculiar results that show up every year. Harvard, Stanford and Wharton have never topped this ranking even though it has been published every year since 2002. This year, Harvard placed sixth, Stanford ninth, and Wharton 11th, even though the MBA programs at those schools are generally regarded as the best in the world.


Filling out these ranking surveys, moreover, has become a time-consuming process for many of the schools. Top rankings require the input of multiple offices and deans, who must review and sign off on the stats. It can take months for a school to aggregate the data requested by an organization and send it out.

This isn’t the first time The Economist list has been compromised by schools unwilling to participate. Back in 2005, Harvard Business School and Wharton were dropped from the ranking when they declined to participate in the information-gathering process. At the time, both schools attributed their decisions to the fact that compiling the data for the survey takes up too much staff time and that overall, magazine rankings don’t accurately reflect the quality of individual schools. At the time, Harvard and Wharton also declined to cooperate with the BusinessWeek rankings.

“We have allowed the rankings to define us not only to the outside world but to ourselves,” Patrick Harker, then dean of the Wharton School, told The Wall Street Journal in 2004. “The most important thing is that I firmly reject the idea that there is a No. 1 school. Different schools are unique.”


Some business school deans predicted that other schools would follow Harvard and Wharton, but they didn’t. It has been difficult to organize concerted boycotting of the rankings because schools that move up benefit from increased applications and visibility. Ultimately, Harvard and Wharton changed their minds and began to cooperate with both BusinessWeek and The Economist. And more recently, both Harvard and Stanford began cooperating with the Princeton Review for its ranking of the best business schools for entrepreneurship, even though the schools acknowledge that the methodology for that ranking is severely flawed.

The absence of such highly prominent business schools makes The Economist ranking less useful and less credible. Many of these schools participate in other lists that rank them significantly higher than the MBA programs singled out on The Economist list. U.S. News & World Report, for example ranks the Carlson School 33rd, the University of Illinois 35th, Purdue 40th, and Babson 65th among the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S.

Economist rival The Financial Times ranks Manchester Business School, which declined to provide info to The Economist, 43rd. It ranks Illinois 44th, Imperial 49th, Rotman 51st, Carlson 54th and Purdue 56th. The Indian School of Business, ranked 35th in the world by the FT, apparently was not invited to participate in The Economist ranking.

Declined to participate: American University (Kogod), Monash University, Ashridge, Globis University, University of Missouri-Kansas City (Bloch), University of the Witwatersand, Babson College (Olin), EGADE-Tecnologico de Monterrey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Imperial College Business School, University of Manchester, McGill University (Desautels), University of Minnesota (Carlson), Purdue University (Krannert), Seoul National University, University of Toronto (Rotman), University of British Columbia (Sauder)

The Economist also said the following schools only provided one year of data and were not ranked as a result: Bradford University, Trinity College Dublin, University of Glasgow, Queen’s University, University of Western Ontario (Ivey), Universidad Austral, Michigan State University, Ryerson University, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Sun Yat-sen University, S P Jain School of Global Management, Politecnico di Milano School of Management, The University of Liverpool, City University of New York.


  • Isaac

    Nope. Your thinking about credibility and “minimum requirements” is wrong. Declining to participate is not the same as failing to meet a requirement. A school declining to participate does not show that the Economist has strict standards, but rather that the school disagrees with the methodology, or does not find the survey credible, or something similar along the same lines.
    If a school is not included in the ranking, e.g. Carlson at UMN, whichever school should be next in line will take the absentee’s spot, thus skewing the whole ranking and eroding credibility. For one or two this is not such a big deal, but for seventeen, eyebrows will be raised.

  • tenderX

    I second your argument, the economist should hire you. .

  • Sarah

    The FT ranking is just a game of best ball as to which school can out manipulate the other in getting alum to misrepresent their salary three years out, it is also brutally UK represented. Alumni are not daft and know that by reporting a higher salary it increases one’s chance for higher ranking and school brand. Della Bradshaw needs to let go of the fact that their methodology is porous.

  • TheEconomistShouldHireMe

    If you look at the methodology – it is actually pretty solid. From an incoming MBA’s perspective, the 4 things that matter most are:
    1) career prospects
    2) access to strong alumni network
    3) academic rigor
    4) money in the bank

    There may need to be some tweaking on how the Economist gathers and analyzes that data, but overall it is trying, more than any other ranking, to give you a list of which schools have the best overall “program”. The caveat is that people who can get in to Harvard or Stanford are likely so strong that the growth they get from their MBA “program” is not nearly what they would get if their candidacy had “only gotten them in to” Tuck or Booth (I realize how ridiculous that sentence is… “only” Tuck or Booth… but play along).

    I think the Economist reflects which schools truly shine within their ‘weight class’. In this case, we all pretty much agree that some combination of Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, Kellogg, Tuck, MIT, Columbia, and Berkeley are the Teir 1 schools (with a nod to Harvard and Stanford for being the undisputed top 2). What the Economist is saying is that Chicago and Tuck are the best at transforming their student’s outcomes (placement, network, academics, cash) based on their incoming profile.

    Frankly, this is just another way of looking at the Forbes (ROI) ranking, although Forbes is post-MBA looking, whereas The Economist is measuring impact of the MBA program during the two years you are there.

    All of that said, this is ultimately why the rankings from MBA50 or Poets and Quants are the best places to look if your goal is to understand the rankings at a high level. Each of these rankings are different and tell a slightly different story. By bringing the different rankings together, you smooth out the signal from the noise and get a better measurement.

  • Lol

    Says the Wharton student.

  • chicago_troll

    Give us a favour, don’t talk about chicago. .

  • bwanamia

    Egregious Chicago trolling.

  • tenderX

    Side info, us news doesn’t rank Canadian schools!

  • amir

    There is a “top 6” in Canada, but these schools tend to jump up and down in different rankings a lot. A school that is ranked 1st in FT ranking may place 6th in US News, so the schools deny cooperation with rankings that do not put emphasis on their specific attributes.
    If you check Queen’s MBA page for example, you will see that it is the best MBA in Canada according to BusinessWeek, but it is not in the Forbes top 100. On the other hand, York is the only “top 6” Canadian MBA that have participated in Forbes rankings and hence can claim #1 in Canadian MBA on its website.

  • ijufook

    Economist ranking is a challenge to the status quo, and tends to shock the general perception. So, I understand the complaints. However, the top 10 or 20 schools are pretty the same every where. M7 schools tuck haas london insead imd iese darden fuqua cornell carnegie mellon ucla unc emory vandy wustl all those institutions are world class top tier and highly ranked.

  • Top10USMBA

    Having worked in Canada for a few ears while on assignment there I am glad those Canadian shcools are not participating and understand why. The MBAs produced by them are some of the worst trained. I lost all my respect for Canadian MBA programs. Yes there are people that come out of those programs that are excellent but they are not the common grad.

  • Elz

    Every one can’t be #1…I love the economist ranking because it did not follow the mold. Everyone is so lockstep with H-S-WB, that it’s good to see things differently from a different perspective.
    I do have an issue with the claim, that the ranking will now be “not as credible”. If anything this would make the ranking more credible since it shows they have strict standards, and the schools that are ranked meet their minimum requirement. my .02