Booth Tops 2015 Economist Ranking

The University of Chicago's Booth School of Business

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business

Here we go again!

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business emerged the No. 1 MBA program in The Economist‘s 2015 global ranking of the best business schools (today) for the fourth consecutive year. But if you’re looking for any consistency out of this ranking, you’ll be deeply disappointed.

Even among the Top 25 schools, there are plenty of roller-coaster results that are simply head-scratching. Both IE Business School in Spain and Warwick Business School in the U.K. jumped 19 places to 17th and 18th, respectively. The Economist now ranks Warwick’s one-year MBA program above the two-year MBA experiences at such prestige and highly selective institutions as the Yale School of Management, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and London Business School. Only two years ago, The Economist ranked Warwick 56th, and three years ago, at 60th.


Henley Business School jumped 12 spots to a rank of 22nd, even though the school failed to even make The Economist’s list in 2013. That puts Henley above London Business School, Cambridge (61), and Oxford (77). INSEAD rose ten places to rank 8th, while IESE Business School in Spain slid nine spots to 14th from fifth last year. And London Business School skidded nine places as well to a barely make the Top 25 list at a rank of 24th.

Besides Chicago’s No. 1 finish, this year’s top five schools are at least a familiar bunch: the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business finished second (up from third last year), Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business was third (down from second in 2014), Harvard Business School was fourth (up two spots), and HEC Paris rounded out the top five by placing fifth (slipping one spot).

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management gained another seven places this year to finish seventh behind UC-Berkeley’s Haas School. Kellogg has now jumped 15 spots in two years, coming from 23rd in 2913. That is Kellogg’s best showing since 2006 when it finished in sixth place.

And where in the world is Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, which for the past five years has been at the epicenter of the most dynamic economy in the world? For the first time ever in the history of The Economist‘s ranking, which debuted in 2002, Stanford failed to make the Top 10. It fell to the unlucky 13th spot on this year’s list, down four places from ninth last year. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School–widely regarded as one of the top three business schools in the world–placed tenth, up one place from 2014.


The often quirky results of this ranking–like all rankings–are fundamentally due to its methodology. In many ways, The Economist ranking is similar to The Financial Times. For one, it’s global in scope and weighs several factors that tend to favor non-U.S. schools. It examines many criteria—21 different metrics in all, from the diversity of the on-campus recruiters to the range of overseas exchange programs. Compensation and career placement are heavily weighted, including starting salaries, pre-MBA versus post-MBA pay increases, and the percentage of graduates who land jobs through the career management center. Pay and placement account for 45% of the methodology.

The one big difference with The Financial Times is its rather significant reliance on student satisfaction, gathered by an annual survey of current MBA students and recent alumni. They’re asked to rate the quality of the faculty, the career services staff, the school’s curriculum and culture, the facilities, the alumni network, and their classmates. The methodology takes into account new career opportunities (35%); personal development/educational experience (35%); increasing salary (20%); and the potential to network (10%). The figures are a mixture of hard data and the subjective marks given by the school’s students who are surveyed by the magazine.

Measuring MBA programs on those dimensions should insure that Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and London Business School do well. Yet surprisingly, year after year they tend to lag in The Economist ranking. In fact, Harvard, Stanford and Wharton have never topped this ranking even though it has been published for 14 years. There are many explanations for this, including the likelihood that students and alumni who complete The Economist‘s survey are cheerleading for their schools, the sample size of the surveys, and the fact that some schools have dropped out, refusing to participate in the ranking because they believe it lacks credibility.

  • Sebastián Miralles

    You hold an extremely low bar when judging professional success. A six-figure salary is nearly standard in certain geographies and professions. To meet your bar, a school need only recruit random investment bankers and consultants from New York, and Geneva. Presto! We have met your quality measure.

    You might argue that young professionals quickly self-select and move to these high paying geographies and professions. That is a fallacy. I would venture that this is precisely one of the reasons that schools with high international cohorts are doing so well in rankings. They are a vehicle through which top interntional talent can finally access high income opportunities.

  • Sebastián Miralles

    I fail to see your point. An MBA is all about having a positive impact on your career. It is and should be exclusively a rational business decision and not an ego validation exercise.

    If School B takes in low earning / high potential students and then graduates them into high paying jobs, then it has had a very significant impact! It certainly deserves credit and the attention from prospective students.

    On the other hand, how do you categorize a school that takes in high earners and graduates them into only slightly higher paying jobs then when they came in? Jobs that in many cases they could have attained without dedicating two years to said MBA?

    You necessarily need an objective measure of the marginal impact that an MBA provides. To which increased post-MBA salary seems like a very good yardstick.

    Otherwise, you might as well be saying that HSW are a better country club to belong to. Sure they are prestigeous, but am I getting a return on my investment? Is it even a business decision vs a social validation one?

    As to the Economist ranking. I like the spirit, but I would find a way to implement this with less volatility, probably downweighing the satisfaction survey

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  • frank

    I agree with you and Warwick it’s not a “random” school. In Europe we have schools with long term traditions, maybe less marketing oriented and that’s the origin of their problem. But the education level they provide has nothing to envy to US ones. Of course, in an MBA the career impact is a very important element but in the end, let’s be honest, is the geography the first thing to look at in one’s choice. If one wants to work in Europe will go to a European School whilst to work in US you need to chose a US one. Is that the main reason any comparison makes no sense to me. Geography is the first criteria (if you have already decided on that) to make your own shortlist.

  • MIT Rules

    Booth is #1 here and #2 on BW. So far so good. But really, USN is what matters most, so lets see if it can edge out MIT there

  • C. Taylor

    To bring up the obvious, no one here has screamed murder over any of these other programs–such as Notre Dame, Indiana or either of the Washingtons–showing up on top 25 lists.

  • pft

    I like this ranking. I like it because it smacks the brand xhores in the face 🙂

  • C. Taylor

    While relatively unknown to fresh undergrad degree holders in the US, Warwick’s MBA program currently provides an impact on careers equivalent to respected US programs such as–but not limited to–those in the following group:

    Penn State (Smeal)
    Washington U St. Louis
    SMU (Cox)
    Boston College (Carroll)

  • dr

    IMD? Dartmouth? wut.

  • frank

    I completely agree with you Ben and is the same thing that penalizes schools like IMD that are much more senior.

  • camicazi

    Many people wondering if you understand it as well?!

  • Les Diables Bleus

    At this point I’m just wondering if people know what the expression “take things with a grain of salt” means.

  • International-MBA-aspirant

    Thank you. IMD should have done a basic thing, grow naturally. The world’s population in 1990 was 5.2 Billion, today it is above 7 Billion, that is a 30% growth, they should have expanded the class to at least 120. Another point is that even with 120 or 150 or even 200, the program will still be very small compared to all the top tier programs. To be honest just 90 doesn’t make sense at all. Just look at Oxford MBA program, when they announced an expansion to 320 from 220 in a single year, they got big number of applications.

  • C. Taylor

    I can identify with your frustration here. No one wishes IMD’s full time program less than the best success. It is true IMD’s executive education programs are said to be fantastic.

    I read one of the attractions of the full time program is the many opportunities to leverage the vast executive presence on IMD’s campus. Perhaps an alumnus can comment here.

    “so do you think Mr Turpin will pay attention to this little detail called MBA?”

    He tells me he does with both eyes. IMD will act. Time will present a yardstick to measure the timing and effect of IMD’s measures. The current situation is eminently solvable.

  • International-MBA-aspirant

    Mr Turpin is a businessman, MBA programs contribution to the total revenue of IMD is just 5%, even if the whole program disappeared, there will be no effect on the revenue and profits of IMD. IMD is known to be the only business school that actually makes money (profit) out of its operation, and that is largely because the vast majority of its activities are executive education, something close to 95%, so do you think Mr Turpin will pay attention to this little detail called MBA?! he left it all to Boscheck. I really can not understand why IMD did not expand its class to at least 120 or 150, why 90?! 120 or so, still very small compared to all top schools. By expanding the class size, the alumni network will increase, attract more recruiters, and for the student him/her self, will have more classmates. I wish they increase it at least to 150. Other point is the very expensive tuition and fees.

  • C. Taylor


  • C. Taylor

    Part 3: So an ideal real-world indicator will reflect a period of time that is close enough to today to be meaningful for today’s applicants while being far enough in the future to accurately represent the magnitude of the positive career shock supplied by the MBA programs.

    Three years out from graduation is perhaps a little early still, and eight years out perhaps reflects an MBA program of yesterday, rather than today. So the ideal window is, say, four to seven years out from graduation. Perhaps even better–five or six years out from graduation.

  • C. Taylor

    Part 2: Ideally, a ranking would appropriately aggregate impactful indicators according to each candidate’s fit profile. Until that happens, those seeking to discern the impact of a program are left with incomplete and generalized data sets, and must make do.

    So how does a shock work? Over a period of time–say less than five to eight years–the shock manifests itself in the data. So leading indicators such as initial starting salary and candidate satisfaction post-MBA more reflect employers’ initial expectations regarding a graduate than the magnitude of the shock. Lagging indicators such as lifetime earnings reflect times and graduating classes of too long ago to accurately represent what an applicant can expect two years from today.

    While leading indicators such as initial post-MBA salaries reflect expectations; graduates’ positions ten to fifteen years down the road more reflect how the graduates successfully built on their post-MBA work history.

  • C. Taylor

    Part 1: You highlight the important point that fit regarding industry, geography, and job function can make a program in a lower cluster equally excellent for an individual, or even better than a program in a higher cluster. Related to this, the most excellent applicants can take their pick of elite programs–and obtain their desired outcome.

    But these most excellent applicants are rarer than the median candidate at elite programs. Discerning an advantage of attending one elite program vs. another for the average, or median, candidate is core to the advent of MBA program rankings led by forward thinking individuals such as Mr. Byrne.

    In macroeconomics, connecting two major local economies–by building a railway, for instance–creates a positive shock to the overall GDP. Those designing rankings might be said to seek the factors resulting in a parallel career bump for graduates. Indeed, MBA programs themselves couch their role as adding value to candidates’ chosen career paths.

  • Matt

    Careers down the road aren’t built by the program but rather what you do after the first gig out. All the schools you listed largely have the same recruiters and its students have access to all the same jobs. It’s the responsibility of the school to open doors but after that it’s all on the students. Granted school networks may play a factor but all of these have solid networks in any industry/company. Also your analysis should take into acct the types of careers students pursue since these vary among those programs.

  • 2cents

    Eh you’d think most grad students you’d actually want to have in class with you would know this, and more importantly wouldn’t be a slave to rankings to begin with. They’re generic, crowdsourced determinations of “what is important” in bschool, but in reality not even the old reliable (USNEWS) is a one-size fits all. Rankings are fall back tools – the underlying information can certainly inform individual decisions, but no one besides the schools benefited by the above actually choose to believe it. Apples to Apples (no scholarships, etc.), of course 99% of students will chase something like the M7 over the rest.

  • Economistisajoke

    This ranking is an absolute joke. You know all the random schools like Warwick are plastering this all over their websites and student brochures. It’s just such a joke. A ranking should have some semblance of prestige. A ranking should be a rough guide that says,, ‘all else being equal i would choose this school over that school’. No one is choosing Darden over harvard, wharton cbs etc. No one is going to Warwick over Yale, Michigan or Duke.

    Why do they even publish this and how much does Darden pay them to get the no.2 ranking.

  • StanfordOrBooth

    Congrats to Booth. Well deserved.

  • pft

    I agree with this clustering

  • andao

    that is such an easy metric to game. admit rich investment bankers, reject poor entrepreneurs. our school now the most “successful”.

    i would assume there’s something wrong with someone who is making six figures but still needs an mba

  • garygp

    I would rather take a more balanced view on IMD. In one side, I do believe that
    rankings, especially the Economist ranking, always provide strange results. For
    example. the high pre mba salary shouldn’t be a punishment for a top school in
    a ranking. Also the diversity of recruiters score also neglect one of the core
    values of IMD—Industrial Focus.

    There are many good points of IMD. In terms of the ROI, IMD is among the top school
    in the world, there is no doubt about that. IMD MBA students consistently
    received the top MBA pay in the world. Besides, there are startup projects and
    ICP for the MBA students, that is extremely life transforming and valuable.

    On the other hand, there are some areas for IMD for improvement. When we compare
    the same economists ranking for 2012-2015, one obvious point is that the % of
    students receiving job offer within 3 months of graduation and the % who found
    jobs through the career service are dropping. One possible explanation is that
    the EU economy is not doing very well after the crisis, but this also shed
    light for the need to improve the career services strategy to cope with the new
    challenges and opportunities. Unlike Insead, where there is two campus to utilized
    the Asian and EUmarket, IMD focus heavily in the EU market,
    a small student body size plus a heavy focus can result in a big fluctuations
    in the output of the program.

    I think IMD is still a top player in the World MBA market. But with the increase
    in the program cost and change in the market condition, the MBA team should
    really face the new market and make possible changes for that.


  • C. Taylor

    It is a matter of what you value. In terms of career impact down the road, you are uninformed.

    Current cluster ranking of elite programs:

    1 IMD
    1 Stanford
    1 Harvard

    2 Insead
    2 LBS
    2 Booth
    2 Wharton

    3 Columbia
    3 Dartmouth
    3 MIT

    4 Kellogg
    4 Berkeley

    This is based on thorough examination of 10 years of data. All programs in a cluster provide equivalent impact on graduates’ careers down the road.

  • george

    it is really pathetic to see INSEAD/LBS fans and students trying extremely hard to put their institutions beside the top AMERICAN power houses of management and business education universities.

  • Matt

    These rankings are fun for discussion but what really matters is the strength of the program overall. My bet is that most MBAs target schools for one key reason, exit ops albeit recruited by top firms or opening doors to entrepreneurial endeavors. Looking outside of the M7/Haas/Tuck/LBS/INSEAD there is little room for argument that there are any other programs that fit in the same caliber as those. The HSW snobs will argue they’re the big 3 and yes that’s true but so long as grads from other elite programs are getting the same jobs does it really matter? After your first gig it’s up to you to do the rest.

  • C. Taylor

    I hear you. But I suggest the opposite; perhaps many top programs unfairly discriminate against those with more experience.

    There is the matter of greater difficulty in working in an internship at a one year program. An internship is meaningful for some career paths. For those needing a slow incubation of their talent, a two year MBA is advisable. For others, a one year MBA is a no-brainer.

    That said, candidates at IMD actively gain experience through working with companies in a manner similar to some other top MBA programs. MIT comes to mind.

  • C. Taylor

    I agree IMD has done poorly in informing applicants. The increase in class size at other top programs also necessitates an extremely aggressive applicant-recruiting drive. This is especially vital given the small class size at IMD. Listen up, Dominique Turpin!

    But the current data shows IMD continues to impact careers down the road in a world-leading fashion. Only Harvard and Stanford match it.

  • Hermes

    you are right. my friend did his mba in singapore at insead, he said the school leadership encourages the students to be positive when answering the ranking questionnaires.

  • Ferdinand

    for this reason, i think it is unfair to compare one year to two year mba. they target different sets of prospective students. people at one year mba tend to be older more experienced and then higher salaries.

  • JohnAByrne

    In all probability, yes. Audits are done on school-provided data, not student and alumni surveys. One of the obvious problems on student surveys is that the students know their answers are being used to compute a ranking. So they are less likely to be critical. That bias, of course, should occur across the sample of schools surveys, but I also think it is a good bet to assume that where MBAs are highly confident about the brand they’re less likely to be exuberant cheerleaders. And the other problem with these surveys is that MBAs at the vast majority of schools are extremely satisfied with their experiences so the scores across the schools are quite high and not as well differentiated as you would expect. The result: tiny fractions of differences in satisfaction lead to major ranking changes that are entirely unjustified by the data.

  • yaniv

    IMD is fantastic executive education provider, but for a full time degree, it is no longer top school. it did fall dramatically in recent years, just look at the tremendous decline in number of applications received, four years ago it was around 500, then down to 444 in 2012, then down to just 327 last year, and this year all indications tell a disaster, they extended the last round for a month, I bet it will be barely around 200 this year.

  • C. Taylor

    “So when there are unexplainable changes in a ranking, it’s more often a sign that the methodology is severely flawed and lacks statistical validation.”

    Not necessarily. It’s the individual school ranking system which faces invalidity here. A cluster rank provides better information; i.e. cluster 1, cluster 2, cluster 3, etc. Further, a program in cluster 3 is not eight programs back, or seven, or whatever– it is only two clusters away from the top cluster.

    Different rankings highlight different aspects. Different individuals place different levels of value on the highlighted aspects. The vast majority of the top 25 on the Economist’s list show up on other top 25 lists.

  • stats

    just thinking, do you agree that if the economist performs some auditing on its collected data similar to what FT does, do you think its ranking will be the same?

  • C. Taylor

    “It may well be the single best metric on incoming quality of the student body.”

    On this metric as well, IMD tops all. See Forbes’ pre-MBA compensation data.

  • C. Taylor

    As mentioned below. IMD has consistently led the world in vaulting graduates’ career paths down the road.

  • C. Taylor

    Yes. Further, IMD graduates vault forward in their career paths. No other business schools top IMD in this regard. Harvard and Stanford are in the same group, but non top IMD.

  • Surrey

    John can you please do something to educate the Economist rankings teamv on these monumental points (salary increase metric is senseless CRAP that penalizes the very best schools)?

  • JohnAByrne

    I don’t accept the results. I’m just stating the facts.

  • gm

    schools should hire you to filter applicants.

  • Ferdinand

    it tells me that different rankings use different methodologies. I should pick the methodology that support my goals for pursuing the MBA.

  • markus

    so, we accept this measure of “very high student satisfaction” for schools we like such as Tuck and Booth, but refuse the same measure when it comes with results about other schools that we don’t like! is it a hypocrisy or what ?

  • frank

    And I was just making a rough estimation, I would not be surprise if it was more than 100k entry avg. We had professionals >30 YO with important P&L responsabilities. I’d like to see how many Business School have them and would like to understand why it has to penalize the score of the School. If somebody go from 100k to 150k is “only” 50% but is an important 50%, particularly if he changed sector. If you move from 40 to 80 is a 100% but is not the school for people who get already 100k with 7 years working experience. This is only my opinion but put all the schools together is nonsense, there are huge differences and according to one’s age, seniority and story the best school can be different.

  • Rankingssuck

    All these pointless arguments about school rankings make me wonder the quality of students attending these programs …

  • frank

    According to them LBS is 24th. Ft puts in amongst the best. So what does this tell you about rankings?

  • frank

    Entry avg salary 100k… and jason, sorry but my experience is that they offer vety high salaries after Imd

  • Spartan 22

    Which is why HSW will always be HSW. The highest quality candidates won’t even apply to a school outside of the 3.

    There’s room for both kinds of rankings: ones that measure student quality and others that prefer relative school impact

    It’s the volatile swings that annoy me more than anything

  • Jason

    did not do great in the past and the changes the school made ragarding salary
    statistics prove that recruiters are not ready to offer high salaries to its
    graduates. Of course, the school still provide good education,
    but it is probably not enough to compete with top schools.

  • JohnAByrne

    I don’t think Booth and Tuck are more cooperative. Not entirely sure why these schools are almost always on top of this ranking, other than very high student satisfaction.

  • JohnAByrne

    You raise a very good point. While no one factor in admissions tells you everything, someone who is earning nearly six figures before going to business school obviously has already accomplished something in their careers. It may well be the single best metric on incoming quality of the student body.

  • Fotman

    The Economist doesn’t wait for your credit. It is one of the world’s premier business and economic publications.

  • Ferman

    Avg salary is 100k!! And you consider it top tier with this mediocre salary.. now I understand why it fell in recent years. It is no longer a top school.

  • Sue

    100% agree with Frank and also with JohnAByrne as he said
    Rankings should change, but not all that much to be truly credible. The changes are occurring because the results are not statistically valid.

    This ranking is not real. A very bad job, we should not give any credibility.

  • frank

    IMD is a great business school and gave me a super placement. The salary avg of my class was around 100 k and as Ben said this is not a bad thing. Salary and experience of the class penalize the positioning in the ranking.. Is nonsense.

  • jim

    John, something very strange, why this ranking’s flaws aren’t applicable to Chicago and Dartmouth? I assume economist applies the exact method across the board! are those schools more cooperative with the magazine?

  • Ben Carson

    In this ranking, HSW are penalized for having the highest pre-MBA averages, because it causes their post-MBA increase to be significantly lower. This also hurts HSW’s ROI calculation in the Forbes ranking.

    Why should a school be penalized for having the best, most highly paid pre-MBA candidates (who are giving up $80-100k jobs to pursue their MBAs to boot)??? Is that not a flawed methodology? And is it not even more telling of the overall benefits that the top schools provide – that people STILL pursue HSW degrees in the face of such a hefty opportunity cost?

    There’s no contest, and these rankings are terrible.

  • JohnAByrne

    Not at all. Rankings should change, but not all that much to be truly credible. The changes are occurring because the results are not statistically valid.

  • Spartan 22

    You think a ranking with wild annual swings is credible? What could possibly change in one year that sends a school tumbling 25 spots? They’d have to have fired every professor and lost half their recruiting relationships for that to happen.

  • gerard

    IMD is in its deserved place.

  • sedman

    gosh too. the credible ranking in his view is the one that doesn’t change, or in another words, the one that fosters his perception.

  • K

    gosh, he meant which rankings are credible and not that their rankings are unchangeable.

  • tenderX

    we were waiting for you to start.

  • No Trolls?

    Wait what? No Booth Bashers? All praises? Come on, P&Q trolls, time to do your thing 🙂

  • wrren

    true. this is the world of business. see the oil prices, it fell to 40% of its value in less than a year. If we expect the ranking to be the same every year, then it becomes a list not a ranking. it is really funny when you see people defending the status quo and refuse change.

  • Okay

    Booth being number 1 reflects their #1 ranked Career Placement Office. This survey weights Pay and Job Placement more than anything else. So yeah.

  • yean

    I can agree with Booth as number 1… after all it has been number 1 in FT, BW and other rankings. And 4 in the beauty contest aka USN Rankings

    But the rest… well, it just means that all these business schools have a lot more in common than they are different.

  • forward

    I’d look at it from different side, I think because of the quality and stable performance of those programs, their ranking is consistent. Cornell is one of the best ivies, I think it is Yale vs other ivies.

  • Easy

    If its volatile, take the 3 year and 5 year averages. That will take out the volatility due to the subjective input.

  • B-HSW

    Makes sense. Europeans are relatively less startstruck with the brand name US schools than Americans. So US schools have to work with what you really got, not by reputation earned from 20 years ago

  • Interesting

    Because those schools are “work horses”, they have less brand equity than their counterparts (booth vs HSW for instance, Cornell vs other Ivies in general and Emory vs the other wannabes). So they stay where they are and not really affected by what;s hot or what;s not.

  • FStratford

    Just when you think Booth is slowing down…. It comes back on top!

    Congrats Boothies!

  • Frank

    It is real fun this ranking, I mean, either their system is crap or they want to say something
    that I do not get: Cambridge 61st, LBS 24th and schools I have never heard
    about amongst the best. What’s the point they are trying to make? If the
    methodology brings to this, they should seriously think about reviewing it.
    Otherwise, they should simply stop publishing this ridiculous thing.
    Finally, a ranking that has schools gaining or losing 20 positions in a year cannot be
    regarded as serious.

  • sedman

    “isn’t looking to change ” then whats the point of ranking if it doesn’t change year over year?!!

  • Spartan 22

    U.S. News is the only source with any credibility and that isn’t looking to change.

    You could probably also defer to the Financial Times for a better read on international programs.

    It ends there.

  • tenderX

    beside this weird ranking, it is really amazing how schools such as Chicago, Cornell, and Emory are always consistently ranked almost in the same place in all rankings. Cornell always in almost every ranking is in 15th place, Emory is in 16th place. Why is this consistency?

  • Scratching My Head

    John, can you explain the methodology of the Economist? How can Virginia be ahead of Harvard (two case method schools), NYU ahead of Columbia (two NYC schools), Berkeley ahead of Stanford (two Bay Area schools)?

    With this crazy ranking and the ridiculous Businessweek ranking, who is left to trust?