For the first time since Businessweek started rating MBA programs in 1988, the Harvard Business School jumped into the No. 1 position of its influential ranking published today (Oct. 20). Oddly, Harvard switched places with Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business which ranked first last year. HBS rose seven spots, while Fuqua slid seven places this year to create that quirky reversal.
The 2015 Bloomberg Businessweek ranking features a new methodology that diminishes the influence of the magazine’s long-standing surveys to the latest graduating class and adds the viewpoints of alumni from three separate classes: 2007, 2008, and 2009. Businessweek also added two key components of U.S. News’ ranking: starting salary and employment, though it used year-old data for this portion of the survey. In common with last year’s ranking, this list also excludes any measurement of the intellectual capital of a school’s faculty. All told, however, Businessweek says that it gathered data from more than 13,150 current students, 18,540 alumni, and 1,460 recruiters across 177 B-school programs. “The result is our deepest and broadest set of data ever,” according to the publication.
Changes in methodology, of course, also result in vast swings in rankings that have nothing to do with the quality of an MBA program’s experience. Among the Top 25 schools, no school has the same rank it did last year on Businessweek‘s list. Six of the Top 25 schools had either double-digit increases or declines, with Texas A&M jumping 22 places in a single year to a rank of 20 and the University of Washington’s Foster School soaring 17 spots to rank 17th. Even among the truly elite MBA programs, there were double-digit changes which tend to be rare and hardly credible. Berkeley and MIT both gained 10 places this year to rank ninth and fourth, respectively. The University of Maryland’s Smith School plummeted 16 places to a rank of 33rd, and Indiana University’s Kelley School fell a dozen ranks to 28th, an especially unusual showing for a perennial Top 20 MBA program.
TEN FULL-TIME MBA PROGRAMS FELL OFF THE LIST ENTIRELY INCLUDING BC & UC-DAVIS
The further down one goes on the list, the more peculiar the results. NYU’s Stern School of Business, ranked 24th this year, is below Rice, Texas A&M, and Georgia Tech. Even worse, North Carolina State is now ranked 29th best in the U.S., above such highly admired and respected MBA programs as those at Washington University (35), Vanderbilt (34), Southern Methodist University (32), and Notre Dame (31), Ohio State (39), and Minnesota Carlson (45), among others. Only last year, Businessweek claimed that NC State was 54th. In 12 months, the school jumped a head-scratching 25 places. That’s good news for NC State, but not very good news to shore up Businessweek‘s status as an authoritative source for business school rankings data.
The oddities don’t stop there, however. Ten business schools fell off of this year’s list entirely, including Boston College, UC-Davis, Tulane, the University of Arizona, and the University of South Carolina’s Moore School. Yet, somehow Howard University and Hult International found its way on the 2015 Businessweek list, respectively at 50 and 62. That puts Howard, rarely if ever ranked by anyone as having a top business school, above Purdue, UC-Irvine, Babson, Iowa, and Illinois. The ranking also essentially claims that Hult has a better MBA program than UC-San Diego, Syracuse, or for that matter, any of the schools that fell off the ranking. Bottom line: Of the 65 schools that remained on the list, slightly more than a third of them, 23 to be exact, experienced double-digit gains or falls in a single year, a widely volatile result.
Still, the new methodology generally produced a list that looks somewhat more credible than last year’s ranking which severely damaged the standing of the Businessweek ranking. That list had Duke at the top, the one and only time Fuqua was ranked first in any business school ranking–not that this list won’t raise a good deal of controversy. After all, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, the most selective school in the nation in the hottest sector of the global economy, is rated a lowly seventh and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, long considered solidly on anyone’s Top 10 list, fails to make the Top 10 again at a rank of 14th.
THIS YEAR BUSINESSWEEK RANKED FULL-TIME MBA PROGRAMS AT 72 U.S. SCHOOLS & 29 OUTSIDE THE U.S.
This is especially true because based on the underlying index numbers in the ranking, Stanford strangely appears to be in a second tier of sorts, scoring 95 points, while every school ahead of it is above that level. Rounding out this year’s top five are No. 2 University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business (with an index number of 98.47), Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (98.24), No. 4 MIT’s Sloan School of Management (96.05), and No. 5 University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School (95.92).
The magazine put numerical ranks on the full-time MBA programs at 72 U.S. business schools, ranging from Harvard to No. 72 Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School, and 29 non-U.S. schools, topped by No. 1 Western University’s Ivey School to No. 29 HEC Montreal. Ivey was a repeat No. 1 winner, followed by London Business School, INSEAD, IE Business School, and IMD in the top five for international MBA programs (See Canada’s Ivey Tops International Schools in Bloomberg Businessweek Ranking). Businessweek also ranked 79 part-time MBA programs, a list that brought Northwestern’s Kellogg School to the No. 1 position.
While schools jumped up and down and all around on the list, perhaps the biggest news is the change in methodology. The system creates some unusual issues. Though Harvard finished first, for example, it is rated 35th in employment well behind such schools as the University of Washington, Texas A&M, and the University of Pittsburgh. That’s because HBS grads are so confident of their job prospects that they tend to be more choosy about accepting jobs. That phenomenon is common at many of the elite schools, including several in California, where the economy has been especially strong. Stanford ranks 21st on this measure; UC-Berkeley’s Haas School is 49th, while UCLA’s Anderson School is 40th. Yet in the new methodology that comes off as a negative.