Harvard Business School Tops New 2015 Poets&Quants’ MBA Ranking

Harvard Business School - Ethan Baron photo

Harvard Business School – Ethan Baron photo

When Facebook’s Libby Leffler concluded that she wanted to apply to business school, she made one big decision: To apply to Harvard Business School and not to another famous school less than two miles away from Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Ultimately, she was drawn to the East Coast by the HBS alumni she met in her business dealings at Facebook and Google as well as the learning process in Harvard classrooms.

Leffler’s visit to the HBS campus, she explains, convinced her that the MBA experience at Harvard would not only be transformative. It would be, as she puts it, one of a kind. “Before ever applying to HBS, I made a personal decision that if I was going to go back to school and step out of my work at Facebook — which was challenging and hugely interesting in itself — I needed to be able to step into an environment that was fast-paced and unfamiliar,” says Leffler, who as senior manager of strategic partnerships at Facebook had worked closely with COO Sheryl Sandberg. “The case method requires you to learn new things in just this way. It demands preparation and synthesis of a large amount of (often incomplete) information to get to the heart of an issue very quickly and then engage in a productive dialogue with the people around you.”

The rich quality of the MBA experience which attracted Leffler to HBS is the reason why Harvard Business School was able to reclaim the title as having the world’s best MBA program in Poets&Quants‘ 2015 ranking of the top business schools. Nudging aside Stanford GSB, Harvard emerged the No. 1 program for the fifth time in six years in our composite ranking, evidence that an MBA from the school remains the quintessential credential in business.

HARVARD’S RESOURCES & REACH ARE SECOND TO NONE

Top 100 logo for 2015No rival beats Harvard in the formidable resources it brings to the game: more superstar professors than any other school, the diversity of its course offerings, the stellar quality of its students, the size and scope of its campus, and the career achievements of its alumni spread all over the world. Hardly resting on its laurels, HBS has in recent years taken a lead over all rivals in leveraging technology to deliver business education, emphasizing entrepreneurship and innovation in its core curriculum, and providing well-planned global immersions for its MBA students. It also has the capacity to retain its lead, with a $3 billion endowment, three times the size of its nearest competitor Stanford. With three years left before the end of an unprecedented $1 billion capital campaign, HBS had already raised $861 million by last June.

Stanford, rocked by a leadership crisis and sex scandal that has made headlines all over the world, slipped to second place in the new P&Q ranking. More telling, perhaps, the gap between HBS and its perennial West Coast rival–as measured by the underlying index scores in the ranking–is the widest it has ever been since P&Q began ranking MBA programs in 2010. That is a surprising development because the rankings have yet to fully reflect the damage to Stanford’s reputation caused by the scandal which has left many alumni feeling disappointed and angry with the school and the university.

P&Q’s lineup of the best U.S. MBA programs, which combines the five most influential rankings and weighs each of them by the soundness of their methodologies, produces a more credible list of the best MBA programs. All so-called M7 business schools, the super elite group that comprise the Magnificent 7 MBA programs, are all solidly in the top seven. There’s No. 3 Chicago Booth, No. 4 Wharton, No. 5 Kellogg, No. 6 Columbia, and No. 7 MIT Sloan. Rounding out the Top Ten are No. 8 UC-Berkeley Haas, No. 9 Dartmouth Tuck, No. 10 Yale School of Management.

Getting into any top business school is as difficult as ever, especially at the more highly ranked schools. Some 9,686 applicants applied for one of the 937 seats in this year’s incoming class at Harvard. With an acceptance rate of just 11%, nearly nine out of every ten candidates were turned away. And the odds at Stanford were even steeper, with the school accepting only 7% of its applicants.

The degree’s appeal, moreover, has never been greater, especially at the most highly selective MBA programs. This year MBAs from the best schools have entertained all-time high offers in starting pay, with the Great Recession a distant memory. Graduates of both Harvard and Stanford business schools walked off campuses this year with median total compensation packages that exceeded $150,000 in salary, signing bonus, and other guarantee comp.

CORRECTION: The story has been updated to account for a correction in the rankings which puts Washington University’s Olin School at a rank of 23rd. We regret the error.

  • MBA2018

    Sorry, man. As great as Booth is (as an NU undergrad, it pains me to say it’s probably a better overall MBA program than Kellogg, and certainly trending in a better direction), there’s no comparing the student bodies’ social “well-roundedness” or sense of school spirit.

  • StillSubjective

    To clarify, yes, total application #s matter somewhat as far as indicating draw, but again, 1) This is an input. And 2) there should be some adjustment based on being in a major metro area or not. Sure, Harvard would still get most of its many applications even if it were outside of Boston because it’s Harvard. But schools like USC Marshall wouldn’t get nearly as many.

  • StillSubjective

    “..which combines the five most influential rankings and weighs each of them by the soundness of their methodologies.” And the “soundness” is determined by the OPINION of P&Q, and its opinion is that the US News Rankings matters the most. Don’t get me wrong, the ones at the very top (H/S/W) make sense. It’s the rest of the top 20 or so.

    Something like a high GMAT is an indicator that the MBA him/herself is bright, but why should it matter for the ranking of the school itself? As Bill Gates once said, all things like standardized tests prove is that the person was already bright *beforehand*. In other words, the SCHOOL did not teach that person how to get a high GMAT. These things are INPUTS.

    Same with selectivity. Schools like UCLA and NYU inherently benefit from being in the middle of a major metro area so they will naturally get a higher base of applications by default. And even if you want to go to NYU or Columbia because they’re in NYC, it’s not like those *schools* created NYC.

    Meanwhile schools like Dartmouth and Cornell are in the middle of nowhere, yet they get #2 and #8 highest overall comp, respectively. Rankings like Forbes and (for law schools) Above the Law make more sense to me. They measure OUTCOMES (increase in pay, cost of tuition, student satisfaction, etc.). Lo and behold, schools like Dartmouth, Northwestern, and Cornell are all ranked higher by several spots. And for law, schools like Yale, Columbia, and NYU drop significantly. Yes, I know Forbes and Bloomberg biz-school rankings are also baked into the P&Q rankings and measure some of these traits. But P&Q *most* heavily weights US News.

    In sum, consider what difference the SCHOOL will make for YOU–the skills you can learn, doors it can open, etc., not just what skills you already had PRIOR to b-school.

  • Green

    Thanks for your reply, John! The conversion from raw score to index score is clear. But how did you exactly calculate the raw scores? HBS is ranked 2,2,1,1,4 and I’m aware you have the specific weights of each ranking but how could those numbers become 99.1?

    Sorry if I’m asking too many questions but I’m curious since I really like P&Q ranking and want to know more the details about it.