THE TOPSY-TURVY EFFECTS OF AN OFTEN VOLATILE RANKING
Even several schools among the Top 25, where typically less change occurs, felt the topsy-turvy effects of the FT ranking and its peculiar methodology. IESE Business School plummeted nine places to rank 16th from seven a year ago, while CEIBS (China Europe International Business School) in China fell six spots to finish 17th from 11th a year earlier. IMD in Switzerland rose seven places to a rank of 13th from 20th, while the University of Michigan’s Ross School improved four spots to a rank of 20th. UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Cambridge University’s Judge School, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management all gained three places each, respectively finishing at ranks of seventh, 10th and 11th.
More shocking, perhaps, is the disappearance of several highly prominent business schools. Purdue University’s Krannert School, ranked 48th last year, is no longer on the list. That means the school would have had to tumble at least 54 places in failing to achieve any numerical rank on the FT list. Arizona State University’s Carey School and Southern Methodist University’s Cox School, both tied at a rank of 76th in 2015, also disappeared, indicating drops of 26 spots each (see Winners & Losers In The FT’s 2016 Ranking).
The biggest drop among schools that still clung to the list was felt by the University of Iowa’s Tippie School. Tippie’s small full-time MBA program, with just over 50 graduates a year, plunged 31 places to a rank of 94th from 63rd only 12 months earlier. What disaster foretold the decline? The latest crop of MBAs from the school reported record average salaries of $94,088, up 10% from $85,585 in 2014, while the average signing bonus jumped 27% to $20,795, from $16,421 a year earlier. What’s more 98% of the grads had jobs three months after graduation, up from 93% in 2014. It would be hard to argue that Tippie deserved to fall 31 places after a year like that.
THE VOODOO ECONOMICS IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES RANKING
Compare Tippie’s fate on the list to the school, Renmin University of China, that rose the highest to make the FT ranking for the very first time. Rennin’s business school was only accredited by the AACSB in 2012, even though it was one of nine schools that began its own MBA program in China 22 years earlier in 1990. The class profile for its 27 MBA students shows an average GMAT score of 580, nearly 100 points below Tippie’s average, with only seven students from outside China.
There is no employment report available on the school’s website–for any year–but the median salary for MBA graduates of the best business school in China, CEIBs, was $54,715 last year, roughly $44,000 a year less than MBAs at Tippie made. Thanks to the magic of the FT‘s purchasing power adjustment to alumni salaries, however, the newspaper claims a Renmin alum made $94,233 vs. Tippie’s $103,058. The example is not intended to discredit Renmin but to point out the head-scratching, if not mindless, way in which the Financial Times assesses the quality of MBA programs.
Up and down the ranking, similar stories abound. Boston College’s Carroll School of Management jumped 21 places to rank 69th this year, up from 90th a year ago. The University of Cape Town lost 24 spots to rank 76th, down from 52. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign sank 20 places to a rank of 91st, from 71 a year ago. Yet there were no substantive changes in the MBA programs or the fortunes of alumni from these institutions to justify those kinds of massive shifts in rankings.