10 Biggest Surprises In Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2016 MBA Ranking

The 10 biggest surprises in the 2016 Bloomberg Businessweek MBA ranking

The 10 biggest surprises in the 2016 Bloomberg Businessweek MBA ranking

The 2016 Bloomberg Businessweek MBA ranking was full of surprises and shocks this past week. It was the 17th time the magazine published a full-time MBA ranking and each one of them has contained a few eyeopeners. This time, though, there were a few bombshells.

First off, we need to slap something of a warning label on this analysis and the ranking it is based on. Applicants should take every university ranking with a very big grain of salt. Any one ranking at a given point of time is likely to be misleading. They count, over time, and can have a sizable impact on a school’s reputation and standing. But in any single years, there are often anomalies and statistical quirks–and especially silly metrics mindless journalists throw into these systems–that should make readers discount the findings.

With that warning done, here are the 10 most unexpected things about the new ranking and why (we think) they occurred.

The single biggest surprise this year: Rice University's Jones School in the Top Ten

The single biggest surprise this year: Rice University’s Jones School in the Top Ten

1. Jones Graduate School of Business Cracks The Top Ten

There’s little doubt that no one was more bewildered by Rice University’s appearance in the eighth spot of Businessweek‘s 2016 MBA ranking than new Dean Peter Rodriguez. To land there, the school had to jump 11 places in a single year from 19th place, bypassing some of the most coveted B-school brands in the world. Jones shot by Northwestern’s Kellogg School, Berkeley’s Haas, Columbia, Michigan Ross, Yale’s School of Management, and one other rival. Jones did the proverbial Texas Two-Step by the University of Virginia’s Darden School where Dean Rodriguez had been in charge of the MBA programs as a senior associate dean until July of this year.

How to explain the rise for a school that for years was not even ranked by Businessweek but instead was tossed into a “second-tier” category of MBA programs? You can largely attribute it to one metric in the magazine’s methodology: The employer survey which is given the most weight–35%–of any of the five measures used by Businessweek to create ranks. In just 12 months, Jones went from a rank of 40th on this metric to 14th, six better than Stanford, eight better than Yale, and a dozen better than Berkeley.

Make no mistake, Jones offers applicants a close-knit, intimate and very good MBA program, with an annual intake of just 110 full-time students. The school also rose eight places in this year’s U.S. News ranking to 25th from 33rd in 2015. But the only plausible explanation for the school’s unexpected Businessweek showing is that the alumni who came back to their alma mater to recruit Jones’ students were more likely to fill out Businessweek‘s employer survey and were more enthusiastic than many other alums. God bless them.

Team Fuqua, the term for the school's highly collaborative culture, is a defining element at Duke

Team Fuqua, the term for the school’s highly collaborative culture, is a defining element at Duke

2. Duke Fuqua Shows Up Right Behind Harvard & Stanford

When Businessweek named Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business the winner of its 2014 ranking, most business school observers considered it a total fluke. After all, the only other time that Duke finished in the top five was 14 years earlier in 2000 when it claimed fifth place. But first? Above Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and the rest of the M7? Well, here we go again.

This year Duke zoomed up the list, rising five positions to rank third, just behind the two giants of MBA education, Harvard and Stanford. Is Duke really that good? The school boasts strong faculty across a wide range of business disciplines, exceptional MBA students, an unusually supportive and collaborative culture, a creative admissions office that really gets to know its candidates, one of the best career management centers, and a pretty tight and loyal alumni network. The breadth and depth of the MBA employers at Fuqua is among the best anywhere and is really the secret behind the school’s strong showing in Businessweek‘s ranking.

This year, Fuqua moved up one spot on the magazine’s employer rank to sixth from seventh, four places on the student survey to eighth to 12th, and a remarkable 36 positions on job placement to 15th from 51st. That latter increase isn’t all that consequential because we’re talking fractions of percentage-point differences. Fuqua is the ideal school to take advantage of the flaws in Businessweek‘s methodology, a ranking that does not include GMAT scores where the school purposely lags because it is one of the few that walks the talk on the holistic assessment of MBA applicants.

Still, third? Here’s one way to look at it: We have always said that a school’s rank in any one year in any one survey is little evidence of its standing. You have to look at results over a longer timeframe to get a better sense of a school’s true position. If you toss out Fuqua’s No. 1 ranking in 2014 and its 14th or lowest place rank of 13th in 1990, it brings Fuqua’s average rank to about 8th over 15 separate Businessweek lists. U.S. News rated Fuqua 12th best this year. We think the school’s better than that.

Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business placed fifth, its best ranking in Businessweek since 1988

Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business placed fifth, its best ranking in Businessweek since 1988

3. Dartmouth Tuck’s Best Businessweek Ranking In 38 Years

Putting aside the 11-place jump by Rice University’s business school this year, the biggest improvement for any Top 25 school was made by Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. Tuck raced up the list by nine positions to finish fifth this year, its strongest showing in the Businessweek ranking since the original list made its debut in 1988. Back then, Tuck finished third. This week’s ranking, putting Tuck ahead of Wharton, MIT Sloan and Kellogg, is even better than this year’s earlier U.S. News‘ eighth place ranking for the Hanover, N.H., school.

The reason behind Tuck’s long-delayed resurgence? Again, it was Businessweek‘s employer survey. Tuck soared 14 places to eighth from 21st on the magazine’s employer survey, more than offsetting an 11-place drop on the student poll to 28 from 17 (the scores on the student surveys, however, are so closely clustered that their actual weighting in the methodology tends to be significantly lower than the 15% Businessweek claims to assign that data). That pushed Tuck well above its more typical 10th place position (its average BW rank after subtracting out its highest third place rank in 1988 and its lowest 16th place finish in 2000.

Frankly, the bigger surprise is that Tuck didn’t perform well on the employer metric last year or in 2014 when Businessweek changed its methodology to survey all the recruiters who show up on a campus, including alums. When that change occurred, The magazine conceded that employer scores from alums were about 18% higher than the average non-alumni rating. Some 38 schools in the sample then derived at least 25% of their ratings from alumni, while five schools derived “at least 50%” of their ratings from alumni.

It’s no secret that Tuck has one of the best, if not the best, MBA alumni network. No other business school in the world can claim that more than 70% of its alums contribute to its annual fundraising campaign other than Tuck. So if you survey super loyal alums who recruit at the school, as Businessweek does, the odds are pretty good they are going to go out of their way to put Tuck first on the list of the best schools. Someone at the school finally wised up to make the case to returning alum recruiters to fill out those darn Businessweeek surveys!


  • JohnAByrne

    That’s always really hard to say. It can be for any number of reasons, including a response rate on alumni surveys that was below the minimum. Indeed, this is one of the more frustrating things about rankings. Organizations that rank these schools should include a long footnote on schools that disappear off a list, giving readers some guidance, especially if a school dropped out because of a “technicality” like a low response rate on a survey or the failure to complete a school survey.

  • Amrita

    I want to know why Mays dropped out of 2017 FT ranking

  • radish

    Thank you and happy thanksgivings. Wish you ultimate health and happiness ..

  • elitist

    I recruit for a top firm as well and I agree with the tiers listed below with slight changes. The interpersonal is highly overrated esp in the age of data and social media and its not like other schools have non social people. You need a combination of global univ brand power, b school newtork and analytics skills. I recruit at all the top schools
    I would put
    1. Stanford
    2. Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, MIT ( columbia and MIT have much bigger univ brands than Penn around the world, HBS Class size is too big, some dilution here )
    3. Kellogg, Booth, INSEAD. Tuck
    4. Haas, Duke, Cornell
    5. Yale , UCLA ( everyone in business or who matters knows SOM is not the same as Yale Law or Yale college )
    6. The rest

  • Rimond

    Very good. Many thanks. LET US MAKE MBA RANKING GREAT AGAIN.

  • We publish the new ranking on Monday, Nov. 28th. It’s a really good and solid list because, as you know, combining the five most influential lists into one based on our view of the soundness of each ranking’s methodology, gets you closer to a greater truth about where these schools stand in relationship to each other. Writing the story, preparing the tables, and updating our school profiles over the next four days.

  • Rimond

    John, where is our P&Q 2016 Ranking?! It will help many to decide between schools.

  • Superb analysis here. Thanks again!

  • MBA alum

    A few additional points to ponder when reflecting on
    the accuracy of the Bloomberg rankings. Since
    Rice is ranked above Kellogg in the Businessweek ranking and since both schools
    have consulting as one of their top choices for preferred student employment at
    25% to 33% of their respective classes, let’s take a deeper dive at consulting
    job placement. Kellogg’s median
    consulting compensation is $145K, which is well above Rice’s 124K average
    compensation. Kellogg secures 88 MBB
    positions and Rice secures an average of 2 MBB positions. Kellogg has 760 alumni working for MBB and
    Rice has 12 alumni working for MBB. Thus,
    Kellogg has 40x to 60x greater placement and network alumni base for MBB than
    Rice. Rice graduates tend to be limited in their job search to the southwest
    with 81% of the class working in the southwest and only 6% in the west and
    northeast markets. In contrast, Kellogg has
    relatively even employment placement distribution in the west, midwest, and northeast
    markets at 20% to 33% in each market. Most
    importantly Kellogg is rapidly growing its base in the hot Silicon Valley
    market. The Rice MBA graduate who wants to work outside the southwest for a
    more competitive employer, such as MBB, IB, VC, PE, Google, etc., encounters a
    significant uphill battle. Finally, if you look at P&Q’s breakdown of
    placement in PE and IB industries, the superior job placement for the M7 is
    consistent with consulting. While Rice
    may be winning the flawed employer survey for Bloomberg, Rice is not coming
    close to winning the battle for the most prestigious jobs compared to the M7
    MBA programs. This may generate
    controversy and sell magazines for Bloomberg Businessweek, but it is not doing
    a service to prospective MBA applicants.

  • That’s really interestedly, especially because you view it from the perspective of a consulting firm. Given the high interpersonal skills of Kellogg and Tuck grads, I would have put them higher–for consulting.

  • Largely Agree

    I largely agree with you with some changes (as seen at a consulting firm that recruits heavily from all these schools). I’d say:

    Tier 1.0: Harvard, Stanford
    Tier 1.5: Wharton
    Tier 2.0: Columbia, MIT
    Tier 2.5: Kellogg, Booth, INSEAD
    Tier 3.0: Tuck, Haas
    Tier 4.0: Fuqua, Michigan, Yale, UCLA

    My biggest point of difference with you would be that I think Stanford is most definitely a #1 school, arguably ahead of Harvard.

    Disclaimer: I attended a “Tier 2.5” school 🙂

  • That’s an excellent point. Thanks for sharing it with our readers.

  • MBA alum

    You did an excellent job describing the flaws in the Businessweek ranking. In particular, this ranking does not accurately reflect selectivity from two key perspectives. The student selectivity in terms of applications, acceptance rate, GPA & GMAT. Equally important, it does not reflect how the various MBA programs are able to secure jobs with the most elite employers. To illustrate this point, I will use data from your P&Q article on Where the Top MBAs work in consulting. The P&Q article provided information on how many alums are working at the top 9 consulting firms from each of the top 25 ranked MBA programs. The top 8 ranked MBA programs have an average (per school) of 1,139 alums working at these 9 consulting firms with 56% working for MBB (ranging from 75% for Stanford to 39% for UC Booth). The next tier of top 8 MBA programs have an average of 704 alums working at these 9 firms with 22% working for MBB (ranging from 26% for Duke to 16% for NYU). The remaining balance of the top 25 MBA programs have an average of 618 alums working at these 9 firms with only 7% working for MBB (ranging from 14% from Carnegie Mellon to 3% for Indiana and U Washington Olin). No surprise, the better ranked MBA programs do better with the more prestigious employers.
    Over the years, I have assisted a fair number of MBAs with their applications and their eventual selection process (not as a paid consultant). I can assure you that the most competitive MBA applicants are very aware of the relative selectivity of the MBA programs, as well as how each MBA program does on a relative basis to secure job placement with the most competitive or prestigious employers. This simply is not reflected by Businessweek, despite it being so important in the decision making process for most of the top MBAs.

  • I’d be interested in knowing what were the biggest surprises here for our readers? Anything we missed. I can think of a few myself, frankly, but what do you think?

  • Correct

    After 10 years in business (and accounting for some of the latest trends), the real ranking in my opinion is as follows:
    1) HBS
    2) Stanford
    3) Wharton
    T-4) Booth
    T-4) Columbia
    T-6) Kellogg
    T-6) MIT
    T-8) Tuck
    T-8) Haas
    10) Fuqua
    Honorable mentions: Darden, Yale, Michigan, NYU, UCLA

  • Johnson15′

    Eh, class of 15′ here. The CMC was in a bit of a transition while I was there. Seems like that may still be going on. All in all, I landed the job I wanted to post graduation, and I really enjoyed my time there. In the mind of recruiters, Cornell is a top 15 program and thats all that really matters when it comes to landing a job. I hope they are still focused on strengthening the core program in Ithaca… As an alumni I worry about the schools focus.

    In my opinion, Cornell is just as strong as the other top 15s (Darden, Fuqua, Stern, Yale, Ross) but could use some work as all of these programs continue to get better.

  • Raj

    I think FT put the factor of “higher percentage of international ” because of the nature of its ranking, “GLOBAL” , it has to contain such factor. Even though many would argue that almost no one of the so called “international school” would come close to any of the top 20 US school in term of education quality, faculty, alumni base, rich history, and the strong and deep culture of MBA in american corporate world, however, FT knew this and FT team knew that this factor will benefit UK and european schools in general. But in reality, I would choose any of the top 10 to 13 US schools over all the european and other non US schools.

  • tamix

    I see it in its place! The issue with Cornell students is that they consider Cornell comparable to Duke, UCLA, Michigan , etc.. Cornell is in the league of Emory, Indiana, USC, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, WUSTL, Texas. Just look at how many applications Cornell receives (less 1900) and you will see its real place.

  • DisappointedCornellian

    What’s not a surprise is Cornell Johnson is stuck at 16 as students rank the school 37 in student satisfaction. The worst in the top 25. Not to mention weak job placement. As a current student, everyone feels that the school is focused on expanding the program and gives little attention to improving the core full time 2 year program.

  • Sounds like you would actually prefer the Forbes ranking. It’s all about return on investment and nothing else. The FT has so many metrics you wouldn’t care anything about and would actually vehemently disagree with, unless you think a school should be ranked highly because it has a higher percentage of international and women as students, faculty and board members, among other things.

  • elitist

    sorry disagree. There needs to be just one metric for B schools
    Which MBA’s make the most $ 5 years, 10 years and 20 years post MBA.. thats all that the matters from an MBA career perspective .. I think the FT being one of the world’s most respected papers gets it
    The rest .. GMAT scores … what recruiters and deans feel etc.. is all hogwosh and most of us who recruit top MBA’s know it
    my two cents

  • Here’s how they do it. First, they go to each of the schools they intend to rank and ask the school to provide a list of all the recruiters–not companies–who came to campus to recruit their students. Second, they then send their survey to every recruiter. That means that people who recruit for McKinsey could easily get more than 100 surveys because McKinsey, as do most of the mainstream MBA recruiters, sends alumni back to their alma maters to recruit on their behalf. I believe that Stanford ends up so low because it has fewer graduates to recruit and because the alums who go there may be less willing to complete the survey. So it has nothing to do with the quality of Stanford graduates, who obviously are among the very best in the world (after all they routinely are paid the most money by employers who clearly value the school’s MBAs), and everything to do with the design of the survey and its inherent flaws.

  • While I also have little faith in the results of this ranking (as evidenced by the commentary above), I have to tell you it was well intentioned by the editors of Businessweek and not as you would put a “desperate attempt to sell magazines.” The editors and writers have little to no experience with higher education or business schools and are at a loss to do something that would be more helpful to applicants and more reflective of reality. Taking for a moment the glass is half full approach, let me say that however odd the results, it does at least shine a light on some very good programs that deserve more attention and are likely to be overlooked by people who can’t get into CBS/Yale/NYU. And besides, given all the hand-wringing over the election, it gives us something other to talk about! That can’t be bad.

  • radish

    Just wonder: What kind of employers Bloomberg ranking team survey? Do they survey certain group of employers for each school? or from certain geographical area? is it fixed list of employers applied across all schools? I hope they clarify this point. Because it is quite hard to believe that an MBA employer would rank Stanford that low. Number 20! this is joke.

  • elitest

    desperate attempt to sell magazines and keep changing criteria
    I recruit at all the top schools
    NO way do i believe duke and rice over CBS/Yale/NYU who are some of the most ambitious MBA’s on the planet
    So much nonsense and waste of time

  • AP

    I honestly think most of these rankings are a Joke.