Program Focus: Both MBA programs have a general management focus. The biggest single difference is in the wealth of offerings at Harvard. With a full-time faculty of 228 versus Tuck’s 47, HBS offers an unusual breadth and diversity of courses. Harvard lists 130 electives in his course catalog, compared to 81 at Dartmouth. If you want to focus on a more narrow specialty, you’re more likely to be disappointed at Dartmouth. Tuck has just two electives in real estate, for example, while Harvard has six. If you’re interested in entrepreneurship, Harvard has 27 courses versus Tuck’s eight. So the sacrifice you pay at Tuck for the intimacy and bonding is that there are fewer options among electives.
On-Campus Recruiting: If you’re aiming for a top MBA job at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, the Harvard- or Dartmouth-punched MBA will easily get you in the door. Tuck attracts as many prestige MBA employers as Harvard. But your access to on-campus recruiters may be better because you won’t have to compete with hundreds of students for conversations during recruiting events or for slots on an interview schedule. If you’re wanting a job at a hot West Coast technology company, such as Google or Apple, however, you’re going to have to work at it. Google doesn’t recruit at Tuck and Apple does limited interviewing there.
Alumni Network: You can’t really go wrong by being part of either the Harvard or the Tuck alumni network. Obviously, no school can beat Harvard in the number of grads who hold CEO jobs at the largest public corporations. Still, close to 80% of Dartmouth’s alums reach C-suite level by their 20th year, while roughly half own their own businesses by that time. Over the years, BusinessWeek surveys of MBA graduates show that Harvard, Stanford and Dartmouth boast the strongest alumni networks of any business schools in the world. With 41,378 living MBA alums, Harvard’s network is larger, more diverse, and more global. The critical mass of that network cannot be overestimated. Dartmouth’s 8,600 living MBA alums are about a fifth of Harvard’s.Yet, you would be surprised at the deep commitment and cohesiveness of the Tuck alumni body. For our money, this is the best MBA alumni network in the world. How can we make such a claim? We’ll quote that old cliche about how money speaks and talk is cheap. The proof is in the percentage of alums who routinely donate money to the school. Tuck leads all business schools by a huge margin, with an alumni participation rate of 66.7% in its most recent fund-raising campaign–and Tuck has had 60%-plus percent participation for the past 25 years. No other top business school, including Harvard, comes close to 50%, while the average of Tuck’s peer schools come in at less than 25%. Put another way, the Tuck participation rate is three times the average of the top 20 business schools. It demonstrates the alumni’s remarkable loyalty to and relationship with the school and its students. “If someone wants to go to San Diego and looks in our database and finds 20 alums there, he or she can get return emails from 19 of them in one day,” says Paul Danos, dean of the Tuck School. “There’s a comfort to have that network for the rest of your life.” As for where the alums are, at Harvard they are pretty much everywhere, given their numbers. Dartmouth counts just 848 alums in California, with the highest concentration in Massachusetts (1,332) and New York (967). Outside the U.S., the most alums are in Japan (143), the United Kingdom (116), Canada (51), and China (33).
Rankings: In the rankings, Harvard predictably performs better than Dartmouth. The P&Q rank–which factors into consideration all the major rankings weighted by their individual authority–puts Harvard at number one and Tuck at number five. The only major survey that gives Dartmouth a slight edge is Forbes which rates HBS at three, directly behind number two Tuck based solely on the return-on-investment grads have achieved after five years (Stanford is first). These are the up-to-date rankings from each ranking organization.
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Historical Rankings by BusinessWeek: Over a 22-year period and 11 biennial rankings, BusinessWeek has never put either of these two highly prestigious business schools at the head of the class. However, it will be little surprise to many to see that Harvard, with its largest graduating classes and greater number of recruiters, has definitely been ranked higher than Dartmouth over the years. HBS has generally come in at the number three spot, going as high as two twice and as low as number five on three different occasions. Dartmouth has had a more disappointing run in the BusinessWeek survey, ranking as low as 16th in 2000. In only three surveys has Dartmouth ranked at a single digit level: it came in at number three in the inaugural 1988 ranking and number six in 1990 and 1992. Since then, Dartmouth has been ranked 10th on four different occasions, and even worse, 11th, 12th, and 13th in three other ranking years. It’s worth remembering that BusinessWeek’s ranking measures customer satisfaction, specifically recent graduates and corporate recruiters. We believe the small size of Dartmouth’s graduating class hinders its performance in the BusinessWeek survey. Because fewer recruiters come to campus due to the smaller supply of MBAs, the school gets penalized in BW’s methodology. Harvard doesn’t escape methodology issues, either. Some recruiters downgrade the school for no other reason other than the price tag of its students. That’s generally why Harvard has never been number one in the BusinessWeek survey.
Historical Rankings by The Financial Times: Unlike BusinessWeek’s rankings, The Financial Times includes business schools from all over the world. So the FT is ranking both Harvard and Dartmouth against such places as London Business School, which ranked number one in this survey in 2010 and 2009, and INSEAD, which ranked fifth these last two years. Predictably, Harvard has done much better than Dartmouth in the 11 surveys charted below, ranking number one twice, second on five occasions, and third a trio of times. The lowest rank the FT has ever awarded Harvard was fifth place in 2008. Dartmouth, on the other hand, has never had a higher rank than 7 in 2005 and has been ranked as low as 15th twice and 13th on three occasions, including the past two consecutive years. Tuck’s showing in the Financial Times survey is a reflection of the methodology’s attempt to measure what the newspaper calls “the diversity and international reach” of the school. Among other things, the FT takes into account what it calls “international mobility,” “international experience,” and “international board,” factors that favor European schools where countries are not much larger than most states in the U.S.