Poets&Quants’ Top 100 U.S. MBA Programs In 2010

Harvard Business School graduation

In the aftermath of the economic meltdown, things are slowly getting back to normal at the world’s top business schools. Job offers are up nearly everywhere, and corporate recruiters—especially from the once hard-hit financial sector—are back in hiring mode. So it is with little surprise, perhaps, that the Harvard Business School, the most famous MBA-granting institution in the world, is at the top again.

In a new ranking by Poets&Quants, Harvard won first-place honors among 100 of the best business schools in the U.S. Right behind Harvard was its West Coast rival Stanford, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Wharton, Columbia Business School, and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. London Business School, meantime, came in first among 50 of the best B-schools outside the U.S. France’s INSEAD was second, followed by IESE and IE Business School in Spain, and HEC in Paris (for the full list of all 50 ranked schools.)

This new P&Q list is a composite of the five major MBA rankings published by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist, The Financial Times, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report. The ranking takes into account a massive wealth of quantitative and qualitative data captured in the five major lists, from surveys of corporate recruiters, MBA graduates, deans and faculty publication records to median GPA and GMAT scores of entering students as well as the latest salary and employment statistics of the latest graduating class.

By blending these rankings using a system that takes into account each of their strengths as well as their flaws, we’ve come up with what is arguably the most authoritative ranking of MBA programs ever published. The list, which includes the recently released 2010 rankings by BusinessWeek and The Economist, tends to eliminate anomalies and other statistical distortions that often occur in one ranking or another. In any case, the ranking measures the overall quality and reputation of the flagship full-time MBA programs at the schools, rather than the schools themselves.

To some long-time watchers of MBA education, there may be little surprise at seeing the Harvard Business School and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business at the very top as No. 1 and No. 2. BusinessWeek’s biennial rankings, however, have never had either Harvard or Stanford in the top spot. Through 12 rankings over 24 years, BusinessWeek has awarded that accolade to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management five times, to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School four times, and to the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business on three occasions. The global MBA rankings published by The Financial Times last ranked Harvard first back in 2005. Since then, Harvard has lost out to Wharton (four times in a row) and to London Business School (in the current 2010 FT ranking). The highest rank Stanford has ever achieved in The Financial Times ranking was third and that was in 2007.

After the U.S., Europe remains the best place to get a business education. Of the top 20 non-U.S. B-schools, seven are based in Britain, including the relatively new MBA programs at No. 8 Cambridge and No. 10 Oxford universities, along with three each in Spain and in France. Only one Asian school, China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, cracked the top 20 list at 17th.

In most cases, these top schools and the MBAs from them have weathered one of the toughest economic storms to ever hit the business world. At the school synonymous with the MBA degree, Harvard especially took it on the chin. Critics quickly pointed fingers at the school for the greed and excess that led to the global crash. The Masters of the Universe quickly became, in the words of one of Harvard’s own graduates, the “Masters of Disaster” who had their fingerprints on many a financial fiasco.

A 2006 Harvard MBA, Philip Delves Broughton, noted that the last two heads of Merrill Lynch—Stan O’Neal and John Thain—were both Harvard MBAs, along with then Securities & Exchange Commission head Chris Cox and U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson who watched as Lehman Brothers went under. The crisis had spread panic and fear even at Harvard, which dispatched staffers to New York to handle the collateral damage to its MBAs on Wall Street from Lehman’s bankruptcy.

Today, however, the school’s MBAs are doing quite well, thank you. Some 95% of the Class of 2010 landed jobs three months after graduation. The median starting salary for a Harvard MBA this year was $110,000, down slightly from $114,000 a year earlier. Two of three grads were handed signing bonuses of $20,000, while one of every four grads picked up additional “guaranteed compensation” of $23,000, not including stock or stock options or performance bonuses. MBAs headed into investment banking are back into double-digits, 10% this year from a six-year low of 6% in 2009.

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