Economist Ranking Due Oct. 13th

The Economist will publish its annual ranking of the world’s best business schools next Thursday, Oct. 13, nearly a month later than its 2011 MBA ranking. The Economist list will be the last of the five most influential business school rankings published by the major media brands in the past 12 months.

It follows Forbes biennial ranking released in August, the U.S. News & World Report ranking published in mid-March, and the Financial Times list released in late January. BusinessWeek, which compiles an MBA ranking every other year, is not publishing this year, having released its last list in November of 2010. The publication of The Economist ranking will open the door to the 2011 update of Poets&Quants’ composite lists of the best U.S. and non-U.S. business schools because the P&Q ranking combines the five major lists.

The Economist’s first-place school, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, will be hoping to repeat its performance this year. The same is true of No. 2 Dartmouth Tuck and No. 3 Berkeley Haas, schools which seem favored by The Economist’s methodology. The British magazine’s global ranking is based 20% on student and alumni surveys and 80% on data provided by the schools.

The schools generally assumed to be the best in the world often fare relatively poorly in The Economist ranking. Harvard, for example, came in fourth in The Economist ranking last year, Stanford seventh, and Wharton eighth. London Business School tumbled 11 places in The Economist list in 2010 to rank 19th, while INSEAD, regarded as among the very best schools in the world, was ranked 23rd in last year’s Economist list. By comparison, London and Wharton are tried for first in the latest Financial Times ranking. Stanford is first in this year’s U.S. News ranking, while Harvard took the top spot on this year’s Forbes list.

The upshot: The Economist’s frequently peculiar results raise significant credibility issues with the ranking. Nonetheless, the Economist carries considerable weight, owing more to its brand reputation than this actual project. Last year saw dramatic changes in its rankings, a sign that the methodology is less than sound.

Among the head-shaking results, the University of Virginia’s Darden School leapfrogged 13 spots to come in 11th compared to the previous year’s 24th showing. Columbia Business School jumped eight places to 12th from 20th in 2009. The University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business shot up 18 places to 18th from 36th, while Carnegie Mellon’s B-school leaped 12 spots to 21st on the list, from 33rd last year. MIT’s Sloan School moved up six spots to 13th from 19th in 2009. The Economist explained some of the wild swings last year by saying, “Our latest ranking is probably the most turbulent in that short history. Usually, schools move up or down just a few places year on year. This time around, however, swings have been wilder.”

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