The Economist’s Historical Rankings

The biggest beneficiary of The Economist’s MBA rankings since their debut in 2002 will surprise you. It’s not Harvard or Stanford or Wharton or London or INSEAD. In fact, in ten separate rankings over ten years, none of those highly prestigious schools have ever managed to capture a No. 1 ranking from The Economist.

Harvard has climbed no higher than fourth and has been as low as 13th.

Wharton has fallen as low as 21st and has never received a ranking higher than eighth place.

INSEAD, regarded by many as Europe’s best business school, has never cracked the top ten and has been as low as 23rd on The Economist’s rankings.


When you combine all of The Economist’s ten rankings since their debut, the number one school is Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. Tuck, ranked first last year, has never been lower than sixth place and has been second four times, according to an analysis by Poets&Quants of The Economist’s historical rankings.

Combining 10 years worth of The Economist’s rankings helps smooth out many of the anomalies in a given year’s list. While Tuck still comes out on top, right behind it are some very familiar MBA brands:  Chicago Booth, Stanford, IMD, Harvard Business School, Kellogg, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, and Columbia Business School.

Since 2002, only five schools have managed to top the list: Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management did it three times (2002, 2003 and 2004). IESE in Spain has matched Kellogg’s record, capturing the No. 1 spot three times as well (2009, 2006 and 2005). The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business has been No. 1 twice (2010 and 2007), and IMD in Switzerland (2008) and Tuck (2011) has been atop the list for one year each.


But The Economist’s rankings are full of surprises. Though IESE has been ranked first by the British magazine on three occasions, it was ranked 65th when The Economist published its first MBA ranking in 2002. Only three years later, the magazine proclaimed the school the best in the world.

Many schools have had similar roller coaster rides in this ranking. Though UCLA’s Anderson School was ranked seventh ten years ago by The Economist, it now ranks 27th and has ranked as high as 50th. Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, ranked third in 2002 and fourth in 2003, has never made The Economist’s top ten list since. Currently ranked 20th, the school has fallen to as low as 29th place three separate times.

The often quirky results of this ranking–like all rankings–are due to its methodology.

In many ways, The Economist ranking is similar to Financial Times. For one, it’s global in scope and weighs several factors that tend to favor non-U.S. schools. It examines many criteria—21 different metrics in all, from the diversity of the on-campus recruiters to the range of overseas exchange programs. Compensation and career placement are heavily weighted, including starting salaries, pre-MBA versus post-MBA pay increases, and the percentage of graduates who land jobs through the career management center. Pay and placement account for 45% of the methodology.

The one big difference with The Financial Times is its rather significant reliance on student satisfaction, gathered by an annual survey of current MBA students and recent alumni. They’re asked to rate the quality of the faculty, the career services staff, the school’s curriculum and culture, the facilities, the alumni network, and their classmates.

(See following page for our table of the top 25 schools based on ten years of The Economist’s rankings)

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