BusinessWeek’s 2012 Business School Ranking

For the fourth consecutive time, the Unversity of Chicago’s Booth School of Business hit the rankings jackpot, retaining its number one title for having the best full-time MBA program in the U.S., according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Following Chicago Booth is a familiar cast of elite business schools. Harvard Business School retained its No. 2 rank from 2010 in the biennial MBA sweepstakes by BusinessWeek. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School was No. 3 again, while Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management played musical chairs for the No. 4 and No. 5 positions.

The magazine’s 2012 ranking, published today (Nov. 15), contains many surprises, however. The Johnson Graduate School at Cornell University, for example, jumped six places to rank seven from 13th in 2010. Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School rose four spots to 11th from 15th, and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business also saw a four-place gain to rank 15th from 19th. The University of Texas’ McCombs School rose six places to finish 19th from 25th in 2010.

In a separate ranking of the best MBA programs at non-U.S. business schools, BusinessWeek ranked London Business School No. 1, moving aside INSEAD which fell to second place. IE Business School in Spain was third, followed by Queen’s College in Canada and Oxford University’s Said School in fifth. For Oxford, the rank of fifth represented a 11-place climb from 2010 when it was ranked 16th. IIn an online chat earlier today, editor Geoff Gloeckler explained the reason for Oxford’s big move forward. “Oxford has seen steady improvement in their student satisfaction score over the past three rankings cycles,” he said. “Also, the school’s employer score jumped quite a bit after a less-than-stellar 2010. Oxford is one of only three schools in the ranking that finished in the top ten of all three rankings categories. The other two schools are LBS and INSEAD” (see London Tops BW’s Non-U.S. School Ranking).


The losers? Columbia Business School and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business both fell by five places to 14th from 9th and 13th from eight, respectively.  “Columbia’s drop was mostly due to student satisfaction,” Gloeckler said. “In 2010, they were 10th in the student rank, this year they fell to 20th. A lot of the student complaints were about the core curriculum, which is going to be changed starting next year. Columbia did move up one spot in the employer rank, though.”

In fact, it’s the worst showing by Columbia in the BusinessWeek survey since it began in 1988 when the magazine ranked the school 14th. Some MBA students are pointing a finger at Dean Glenn Hubbard who had been former Governor Romney’s economic advisor during his losing Presidential campaign. He had been embarrassed and ridiculed in the Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job, something that hardly lent him credibility has a leader of the institution. Columbia’s fall is largely due to a ten-point drop in the school’s student satisfaction portion of the BusinessWeek analysis to a lowly 20 from 10 two years ago (See Winners & Losers in the 2012 BW Ranking).

The BusinessWeek ranking, the first regularly published MBA ranking and often considered the most influential in the U.S., is based on three core measurements: a student satisfaction poll, an MBA recruiter poll, and a measure of a school’s intellectual capital. Polls of students and recruiters are each given a weight of 45% in the overall methodology, while the remaining 10% comes from the magazine’s measurement of published articles by a school’s professors in key academic and practitioner journals. This year BusinessWeek received 10,439 responses for a response rate of 56% on its student Web-based survey. The magazine also surveyed 566 corporate recruiters and received 206 responses for a response rate of 36%.

The BusinessWeek ranking is like no other. Most other rankings include such things as average GMATs, grade point averages, starting salaries, and percentage of graduates employed at graduation and three months later. Instead, the BW listing is the closest one can get to a “customer satisfaction” ranking.


Like any other ranking of business schools, it is not flawless. Though BusinessWeek employs statisticians to comb through the data to verify its integrity, students come to each of these schools with very different expectations that can result in significantly different grades they award their institutions. There is also concern of widespread cheerleading by students who want to push their schools ahead in the rankings so their degrees have more prestige. These issues alone are in all probability what has kept Harvard and Stanford from ever placing first in the BusinessWeek survey.

Those students come to campus with high expectations and are less likely to care about how a ranking impacts the status of their degree. So they are prone to be more demanding and more honest in their answers to BusinessWeek’s questions. They graduate with the highest starting pay packages and know that a Harvard or Stanford MBA can pretty much open any door in the world.