Winners & Losers In The 2012 BW Ranking

The Terry College of Business also fell victim to the methodology change as well. Two years ago, the school’s corporate recruiter ranking was a highly inflated and questionable 10. At the time, it was a ranking that put it ahead of such schools as UC-Berkeley, MIT Sloan, and the University of Virginia’s Darden School. This year, BusinessWeek’s corporate recruiter ranking for Terry was 52–a stunning decline of 42 places. The school’s rankings on student satisfaction and intellectual capital were roughly the same. It ranked 54th on student satisfaction this year, down one place from a rank of 53 two years ago, and it ranked 44th on intellectual capital, up three spots from 47th.

It’s a somewhat different story at Michigan State whose student satisfaction scores fell badly to a rank of 33 this year from 13 in 2010–a 20-place decline. The school also lost six places on the recruiter side of the BusinessWeek ranking, dropping to 38 from 32.


Columbia Business School and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, both of which declined five places each this year, are in an entirely different category. Those two schools, regarded as among the top seven or eight MBA programs in the world, had the steepest falls of any of the truly elite schools. On one level, this is a head-scratching change because the underlying index scores for both schools improved.

This year, Columbia was ranked 14th with an index score of 87.5. Two years ago, Columbia was ranked 9th, with an index score of 84.5. So even though the school had a consequential improvement of 2.2 in its index number (generally anything over 1 should be considered significant), the school fell five places. It is a similar story with Haas. This year, Haas was ranked 13th, with an index number of 87.6. Two years ago, Haas placed 8th, with an index score of 84.9. The school improved on BW’s index by 2.7 points, even though it fell five places.

How is this remotely possible? First off, the entire list is dynamic. From one survey to the next, all these numbers are changing so any school-specific change needs to be assessed within the framework of the total. Based on what BusinessWeek is reporting, however, Columbia’s decline appears more understandable. The school’s standing declined in two of three of the magazine’s key metrics: student satisfaction and intellectual capital. The biggest drop was in student satisfaction where Columbia lost 10 places to finish 20th this year versus 10th last year. It fell seven places in intellectual capital to 19th from 12th. Those are fairly significant falls in the space of one survey.

Surprisingly, given the collapse of finance, Columbia managed to increase its recruiter rank to 8th from 9th in 2010. This is counter-intuitive. Here’s why: BusinessWeek weights the responses of each individual recruiter based on the number of MBAs they hire. The finance firms that are so crucial to Columbia have decreased the number of hires and therefore their overall influence in the recruiter survey. Yet Columbia was able to surmount this problem and still rise in BW’s recruiter poll.

Haas, meantime, fell six places in the student satisfaction poll to 10th from 4th two years ago, two places in the recruiter poll to 13th from 11th, but rose two places in the less important intellectual capital section of the methodology, to third from fifth. The drop in student satisfaction is likely the result of new curriculum changes that require the test of time and slightly lower teaching scores which reflect the school’s emphasis on research productivity over masterful teaching. We suspect that BusinessWeek’s change in methodology had something to do with Haas decline because the more consequential fall in student satisfaction wouldn’t have resulted in a five-place drop. Those scores are so closely clustered together that it could not have triggered the decline. Because the recruiter poll naturally weighs more heavily on the overall result and Haas is a smaller school with a smaller base of recruiters, it was likely a victim of the change.

(See following page for our table of the big winners and losers in BusinessWeek’s 2012 MBA ranking.)

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.