By the estimation of its alumni, a Harvard MBA provides greater value than a Stanford MBA (measured by salary vs. opportunity costs and actual expenses to get the degree). In fact, HBS was up 13 places on the FT’s calculation of the value of the MBA, ranking 77. Stanford was down six places this year, ranking 94th out of 100. That could well be because Stanford’s estimated costs of getting a full-time MBA exceed every other school in the world and it gives slightly less scholarship aid to students than Harvard which is the most generous school in that regard.
HARVARD ALSO GETS MORE POINTS FROM THE FINANCIAL TIMES BECAUSE IT BOASTS MORE WOMEN STUDENTS AND FACULTY
The FT also awards Harvard more points for diversity. The female faculty at Harvard make up 24% of the total, versus 18% at Stanford. Some 40% of the students at HBS are women, compared with 35% at Stanford. Harvard also ekes out slightly better numbers for the percentage of international students and international board members, though not by much.
Harvard MBAs are more likely to land jobs outside the U.S. than those at Stanford, allowing HBS to be ranked 43rd in “international mobility” vs. 56th for Stanford (that’s the cost of those palm trees and warmer Northern California weather). The FT also ranks Harvard faculty first in producing intellectual capital. Stanford, according to the Financial Times, is ranked sixth on faculty research.
Still, Stanford is ahead of Harvard are more than just alumni weighted salaries, if you can believe The Financial Times. Stanford outranks HBS on a number of other key career metrics that loom large in the newspaper’s methodology. Surveys of Stanford and Harvard alums show that the West Coasters are slightly more satisfied with what the FT calls “aims achieved,” the extent to which alumni fulfilled their stated goals for getting an MBA in the first place. The FT ranks Stanford fifth on this measure versus 17th for Harvard.
Stanford also does better on alumni perspectives on their “career progress” and “placement success.” The FT ranks Stanford second in career progress, which calculates changes in seniority at work, compared to Harvard’s rank of fifth. The newspaper ranks Stanford on placement success a 17 versus Harvard’s 22.
Of course, many of these metrics aren’t likely to matter to students. It might be politically correct to have more women as faculty and students at a school, but does it really say anything about the quality of the education or the experience? And some of these differences are so slight that they are quite meaningless or can simply be chalked up sample error.
It’s even possible that some of the data, interpreted in a positive way by The Financial Times, is actually a negative. Having more students and faculty from outside the U.S. can be a telltale sign that a school is having trouble landing the best students and the best faculty domestically where the applicant and professor pools are no longer growing.
So while it’s important to know what goes into a ranking, it’s also important to take it all with a grain of salt.
(See following page for our table of the 2013 Financial Times’ Global MBA ranking)