The Most ‘Popular’ B-Schools Among MBAs



How do you measure an MBA program’s popularity? Do you look at the front end, with the volume of applications and the caliber of GMATs and undergrad GPAs? Or, do you focus on back-end metrics like starting salaries, placement rates, and recruiter opinions? Then again, there’s always a third way: ask graduates themselves for their opinions.

No doubt, all of these metrics are valid. When it comes to evaluating business schools, most applicants are asking themselves one question: “Will an MBA help me land the job I want in two years?”

It is basic human nature: Employers hire from schools where they’ve previously had success. According to a survey that was part of the Financial Times’ 2014 Global MBA Rankings, some graduates are more attractive than others. In the “Recommend” question, which accounts for 2% of a school’s overall ranking, alumni were asked for three schools where they’d recruit MBA graduates.

How The Financial Times Measures Popularity

Popular Vote

It is an intriguing premise, particularly when the sample is derived from “alumni who completed full-time MBAs in 2010.” In other words, they’ve had time to apply (and reflect on) their own education and to interact with graduates from other schools. In fact, this sample surely includes executives who’ll make hiring decisions in the coming years (if they haven’t already).

Bottom line: Their opinion matters.

The Financial Times’ survey includes 10,986 respondents from 153 schools and a 47% response rate. To be ranked, a school must have 20% of their target alumni fill out at least 20 complete surveys. The ranking includes two years of data, with a 60:40 weight given for 2014/2013 data and a 70:30 weight for 2014/2012 surveys. The data was collected in September and October of 2013.

Harvard Comes Out on Top (Again)

In the end, the survey measures a school’s global brand, reach, and final product. Here, Harvard Business School comes out on top, maintaining its No. 1 ranking on alumni recommendations from the previous year. That correlates with U.S. News & World Report’s recruiter rankings, which had Harvard tied with Wharton and Stanford as the top schools. Surprisingly, Harvard ranked No. 50 on the Financial Times’ aims achieved survey, possibly signaling that Harvard alum may not feel that their education helped them reach their goals.

Overall, the top 10 remained nearly identical from 2013 to 2014 when it comes to which schools B-school alumni would recommend. Stanford, Wharton, London Business School, and MIT Sloan rounded out the Financial Times’ top five (in that order). In fact, the only change came from INSEAD and Columbia University, which swapped the 7th and 8th spots, respectively.

American institutions comprised 19 of the 25 most recommended schools in 2014, with India boasting three schools. Among the top 100, the U.S. produced over half (51) of the recommended schools, followed by the United Kingdom (13), China (7), and Canada (5).

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