HBS Tops ‘Laughing Stock’ MBA Ranking

The Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School

The Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School

Long known as the training ground for the corporate elite, Harvard Business School can now claim that it boasts the best MBA program in the world for entrepreneurs. For the first time ever, HBS today (Sept. 16) came out on top of the annual ranking of the best graduate programs in entrepreneurship by Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.

To win the title, Harvard displaced last year’s winner, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, as well as Babson College, the perennial No. 1 for most years of the ranking. Michigan came in third, while Babson retained its No. 2 showing of last year (Babson also held on to its first-place ranking among undergraduate programs in entrepreneurship). Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, which hosts and sponsors a business plan competition that offers the largest prize money for students in the world, nearly $3 million, is fourth.

The big news this year, however, is the emergence of Harvard. In recent years, HBS has made a concerted effort to carve out a reputation in the entrepreneurial field. The school currently offers 62 entrepreneurship-related graduate courses, and in the past five years, HBS graduates have started 106 companies, raising $34.1 million in funding. Some 54% of the school’s entrepreneurship faculty have started, bought or run a successful business. Some 127 mentors work with students on their startup plans.

RANKING HAS LONG BEEN CONSIDERED SOMETHING OF A JOKE

Harvard’s rise to the top of a ranking that has long lacked much credibility is something of a surprise. For years, the school refused to cooperate with the creators of the list, largely because HBS officials considered the vague methodology used to rank schools something of a joke. For many years, few of the most prestigious schools took it seriously.  Only last year, at the urging of faculty who sought greater recognition for the school’s efforts in entrepreneurship, did Harvard agree to participate. HBS came in third last year.

Stanford, which also had refused to cooperate with the ranking, also fell in line last year with Harvard. Stanford, which uniquely benefits from the Silicon Valley ecosystem of which it is a part, placed fifth, up from sixth place last year. At Stanford, 53% of the entrepreneurship faculty have started, bought, or run a successful business, and 44 mentors have worked with students through a sponsored school program.

Like Harvard, Stanford officials came to believe it was a disadvantage not to be on the list, given the increasing attention devoted to business school entrepreneurship. But there are still highly prominent business schools known for their strength in the field that continue to play ball with the ranking, including Wharton, MIT Sloan, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. None of these world-class MBA programs–all with entrepreneurship programs highly ranked by U.S. News–make the new Princeton Review list of the top 25 graduate programs in entrepreneurship.

‘IT’S THE LAUGHING STOCK OF RANKINGS’

The Princeton Review/Entrepreneur list is among the most flawed and least transparent of all the business school rankings. The methodology is left unexplained, with no clear or specific indication of the criteria used or the importance of each of the more than 30 metrics to the overall ranking. Entrepreneur also fails to publish an overall index number behind each numerical rank so readers are in the dark about a school’s relative strength. “The survey is quite long and detailed, and we would love to see more explanation of how the final tally is arrived at (i.e., which data points are weighted and how much), so we could determine what factors impacted our ranking,” says an official from one prominent and ranked school on the list.

Donald Kuratko, the executive director of the global consortium of entrepreneurship centers who also leads the study of entrepreneurship at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, is a sharp critic of the Princeton Review’s methodology. “It’s the laughing stock of rankings,” maintains Kuratko. “In past years, they have ranked schools that didn’t even have entrepreneurship programs and one regional school reported having more than 70 faculty members in entrepreneurship. It was an absurdity. I will not be involved in some type of scheme that has no integrity associated with it.”

Indiana University, whose entrepreneurship initiatives are ranked tenth in the nation by U.S. News, has taken a pass on the survey since its inception. “When Princeton Review started doing this, a number of officers in the consortium questioned the way the survey was being done,” recalls Kuratko. “We offered to help provide a better and more comprehensive type of survey and we offered the consortium to help as judges. We went round and round with them, and the answer was they didn’t want to take the time to deal with academics. They were just as satisfied to it on their own. We told them we had some major concerns about the integrity of the ranking. So we just ignore their survey.”

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