HBS Tops ‘Laughing Stock’ MBA Ranking


For schools who complete the Princeton Review survey, moreover, there are no audits of the information they provide nor is there concern or follow-up when issues are raised about school-supplied data. Earlier this year, a Kansas City Star investigation of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s discovered a number of embellishments designed to boost the reputation of its Bloch School of Management. “Among them were inaccuracies and mischaracterizations of fact in the data the university supplied to the Princeton Review,” according to the newspaper (see The Dark Side of MBA Rankings).

The newspaper’s reporters found that in 2012 the school claimed that 100 percent of its graduate entrepreneurship students had launched a business after graduation. But the answer was based not on the school’s MBA program but rather participants in a one-year certificate program called Entrepreneurship Scholars, or E-Scholars. To complete the program and receive a certificate, a participant had to start a business. The school also inflated the number of clubs and mentors in the program. In 2009, UMKC told the Princeton Review it had four clubs open specifically to entrepreneurship students. By 2011, the number reported had grown to 28. “That was a huge problem, misrepresenting,” a Ph.D. student who said he was asked to help create the clubs told The Star. “We were told to post the clubs online — just post clubs and descriptions. So the website had a large number of clubs that we never really had.”

When reporters for The Star sought to bring attention to these issues to the Princeton Review, they were largely turned away. David Soto, the director of content development at the Princeton Review, told the reporters he was not troubled by their findings, according to the newspaper. Despite The Star’s revelations, which have triggered an investigation by the university, this year the Bloch school is on the Top 25 list yet again, ranking 24th.


Today, links to the “methodology” on both the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur websites were broken, leading only to “page not found.” Here is the only available description of the methodology, published in a news release accompanying the ranking: “The Princeton Review surveyed undergraduate and graduate schools for this project from April through June 2014. The survey asked school administrators 60 questions covering: their schools’ levels of commitment to entrepreneurship inside and outside the classroom, the percentage of faculty, students, and alumni actively and successfully involved in entrepreneurial endeavors, and the number and reach of their mentorship programs. The company also asked schools about their scholarships and grants for entrepreneurial studies, and their support for school-sponsored business plan competitions.”

To be ranked on the list, schools must complete a survey for the ranking’s organizers. In contrast, the U.S. News & World Report ranking of the best MBA programs for entrepreneurs does not require cooperation from the ranked schools. The U.S. News ranking is solely based on its annual survey of deans and MBA directors who are simply asked their opinion of the best programs. That more open list contrasts sharply with the Princeton Review/Entrepreneurship ranking. The Top Ten includes four schools not even on yesterday’s Top 25 list: MIT, Wharton, Berkeley, and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business (see table on following pages). The U.S. News ranking system also contains significant flaws that has attracted such critics as Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker to attack its methodology as little more than a popularity poll.


Despite the “black box” nature of the Princeton Review/Entrepreneur ranking and its often peculiar results, an increasing number of top schools have decided to cooperate with it. Columbia Business School, which has made entrepreneurship a priority in recent years, supplied data and was ranked 25th this year. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, whose entrepreneurial ambitions have set a goal to be among the world’s top three business schools in the field, is ranked sixth. Last year, Kellogg was not on the list at all, presumably because it, too, declined to supply information to the Princeton Review. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is ranked ninth, up from 11th last year.

Up and down the list, odd results are everywhere. Columbia Business School is ranked 12 places below the No. 13-ranked University of South Florida and nine places behind Temple University in Philadelphia. Ranked 14th, Baruch College in New York beats Washington University, which is ranked 15th, and the University of Southern California, which is ranked 21st.

Though this annual list has fairly significant credibility issues, most business schools can’t resist issuing news releases trumpeting their inclusion on it. Asked if Harvard Business School would be publishing a statement today on the school’s rise to the top, a spokesperson said “we are not.”

(See following page for a comparison between Princeton Review & U.S. News rankings)

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