If anyone took The Economist’s global MBA ranking seriously, the dean and his staff, along with the students and the alumni of the University of Bath School of Management should be apoplectic today (Oct. 9). In a single year, Bath literally took a bath, plunging further than any other on the Top 100 list.
The school tumbled 23 places in 12 months to a rank of 43 this year, from a highly respectable showing of 20th last year. Of course, few people would think that the MBA program at Bath is a global Top 20 program, anyway. Yet The Economist last year ranked it above Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, INSEAD, Yale and Duke.
Still, it can’t be any fun to be in a rankings free fall. If there’s any consolation, Bath has plenty of company. Excluding schools that fell off the list completely, there are ten MBA programs that experienced double-digit drops. The biggest losers? After Bath comes York University’s Schulich School of Business in Canada. It fell 19 places to a rank of 41. The business schools at both Cambridge and Oxford saw drops of 15 places to ranks of 52 and 69, respectively.
THE MBA PROGRAMS AT TEMPLE AND ROCHESTER HAD 20-PLACE GAINS
And the winners? Temple University’s Fox School of Business and the University of Rochester’s Simon School both climbed 20 places this year to finish 57th and 58th, respectively. They were among ten schools that had double-digit gains year-over-year.
Schools not only slip and slide from year to year in The Economist’s ranking without explanation. They also experience great dips and jumps over several years. Consider the Schulich School of Business. Only four years ago, in 2011, The Economist ranked Schulich for having the ninth best MBA program in the world. The school fell 32 places from its Top 10 perch in 2011, all the way down to 41st now.
Conversely, other schools have seen their prospects rise mightily. Temple’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia was languishing near the bottom of the pack four years ago with a rank of 89. This year, thanks to a 20-place jump, the school is now 57th on The Economist list–a improvement of 32 spots since 2011. In just a three-year timeframe, the University of Rochester’s Simon School climbed 31 spaces from a rank of 89 to 58 this year.
NEARLY ONE IN FOUR SCHOOLS HAD DOUBLE-DIGIT GAINS OR FALLS
What does this say about the methodology used to rank MBA programs? This kind of movement reveals how slim the actually results are, so slim that in many cases the numerical ranks for the programs have little, if any, statistical merit. Big changes occur not because of significant changes at an MBA program or even the salaries that its graduates earn. They occur because the underlying index numbers upon which the numerical ranks are based are so closely bunched together that even the number of graduates who respond to The Economist’s survey can result in a change in rank. One MBA director whose school declined to participate in the ranking says The Economist has a “shambolic” methodology.
Unlike U.S. News & World Report or Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist does not allow readers to see the index numbers that results in their numerical ranks so it’s not possible to tell just how close one MBA program is from another on the list. The methodology is based on surveys filled out by business schools and their alumni and takes into account new career opportunities (35%); personal development/educational experience (35%); increasing salary (20%); and the potential to network (10%).
If you include the MBA programs that either disappeared or popped up on The Economist’s ranking this year, fully 23 of the 100 ranked schools experienced double-digit moves. That’s nearly one in four of the schools on the list, signaling a lot of volatility for a ranking that purports to measure the quality of MBA programs that rarely change from year to year.
AFTER A ONE-YEAR ABSENCE, HENLEY REAPPEARED ON THE LIST AT A RANK OF 34
Henley Business School, which failed to appear on last year’s ranking, placed 34th this year—above such prestige schools as Georgetown, Notre Dame, Washington University, the University of North Carolina, and IE Business School. If Henley had just missed last year at 101, it would imply a jump of at least 67 places! The Economist ranked Henley 42nd in 2012 and 57th in 2011. Besides Henley, two other schools popped on the list this year: No. 94 University of South Carolina and No. 97 Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The MBA programs that disappeared off the ranking this year are No. 72 Durham Business School, No. 75 Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School in Belgium, and No. 96 University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Vlerick fell out due to what The Economist called a “data inconsistency.”
Rotman was among 17 business schools that refused to cooperate with The Economist this year, a group that included many schools that have MBA programs that are far better than those that are ranked by the magazine. American University (Kogod), Monash University, Ashridge, Globis University, University of Missouri-Kansas City (Bloch), University of the Witwatersand, Babson College (Olin), EGADE-Tecnologico de Monterrey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Imperial College Business School, University of Manchester, McGill University (Desautels), University of Minnesota (Carlson), Purdue University (Krannert), Seoul National University, University of Toronto (Rotman), University of British Columbia (Sauder).
(See following page for our tables on the double-digit winners and losers)