To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose. And so it is in the world of business schools.
With interest in startups and entrepreneurship reaching a fever’s pitch, Stanford Graduate School of Business emerged the No. 1 business school in the U.S. in Poets&Quants’ 2014 ranking of the best full-time MBA programs.
At a time when Silicon Valley can now boast an HBO television show that pays homage to the pervasive startup culture that defines the region, Stanford nudged aside Harvard Business School for the first time since P&Q’s composite ranking debuted in 2010.
Rounding out the top five programs was the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in third place, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business in fourth, and Columbia Business School in New York in fifth. For the first time in five years, Wharton pushed ahead of Chicago Booth to claim its No. 3 position.
In a separate ranking of full-time MBA programs outside the U.S., London Business School repeated its first place finish for the fourth time in five years. INSEAD came in second, while IMD finished in third place. Two business schools in Spain–No. 4 IE Business School in Madrid and No. 5 IESE Business School in Barcelona–completed the top five non-U.S. MBA programs.
A STABLE AND MORE CREDIBLE COMPOSITE RANKING OF THE BEST MBA PROGRAMS
Unlike other rankings, the Poets&Quants composite list combines the latest five most influential business school rankings in the world: U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Financial Times, and The Economist. Instead of merely averaging the five, each ranking is separately weighted to account for our view of their authority and credibility. (U.S. News is given a weight of 35%, Forbes, 25%, while both the FT and Businessweek is given a 15% weight, and The Economist, 10% weight.)
Combining the five most influential rankings doesn’t eliminate the flaws in each system, but it does significantly diminish them. When an anomaly pops on one list due to either faulty survey technique or biased methodology, bringing all the data together tends to suppress it. So the composite index tones down the noise in each of these five surveys to get more directly at the real signal that is being sent. The upshot: The list is far more stable–and reliable–than most rankings published elsewhere, taking into account a massive wealth of quantitative and qualitative data captured in these major lists, from surveys of corporate recruiters, MBA graduates, deans and faculty publication records to median GPA and GMAT scores of entering students as well as the latest salary and employment statistics of alumni.
This year, 25 of the top 30 schools had either an identical position as they had last year and experienced a change of only one place up or down. The stability in the list is reflective of the fact that from year to year, MBA programs rarely change dramatically. More consequential change may occur over a number of years as a program improves and that improvement becomes more generally recognized by stakeholders.
YALE MAKES STRONGEST GAINS AMONG THE TOP 25 BUSINESS SCHOOLS
Besides the switch at the very top, the most consequential moves among the elite schools involved both Yale University’s School of Management and Cornell University’s Johnson School. Fueled by significant gains in the most recent rankings by the Financial Times and Businessweek, Yale climbed five places this year to finish 12th, its best ever showing. The school is in the fourth year of substantial change under new Dean Edward “Ted” Snyder. This is Snyder’s third deanship, having been at the helm of both the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and the University of Virginia’s Darden School, and that experience has clearly paid off at Yale.
His strategy rests on three guiding aspirations: to make Yale the most distinctively global U.S. business school, to leverage the world-class university that Yale is by making the business school the most integrated with its home university, and to be recognized as the best source of elevated leaders for all sectors and regions. These days, you’ll hear similar things from many deans but few have delivered in truly creative and innovative ways as Yale has done under Snyder and his two key deputies, Senior Associate Deans Anjani Jain and David Bach, particularly in making the school far more global than rivals with truly unique programs and approaches.
Cornell, on the other hand, slipped four positions to a rank of 15th from 11th in 2013 after declining in four of the five most watched rankings this year. It’s not always easy to discern why a program might lose ground in any of the rankings because each list is based on multiple metrics, some that overlap and some that are unique to the ranking organization.
However, it is generally rare for a school of Cornell’s prominence to fall in every new ranking of the year. In both U.S. News and the FT, the school slipped by just one place. But in the newly constituted Businessweek ranking it lost six positions, moving from seventh to 13th, while it lost similar ground in The Economist, dropping from 11th to 17th among U.S. schools. Forbes, which ranks schools every other year, did not produce a new list this year. Cornell’s Johnson School also had a relatively new dean in Soumitra Dutta, a former INSEAD professor, who is in his first deanship and is leading a major expansion of the school in New York City.