Hult International Business School apparently disappeared from the Financial Times’ global MBA ranking because of a single metric that accounts for only 3% of the ranking’s methodology. For Hult, it’s the first time in seven years that the school failed to make the list of the top 100 MBA programs in the world.
No less important, however, the school learned that it fell out of the ranking due to an unreported change in one of the 20 metrics used to rank MBA programs by the FT. The category where Hult apparently underperformed was “international course experience” which the newspaper measures by the percentage of the most recent graduating MBA class to have completed exchanges, research projects, study tours and company internships in countries other than where the school is based.
Oddly, that is a metric that Hult would appear to have more of an advantage than many business schools because the school has facilities in Boston, New York and San Francisco but also London, Dubai, and Shanghai. Students in its one-year MBA program can study in three different locations during their graduate experience. Yet, Hult President Stephen Hodges said that the school’s discussions with the newspaper led to the discovery that Hult was adversely impacted by the way the FT changed it scores this dimension of the ranking.
HULT HAD TO FALL AT LEAST 40 PLACES TO DROP OFF THE LIST
“According to our discussions with the FT, the only significant change was how they calculated Hult’s “International Course Experience” score,” Hodges told students and alumni in an email. “Last year Hult scored very highly on this category, achieving #2 worldwide. However, this year, due to this changed calculation, the School had only an average score. By losing the significant positive contribution of the “International Course Experience”, even though the FT states this only counts as 3% of the total score, Hult’s overall ranking was affected dramatically.”
In fact, the school had to fall at least 40 places from a rank of 61 last year to disappear from the global MBA ranking—all from a single metric that accounts for a nearly inconsequential component of the methodology. The drop is further evidence that the overall scores the FT uses to determine the numerical rank of its schools are so bunched together as to be statistically meaningless. Unlike Bloomberg Businessweek or U.S. News, however, the Financial Times does not share those underlying scores with readers.
Hult wasn’t the only MBA program that did a disappearing act. The business school at Peking University, ranked 57th last year, and Canada’s Schulich School of Business at York University, ranked 66th, also were among ten schools that failed to make this year’s FT top 100 MBA programs. In fact, nearly one in every three–or exactly 33 of the100–experienced double-digit gains or falls. If you added the ten programs that dropped off the list entirely, the percentage of double-digit changes would be even greater (see The Vertigo In The 2015 Financial Times MBA Ranking).
‘NO ONE IS MORE UPSET ABOUT THIS THAN I AM’
However, Hult’s disappearance from the ranking is a major blow because the school has aggressively leveraged its position on the FT list to recruit prospective students. More than most, the school has used rankings to fuel unusual growth. At a time when most B-schools report flat or declining numbers of students, total start-of-year enrollments at Hult more than doubled to 2,632 in 2013 from 1,161 in 2010. The school’s MBA intake in 2013 was nearly 700 students, up from less than 440 four years earlier.
As the school had justifiably claimed on its website, “We are consistently ranked in top 1% of business schools by the Financial Times, putting us on the same level as business schools with hundreds of years more history.” Indeed, Hult’s first big rankings break occurred in 2009 when it cracked the highly influential Financial Times’ global MBA list, coming in 97th out of 100 schools. Hult’s best showing in the FT survey occurred in 2013 when it finished 57th in the world.
Calling the news “very disappointing,” Hodges said, “Please believe me when I say that no one is more upset about this than I am. Given that Hult has campuses around the world and many students take advantage of our global rotation option, we obviously feel that their new methodology undervalues the true international experience that Hult offers,” added Hodges. “Whilst there is nothing we can do to affect this year’s ranking, the FT has indicated a willingness to discuss their definitions for next year.”
HULT FIRST THOUGHT IT LOST OUT DUE TO LOWER ALUMNI COMPENSATION
Hodges said that when the school first learned it fell off the list in late January just before the official release of the ranking on Jan. 25, officials assumed that it was because of the most heavily weighed components in the ranking—alumni compensation, which accounts for 40% of the ranking.
“When we were first informed of this news, our concern was that our average alumni salary had somehow dropped,” he wrote. “The good news is that this was not the case. Our 2011 graduates reported that their “Average Salary” three years after graduation was 110,000 USD (an increase of 4% over the year before, which is in line with other schools). Further, the “Salary Percentage Increase” reported (comparing the salary pre-MBA and salary three years post-graduation) remained largely unchanged (again in line with other schools). The FT told us that neither measure materially impacted our ranking.”
It didn’t help, of course, that Hult has consistently performed poorly in several other components of the FT ranking. Last year, for example, Hult ranked near the bottom on faculty research (97), job placement success (93), and alumni recommendations (91). But that has always been the case and still allowed the school to gain its overall rank of 61 last year.