Are The Very Best Business Schools Really This Bad?

Harvard Business School across the Charles River

Harvard Business School across the Charles River

HARVARD GETS THE WORST OF IT ALL

If anyone took these results seriously, they would be especially damaging to the Harvard Business School, whose graduates are paid the highest starting salaries and bonuses in the world by the companies that recruit MBAs, the ultimate test of recruiter favorability.

According to Businessweek, the graduates of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, an institution that was essentially bankrupt and had to be rescued by Arizona State University this year, ranks higher than Harvard’s MBAs on adaptability, collaboration, as well as motivation and drive. The MBAs at the University of Maryland (ranking 6th) and Baylor University (9) are considerably higher than Harvard (19) on analytical thinking. Graduates of Baylor (2) do better on their communication skills than Harvard (5). UC-Irvine MBAs (5) beat Harvard in creative problem solving (10). Brigham Young University’s grads (7) crush HBS (14) on decision making. York University’s MBAs (4) beat Harvard on quantitative skills (32). And on strategic thinking, Ivey (1) and ESMT (2), the European School of Management and Technology in Germany, also bests Harvard (3).

THE CULPRIT: A BIASED, HIGHLY FLAWED & INADEQUATE SAMPLE

So what’s wrong here? It’s simple. The results are based on a highly biased and inadequate sample of corporate recruiters. Though Businessweek says its survey of MBA skills is the product of 1,320 respondents, the magazine concedes that it eliminated from the results alumni recruiters because “alumni tended to rate their own school significantly more favorable than non-alumni rating that school.” That bias occurred because of a change in the way Businessweek surveyed recruiters last year, a change that led to Duke University being named the best MBA program in the U.S. (see How Duke Achieved Its No. 1 Ranking). Of course, a recruiter has to tell Businessweek if he or she is an alum of a school that is being ranked. You can expect most but not all to do so.

Ultimately, Businessweek concedes that these various skill rankings can be based on as little as eight responses. It’s obvious that such a thin sample can lead to embarrassing results for the magazine, results that merely expose how flawed its survey of corporate recruiters really is. The truth is that although Businessweek received 1,320 responses, few of these recruiters even bothered to complete the sections where they are asked to rate, on a scale of one to five, how well schools’ graduates perform on specific qualities.

Subtract out the school alumni, who are obviously biased and should not have been surveyed in the first place, and you have precious few responses to rely upon. No less important, you can’t presume the people who do fill these surveys out are disinterested in the results which is yet another reason why they make little sense. It’s a wonder that the editorial judgment at Businessweek is so poor that editors would actually allow these nonsensical results to be published.

FINDINGS THAT GET EYEBALLS BUT HAVE LITTLE IF ANY RELEVANCE

And there’s yet another problem with these results. The charts show that the actual differences among the schools are so small as to be largely meaningless. In other words, how many few recruiters are scoring these schools see so little difference in the MBAs that the results are not statistically meaningful.

The upshot: Findings that may get eyeballs on the Net, but have little to no relevance.

The best school for turning out MBAs who are great creative problem-solvers? The University of Dallas’ Jindal School of Managment. which also is ahead of Harvard, Kellogg, Yale, UC-Berkeley, London, Dartmouth, and Wharton in producing MBAs with the best communication skills.

The best for producing MBA grads who are highly adaptable? CEIBS in China and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

We applaud Bloomberg Businessweek on the gee-whiz presentation of these results that allow users to access them in numerous ways on the Internet. Too bad the results are so counter-intuitive as to be laughable.

How Businessweek’s Recruiter Survey Ranks The Top Schools On Key Traits

P&Q Rank & School Collaboration Quant Skills Leadership Motivation/Drive
  1. London 37 10 42 51
  2. INSEAD 53 18 32 48
  3. IMD 7 —– 2 —–
  4. IE 51 —– 14 28
  5. IESE 59 —– 52 22
  6. Cambridge 34 —– —– —–
  7. SDA Boccomi —– —– —– —–
  8. HEC Paris 67 —– —– 47
  9, Oxford —– —– —– —–
10. ESADE 5 —– 60 39

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek Skills Report on Poets&Quants’ top ten non-U.S. business schools of 2014

DON’T MISS: TOP TEN BUSINESSWEEK RANKING COMMENTS or A FUROR ERUPTS OVER BUSINESSWEEK’S RANKING