Booth Tops 2015 Economist Ranking

The University of Chicago's Booth School of Business

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business

Here we go again!

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business emerged the No. 1 MBA program in The Economist‘s 2015 global ranking of the best business schools (today) for the fourth consecutive year. But if you’re looking for any consistency out of this ranking, you’ll be deeply disappointed.

Even among the Top 25 schools, there are plenty of roller-coaster results that are simply head-scratching. Both IE Business School in Spain and Warwick Business School in the U.K. jumped 19 places to 17th and 18th, respectively. The Economist now ranks Warwick’s one-year MBA program above the two-year MBA experiences at such prestige and highly selective institutions as the Yale School of Management, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and London Business School. Only two years ago, The Economist ranked Warwick 56th, and three years ago, at 60th.

DUH: THE ECONOMIST NOW CLAIMS THAT HENLEY IS BETTER THAN LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL

Henley Business School jumped 12 spots to a rank of 22nd, even though the school failed to even make The Economist’s list in 2013. That puts Henley above London Business School, Cambridge (61), and Oxford (77). INSEAD rose ten places to rank 8th, while IESE Business School in Spain slid nine spots to 14th from fifth last year. And London Business School skidded nine places as well to a barely make the Top 25 list at a rank of 24th.

Besides Chicago’s No. 1 finish, this year’s top five schools are at least a familiar bunch: the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business finished second (up from third last year), Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business was third (down from second in 2014), Harvard Business School was fourth (up two spots), and HEC Paris rounded out the top five by placing fifth (slipping one spot).

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management gained another seven places this year to finish seventh behind UC-Berkeley’s Haas School. Kellogg has now jumped 15 spots in two years, coming from 23rd in 2913. That is Kellogg’s best showing since 2006 when it finished in sixth place.

And where in the world is Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, which for the past five years has been at the epicenter of the most dynamic economy in the world? For the first time ever in the history of The Economist‘s ranking, which debuted in 2002, Stanford failed to make the Top 10. It fell to the unlucky 13th spot on this year’s list, down four places from ninth last year. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School–widely regarded as one of the top three business schools in the world–placed tenth, up one place from 2014.

WHAT TO BLAME FOR THE ODD RESULTS? THE METHODOLOGY, OF COURSE

The often quirky results of this ranking–like all rankings–are fundamentally due to its methodology. In many ways, The Economist ranking is similar to The Financial Times. For one, it’s global in scope and weighs several factors that tend to favor non-U.S. schools. It examines many criteria—21 different metrics in all, from the diversity of the on-campus recruiters to the range of overseas exchange programs. Compensation and career placement are heavily weighted, including starting salaries, pre-MBA versus post-MBA pay increases, and the percentage of graduates who land jobs through the career management center. Pay and placement account for 45% of the methodology.

The one big difference with The Financial Times is its rather significant reliance on student satisfaction, gathered by an annual survey of current MBA students and recent alumni. They’re asked to rate the quality of the faculty, the career services staff, the school’s curriculum and culture, the facilities, the alumni network, and their classmates. The methodology takes into account new career opportunities (35%); personal development/educational experience (35%); increasing salary (20%); and the potential to network (10%). The figures are a mixture of hard data and the subjective marks given by the school’s students who are surveyed by the magazine.

Measuring MBA programs on those dimensions should insure that Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and London Business School do well. Yet surprisingly, year after year they tend to lag in The Economist ranking. In fact, Harvard, Stanford and Wharton have never topped this ranking even though it has been published for 14 years. There are many explanations for this, including the likelihood that students and alumni who complete The Economist‘s survey are cheerleading for their schools, the sample size of the surveys, and the fact that some schools have dropped out, refusing to participate in the ranking because they believe it lacks credibility.

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.