Top Ten Business School Rankings of 2015

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford Graduate School of Business

3) Stanford Takes First in 2015 U.S. News Ranking: U.S. News may be the cleanest and clearest ranking in the market, balancing quantitative inputs (GMATs and acceptance rates) and outputs (placement rates and starting salaries) with qualitative markers like academic reputation and recruiter assessment. It literally has something for everyone. In 2015, Stanford won out over Harvard based on higher GMATs and GPAs, more selective acceptance rates, and higher graduate placement.

From a big picture standpoint, there was nearly no movement among the best American programs, with only the University of Virginia (Darden) bumping NYU (Stern) out of the Top 10. Don’t expect that to be the case in 2015, where higher graduate earnings and incoming GMAT scores could propel Wharton into the top spot. Similarly, an 11 point bump in GMAT scores could also land Kellogg in the Top Five ahead of MIT (Sloan). And let’s not forget the University of Michigan (Ross), Duke (Fuqua), and Yale, which are just one or two index points below Darden for the 10th spot. As always, there will be Cinderallas like Texas A&M (Mays), which vaulted 10 spots to 27th and the University of Texas-Dallas (Jindal), whose recruiters scores are higher than Tuck, Stern, Ross, and Darden. Such trends should make for a newsworthy year on the b-school beat.

London Business School

London Business School

4) Harvard Tops 2015 Financial Times Ranking: Unlike U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek, the Financial Times allows international schools to compete with their American counterparts. And boy do they ever hold their own! 10 of the 20 highest-ranked full-time MBA programs are found outside the United States in the Financial Times’ methodology, with the London Business School ranking 2nd, behind Harvard and ahead of Wharton and Stanford. Similarly, INSEAD tops Columbia and IESE bests MIT, Booth and Haas. In a nod to Asia’s emergence, CEIBs places ahead of Kellogg and Yale.

Think of the Financial Times as the most intricate of rankings. Weighted salary and salary increase each account for 20% of a ranking – with research rank adding another 10%. Beyond that, no metric amounts to anything more than 6% of a program’s rank, with variables measured including value for the money, career progress, placement success, alumni recommendations, female students and faculty, international students and faculty, international experience, and percentage of faculty with doctorates. The benefit is that schools aren’t purged based on middling performance in one key area. The drawback, of course, is that schools could lose a spot or two thanks to more obscure rubrics like female board members and languages spoken.

The ranking also features some key metrics. Wondering how fast alumni are moving up? Check out the career progress ranking, which features two Indian Institutes of Management (Ahmedabad and Bangalore) ranking alongside Stanford and Harvard. Alumni recommendations gauge how well graduates from various schools are regarded by MBAs who may act as potential peers and decision-makers (Harvard, Stanford and Wharton rank 1-2-3 here). Looking for a strong academic flavor? Check out the research rankings, which are based on articles published in the top journals (Think Wharton, Harvard, Stern and Toronto Rotman here).

Despite the myriad of criteria evaluated – along with the inclusion of international programs – the Financial Times rankings are just as steady as those published by U.S. News. 9 of the 10 programs ranked in FT’s Top 10 three years ago remain there, with Haas being the only new addition (and it only climbed one spot to 10th).

Small group class discussion in the MIT Sloan School of Management - Ethan Baron photo

Small group class discussion in the MIT Sloan School of Management – Ethan Baron photo

5) Harvard Business School Tops Bloomberg Businessweek 2015 Ranking: Here we are – the ranking that started it all. If you place greater value on opinion over data, Bloomberg Businessweek is the ranking for you. Here, 80% of a school ranking is predicated on survey results with employers, alumni, and students. On the plus side, such sentiments can tip off applicants to changes in how the program is perceived by the marketplace. However, this approach also leaves the ranking vulnerable to wild swings based on who is targeted and how many potential respondents participate. Need evidence? Just look at Yale – a darling in recent b-school rankings. In 2012, the program was ranked 21st by Businessweek. It skyrocketed to 6th last year, but then stumbled back to 11th this year (including ranking 23rd in the existentially significant student survey).

So who was this year’s big winner in BW? Let’s start in Chicago, where Booth and Kellogg ranked 2nd and 3rd (below Harvard). Booth’s strength came in the employer survey and job placement, where it ranked above all other schools. That said, Kellogg earned higher scores in the alumni and student surveys – with Kellogg also finishing a hair higher than Booth in starting salaries.

Sloan and Haas also received good news from BW. Each jumped ten spots into the Top 10. MIT excelled in the employer survey and salaries, reaching the Top five in both. Berkeley, on the other hand, ranked 4th in both the alumni and student surveys. This reflects a customer satisfaction rate that you won’t find anywhere else – except at Rice University (Jones). There, students and alumni ranked the school 2nd and 3rd respectively, indicating that the community loves the Jones experience – and the benefits they reaped afterwards.

Still, plenty of schools had to be disappointed with how they fared with Businessweek this year. Fuqua plummeted from its perch to the 8th spot. And the University of Maryland (Smith) suffered a 16 spot drop over the previous year – despite again ranking first in the student survey. And Wharton was passed by Booth, Kellogg, and Sloan in the overall rankings, along with crashing to 6th among employers after notching the highest scores from recruiters the year before.

And you can expect even more volatility in next year’s ranking. Just look at last year, where Indiana was the runner up to Maryland in the student survey. This year, they barely cracked the Top 15. Among employers, Stanford got face planted, slumping 10 spots behind the likes of the University of Washington(Foster) and Carnegie Mellon (Tepper). Looking for next year’s big mover? Think 14th-ranked Tuck, whose alumni rank (8th) belies a school where the annual fund raising campaign generates a 70%-80% response rate.

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