If you’re a poet, you associate spring with renewal. You exalt the healing powers of sunshine and showers as cold turns to commotion. The cycle is similar for professionals weighing business school. Here, spring is a time to start and commit. For some, it is choosing between school offers. For others, it is the point when you start prepping for your GMAT and researching potential targets.
So what differentiates MBA programs? To find the answers, you’ll probably start by consulting websites and rankings. Once you whittle down your options, you’ll move on to visiting campuses and reaching out to alumni and former students. Location…concentrations…scholarship money–they all play a part. Eventually, you’ll want to focus on the intangibles. Chances are, you’ll ask these questions during your journey: Which schools have the most talented and supportive peers? Where will you find the best scholars, teachers, and practitioners? What programs boast the best facilities and career support?
ECONOMIST MBA SURVEY IS THE SILVER LINING IN A MIDDLING RANKING
You’re in luck. Each year a survey is conducted on these very issues. Better yet, they are completed by MBA students and recent graduates themselves. And the kicker is, the survey is conducted by the most improbable of sources: The Economist.
Yes, everyone loves bashing The Economist. Lord knows, they leave themselves open to ridicule. In The Economist’s flaky and fluky world, Stanford ranks as just the 13th-best full-time MBA program in the world. Australia’s Queensland Business School places higher than Yale and Duke. And London Business School barely cracks the top 25. It’s a strange dynamic, really. The Economist’s methodology, a mix of quantitative metrics balanced against qualitative student survey results, sound great in theory. In practice, the rankings resemble Batman vs. Superman, a dissonant mash of holes and ridiculousness where the parts are more appealing than the whole.
That said, the student and alumni survey may be the most valuable parts of all. Based on data collected last spring, The Economist survey measures the quality of facilities, faculty, curriculum, culture, and career services separately using a five point scale. To qualify, each school’s response rate must either equal “25% of the latest intake or 50 students/alumni (whichever is lower).” Think of the survey this way: It would be like tapping 25 or more students–from each school–about key areas that are often hard to measure. And the results provide a way to stack schools according to their strengths and weaknesses, along with judging MBA enthusiasm after they step onto campus.
DUKE, UCLA AND VIRGINIA OFFER THE BEST FACILITIES
Let’s start with facilities. In this area, Duke (Fuqua) earns the highest collective mark at 4.78, barely edging out UCLA (Anderson) at 4.76 and the University of Virginia (Darden) at 4.75. What is Fuqua’s secret? They are continuously upgrading their facilities year-after-year, focusing most heavily on embedding classroom technology and carving out more space for meetings and activities. Most recently, the school invested $47 million dollars to renovate their Thomas Executive Conference Center to add guest rooms and a 5,600 square-foot meeting room.
Thanks to a $100 million dollar gift from Marion Anderson in 2015, Anderson intends to build a new tech and research center. However, students were already pleased with the school’s infrastructure, which includes six interconnected buildings featuring distinctive terracotta brick and limestone exteriors. Still, the most picturesque campus may be Darden, where its red brick exteriors and classical columns, punctuated by spacious courtyards, harkens back to the age of Thomas Jefferson. Not to mention, the campus also features a recreation center that includes an Olympic-sized pool along with several basketball and racquetball courts.
At the opposite end, London Business School and HEC Paris were judged by MBAs to offer the worst facilities. Not surprisingly, three American schools in the midst of large scale construction projects–the University of Texas (McCombs), Northwestern University (Kellogg), and the University of Michigan (Ross)–rank low in this part of The Economist survey. Expect those schools to climb into the upper echelon in the coming years.