MIT Sloan | Mr. AI & Robotics
GMAT 750, GPA 3.7
Tuck | Mr. Liberal Arts Military
GMAT 680, GPA 2.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Social Entrepreneur
GRE 328, GPA 3.0
Wharton | Mr. Industry Switch
GMAT 760, GPA 3.95
Stanford GSB | Mr. Irish Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Marine Executive Officer
GRE 322, GPA 3.28
Harvard | Ms. Developing Markets
GMAT 780, GPA 3.63
Harvard | Mr. Policy Player
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Mr. Future Non-Profit
GMAT 720, GPA 8/10
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Tough Guy
GMAT 680, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. CPPIB Strategy
GRE 329 (Q169 V160), GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Chicago Booth | Mr. Unilever To MBB
GRE 308, GPA 3.8
Chicago Booth | Mr. Bank AVP
GRE 322, GPA 3.22
Kellogg | Mr. Double Whammy
GMAT 730, GPA 7.1/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Infantry Officer
GRE 320, GPA 3.7
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Ernst & Young
GMAT 600 (hopeful estimate), GPA 3.86
Kellogg | Mr. Engineer Volunteer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Kellogg | Mr. Operations Analyst
GMAT Waived, GPA 3.3
Kellogg | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 760, GPA 3.15
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Indian Dreamer
GRE 331, GPA 8.5/10
Kellogg | Mr. Innovator
GRE 300, GPA 3.75
London Business School | Ms. Private Equity Angel
GMAT 660, GPA 3.4
Chicago Booth | Ms. Indian Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 9.18/10
Yale | Ms. Biotech
GMAT 740, GPA 3.29
Stanford GSB | Ms. Global Empowerment
GMAT 740, GPA 3.66
Harvard | Mr. Renewables Athlete
GMAT 710 (1st take), GPA 3.63

Are Academics Out Of Step With Recruiters & Students?

approved-stamp

Grade inflation isn’t just for students anymore. Turns out, academics give their fellow MBA programs high marks, too. Question is, are those grades based on rigorous examination — or just slipshod opinion?

That’s the question at the heart of the annual U.S. News & World Report Best Business School Rankings, which uses academic opinion as its foundation. In theory, business academics may appear well positioned to evaluate their peers. Unlike their liberal arts kin, who are traditionally lampooned as insulated fusspots, business profs are often regarded as thought leaders who help shape their field.

Just because they’re attuned to the macro trends of industry, however, doesn’t necessarily translate to being literate in the micro developments at individual business schools.

EVALUATING SCHOOLS BASED ON LIMITED EXPOSURE

U.S. News

It’s no secret: “Peer” assessments can make or break a business school’s annual U.S. News ranking, the most closely followed ranking of U.S. MBA programs. These assessments account for 25% of a ranking, but the process is shrouded in mystery. According to U.S. News’ methodology, business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs score schools using a scale from 1 (Marginal) to 5 (Outstanding). As a caveat, U.S. News notes that respondents — the 41% who actually participated — are told to just mark “Don’t Know” for schools where they have limited exposure.

You can imagine the issues this creates.

For one, the actual size of the sample is never disclosed by U.S. News, let alone the number of evaluations a school received. That means readers have no idea just how much weight each assessment carried — particularly considering U.S. News’ narrow five-point system, which could be a boon or albatross for schools with lower response rates. More importantly, the scoring is vague. Are respondents appraising academic acumen, student quality, or outputs like salary and placement — or some mixture that may not be consistent from one respondent to the next?

Above all, the survey’s simplistic requirements rouse concerns about the respondents’ actual exposure to schools where they neither work nor (in all likelihood) retain a regular presence. As a result, the results risk being tainted by chatter or bias — or, most likely, the year-prior rankings.

ACADEMICS GAVE A 0.2-0.3 AVERAGE POINT ADVANTAGE TO NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF TOP 25 SCHOOLS   

Stanford University

Stanford University

This distance between evaluator and subject may be one reason for the gap between peer and recruiter assessments with U.S. News. Both rely on the same five-point scale. However, their school averages are noticeably different. Take U.S. News’ Top 10 MBA programs in the 2017 rankings. In seven out of 10 schools, two- or three-tenths of a point separates peer and recruiter scores. Notably, academics gave Stanford a 4.8 average, tying the GSB with Harvard Business School for the top score. However, recruiter scores for Stanford and Harvard averaged 4.5, the same scores as Kellogg, Booth, Sloan, and Wharton. A similar result occurs with UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business (4.6 peer versus 4.3 recruiter) and the Columbia Business School (4.4 versus 4.1). Not to mention, academics scored four top 10 programs —Harvard, Sloan, Wharton, and Booth —at a 0.2 point clip higher than recruiters.

It doesn’t just stop with the elite schools. Among U.S. News’ top 25 schools overall, there were 12 schools where academics gave a 0.2-point average advantage over recruiter scores, with another four schools sporting a 0.3-point gain. In this segment, just three schools came away with the same average in both categories: Yale (4.3), Cornell (4.1), and Notre Dame (3.5).

Big picture, these disparities are even more pronounced. Academics confer higher scores, as a whole, by a 4.32-to-4.20 margin among top 25 schools. However, there were exceptions to academics rewarding perceived top schools with higher scores — notably among schools ranked below 15th. They included Texas and Georgetown (both 0.2 of a point better with recruiters) and Emory, Vanderbilt, and Rice (+0.1 among recruiters).

(Go to next page to see peer assessments from 2006-2017)