The Economist’s 2016 MBA Ranking Is A Doozy

Stanford University's Graduate School of Business

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business


A longer five-year look at The Economist‘s rankings shows an especially topsy-turvy result. The University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business moved 44 places over that timeframe to a rank of 55 from 99 in 2012; York University’s business school had a 40-place drop to 56th place this year from the lofty heights of a rank of 16 in 2012. Warwick Business School saw a 40-place climb in the same period, rising to a rank of 20th this year from 60 in 2012. Among the schools on the list for the 2016-2015 period, the average change was 12.8 places, with the greatest movement for MBA programs ranked 50th to 75th. The average change for those business schools was nearly 18 places.

To its credit, The Economist puts a warning label on its list every year. “Rankings are little more than an indication of the MBA market at a particular moment,” according to the magazine. “They reflect the prevailing conditions such as salaries, jobs available and the situation at a school at the time the survey was carried out. Results of rankings can be volatile, so they should be treated with caution.” Indeed.

What did it take for Chicago to win yet again? Because The Economist uses 21 different metrics in its methodology, it’s hard to get a clear view of why Booth seems so entrenched at the top of this ranking.The student assessment of the school’s culture, on a scale of one to five is 4.58, which puts Booth behind 19 other schools in 20th place. Booth ranks 59th when it comes to the percentage increase in pay—73.4%—MBAs get when in their first jobs out of the school. The post MBA salary of its graduates was 11th best at $120,772. Even Booth’s faculty, among the most highly regarded in the world, is rated 17th by The Economist, while the student quality is rated 10th. The student assessment of Booth’s alumni effectiveness is 32nd, while the breadth of the alumni network is 51st.

On the surface, those are not chest-beating results for the No. 1 school. In fact, the only category for which Booth is first is something The Economist calls “personal development and educational experience.” Regardless, all these metrics go into an odd stew to make up the final results. Trying to make much sense of this is virtually impossible—and when you look at some of the individual ranks the magazine assigns to certain categories, the results can be utterly bewildering.


Consider that this year The Economist’s ranked the University of Queensland Business School in Australia first in student quality and post-MBA salaries and seventh in faculty quality. Harvard Business School’s student quality is deemed to rank 13th, while the HBS faculty ranks a shockingly low 56th. Stanford’s Graduate School of Business does a bit better on these measures, but still well below Queensland. The Economist claims that Stanford has the 8th best student quality and the 49th best faculty quality.

Among the world’s best business schools, moreover, Queensland is among the least transparent. Go to the school’s website and you would be unable to find the most basic information about its full-time MBA program. There’s no class profile with average GMAT scores or acceptance rates. There’s no employment report with starting salaries and the percentage of graduates with job offers at graduation or three months later. Just as puzzling, the backup data The Economist includes for most of the schools in the ranking is competely missing for Queensland.

So how in the world could Queensland be tenth? How can it possibly be ahead of such prestige MBA players as Columbia, Wharton, INSEAD, Yale, MIT Sloan, Duke, Michigan and a host of other superb business schools that offer full transparency of their numbers to would-be students making the important career decision on whether to get an MBA?


Of course, it’s not by any objective measure. It’s why Ralf Boscheck, program director of IMD’s MBA program, unsuccessfully tried to pull out of this ranking. “I don’t understand the methodology,” he says. His team at IMD tried to make some sense out of the previous metrics and couldn’t. “We tried to retrofit the logic with people here and ended up with more questions than could be answered.”

Though The Economist ranked IMD and Oxford without their cooperation, the magazine listed 16 schools that it said had declined to participate and that it did not rank. Those schools include CEIBS in China, the University of Toronto, McGill University, and the Indian School of Business. The Economist said that another five schools–Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, UC-Irvine, Fordham, Imperial College, and Rutgers–completed their first year of participation and will be eligible for rankings in 2017. So readers can expect still more change ahead.

In fact, besides the ups and downs of the schools that stayed on the list year over year, there are another 16 schools that either dropped out of last year’s list or edged their way onto this year’s ranking. Eight schools on last year’s list fell out of the 2016 ranking, including Concordia’s Molson, the International University of Japan, Ryerson’s Rogers School, the University of Arizona’s Eller School, HEC Montreal, SP Jain (which was kicked out due to insuffient data), the University of South Carolina’s Moore School, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

This year’s newbies include No. 51 Georgia Institute of Technology, No. 71 UC-Davis, No. 85 Purdue University’s Krannert School, No. 89 North Carolina State’s Poole School, No. 94 Audencia Nantes, No. 95 Copenhagen Business School, No. 97 HHL Leipzig Graduate School, and No. 98 Sun Yat-sen Business School in China.

Looking through the ingredients of this stew brings only more skepticism than the magazine’s overall ranking. But for schools looking to impress prospective students, many will be issuing news releases today and tomorrow, plugging these latest results on their websites and marketing brochures, and pretending that The Economist’s ranking actually has real gravitas. How silly.

(See following page for the full 2016 Economist MBA ranking)

  • Typically right around now. But the editors are waiting for a spot in the magazine and expect it to come out later this month.

  • Greg

    When is this year’s ranking due?

  • And those “metrics” are all just pseudo scientific babble to help the reports sell their real money makers (consulting and bachool fairs)

  • No one would chose to go to any other bschool if they got into HBS or GSB – unless they have a family that can’t move or get a generous scholarship. No one.

  • Pingback: The Economist’s 2016 MBA Rankings()

  • somquaredtrolling

    No, somsquared is an insecure Yale SOMer who pretends to be a Cornell Johnson grad/student to disguise his SOM trolling attempts.

  • RedLetmme

    Buddy if you haven’t caught on yet somsquared is a troll PRETENDING to go to Yale. Someone in another room debunked who it was and foudn out he is a Cornell Johnson grad. Cheers.

  • Revenge of SOM squared

    hopefully soon – I want to see YSOM near the top. It’s been skyrocketing in P&Q ranking

  • garmi

    when will the P&Q ranking 2016 be released?

  • F500-Leadership-Rotational

    Don’t forget that many of top HR officers in the vast majority of the big companies are absolutely aware of (if not an alumni) Cornell ILR. This will help a lot when entering the job market.

  • F500-Leadership-Rotational

    Both are good schools. But I would pick Cornell for several reasons: 1- It is top US ivy league school (Prestige, Quality Education, Loyal Alumni, belong to great university)
    2- Cornell is known for its leadership in science, technology, engineering and economics, the main disciplines for modern businesses. 3- Cornell will serve your career goals better, whether you want to work in US or internationally.
    INSEAD, on the other side is excellent for consulting internationally, this means narrowing your options on the industry and geography levels, consulting and international, that means you will be weaker for the other wide range of industries, and weaker if you target US market, or to some extent, US company.
    Again, both schools are good, but this is my opinion based on solid experience in HR field.

  • USNewsWarrior

    rising school based on what data? All the rankings show Cornell stagnant or dropping. If you want to go to a rising school I would look at YSOM. #1 brand in the world and 6th best B-school.

  • C. Taylor

    Depends on you. INSEAD will be great in the US when you have a strong background in your field and seek a role that builds on your background. If you are shifting into US-based banking from a non-banking background, you should have better odds of an internship at Cornell’s two-year program and the extra year provides more time to network.

    If shifting an aspect of your career, the January intake at INSEAD is better than the September intake (internship opportunities). You really should network in your target industry from day one–or earlier–in that case. Those who do this find superior success.

  • Bain-MBA

    Cornell will serve inside AND outside US, while INSEAD serves only outside US. So, it is better to attend Cornell. It is a rising school.

  • C

    If you want to work in the US, pick Cornell. Anywhere else, pick INSEAD.

  • Canada-MBA

    I have a question regarding a school which used to be highly regarded and ranked highly in the past. The Sauder School of Business of the University of British Columbia, why this decline in major rankings?

  • WEST

    Next Month I guess.

  • Buddy

    You SOM trolls are the absolute worst.

  • somsquared

    based on what data points? SOM/Booth are superior to HBS/SGSB/Wharton in nearly every single metric including GMAT, GPA, etc. you have no proof for your biased statement.

  • MBA-Recruiting

    Cornell. no brainer…

  • radish

    Could be. Fuqua suddenly made it number 1 in Businessweek last year.

  • Kima

    What about Cornell Johnson? I am seriously thinking of accepting Cornell offer over INSEAD.

  • As someone who attended bschool and makes a living investing and advising within the education industry, I can promise you US News, Economist, QS, and all the others are just events management businesses disguised as objective rankings providers. At the end of the day, the top two business schools are HBS and Stanford GSB, the third is Wharton, and then in some order, the rest of the leading US business schools are Booth/Colombia/Kellogg/MIT/Haas/NYU/etc… The only real moves have been the move up in prestige by Haas over the last 5 years, MIT and LBS over the last 10 and Darden, Tuck and Fuqua over the last 15.

  • USNews warrior

    mark my words, SOM will be #1 next y ear

  • MBAApp

    The best strategy is to apply for two stretch schools: Queensland and HEC, two target schools such as: MIT and Duke. Then to two safe schools such as : Cambridge, Oxford, or USC Marshall.

  • lambda

    when will you be releasing the P&Q 2016 Ranking?


  • NigerianMale

    I’m applying to Queensland! Never stood a chance of getting into Wharton, INSEAD, LBS or Columbia. i love you The Economist.

  • C. Taylor

    Yes. 50 meaningless places are too few. The Economist should rank 200 programs. Then there will be at least 150 meaningless places.

  • TopTierMBA

    Just throw this ranking in the toilet along with Business Week’s undergraduate B School ranking. US News has the only credible ranking out there at the moment.

  • quest

    we are the P&Q community are deeply grateful for his contributions. The day he didn’t feed us with his wisdom and “fancy” language skills, is a lost day, specially when defending Boscheck !

  • JustWonder

    Yes, it is

  • Cam

    The Economist rankings are so far from the norm I’m not sure I take much stock in them when deciding a general rankings list for research purposes.

  • TheFakeDonaldTrump

    I’m the real fake Trump. And wherever is vagina. Be bold.

  • TheFakeDonaldTrump

    * I will put

  • TheFakeDonaldTrump

    Irrelevant. Anyway, while will put you in jail soon.

  • Jojo

    Thank you for explaining the sentences. You must be the smartest person in the whole world. Too bad nobody has heard of you.

  • Buddy

    is this a serious question….

  • JustWonder

    a serious question: Is it possible that someone who is very new to the MBA world would pick Queensland over Wharton or MIT? Will he/she able to sue the economist after facing the reality?

  • Pierre

    Oxford is placed good in this ranking.

  • MBA Reviewer

    Thanks to your education from Fordham.

  • C. Taylor

    So when there are unexplainable changes in a ranking, it’s more often a sign that the methodology is severely flawed and lacks statistical validation.

    It’s worth keeping in mind that almost the entire universe of rankings is increasingly unreliable the further down the list you get. So the positioning of the top ten relative to the aggregate ranking is broadly more meaningful than the positioning of numbers 20 through 30, or 40 through 50 (also relative to the aggregate). This holds for US News. With this in mind, I see no reason a consistent performer such as Darden should not place highly in this special ranking.

    That said, the guys at The Economist certainly have their own approach.

    Often times, for instance, the underlying index scores–which The Economist does not reveal–are so close together that a minute, inconsequential change in one measurement can send a school soaring or plummeting.


  • somsquared

    As expected SOM rose given their stellar stats – highest GMAT, lowest acceptance rate, highest % in MBB/BB/VC/PE. Disappointed it only rose 4 points, but I suspect SOM will surprise us all and take Booth’s #1 next year.

  • TheFakeDonaldTrump

    I did better. I hire schmucks like you. You are the dirt stuck in my shoes. You report to me.

  • Donald J. Trump

    “Blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever” – Me.

  • MBA Reviewer

    I get it and this is why these rankings are dumb. Didn’t read the whole thing (only looked at ranking), but does anyone know the formula they use to measure school’s yearly performance?

  • Harold

    This is old problem of how numbers can be trusted and is quality can be measured .. We all know (You can question that of course) that Harvard is the best university for business in the world, but in numbers, in some statistics methods it does not perform well. Darden performed better. thats it.

  • quest

    Interesting that you know in a considerable amount of detail, how the HBS network looks like despite you attend another school! How is that? I assure you that the quality of the network varies greatly from school to school, from class to class, from time to time, etc. No single place can have the ultimate best network all the time. In every area there is a strengths and weaknesses. In consulting, MBBs in middle east and europe, no single school can beat INSEAD. In VC in high tech, no one can beat Stanford, etc. It all depends on the career goals, and look at them carefully an pick the school that best serve them ..

  • MBA Reviewer

    Wasn’t trying to make jokes about Booth, it’s one of the top business schools only which I believe is only perceived less superior to couple of schools only based on the name (i.e., Harvard/Stanford sound cooler that University of Chicago).

    The real question is: Why has Darden (which no one outside of MBA applicants know) is beating HBS and others for so many years?

  • Nicolas

    I hope your comment is tongue-in-cheek? Look, I went to Booth and I had a very fine experience there, so I feel neither unduly loyal or disloyal. Of course, everyone has his/her own criteria to select a business school, but in my mind the most important criterion is the quality of the network you’ll build.

    And I feel reasonably well positioned to compare the quality of these networks since I hired dozens of MBAs from all the top programs while at McKinsey. As far as I can tell nothing beats Harvard if we define “quality of network” as the combination of:
    –Quality of individuals in the program
    –Number of individuals in the program
    –How close-knit the network remains after graduation
    –Quality/size/closeness of the extended network (i.e. non-HBS Harvard)

    These rankings are a bit of a joke IMHO

  • Calima

    seriously, their ranking is a complete joke with loads of mistakes.

  • HACK

    It is not only your eyes that will be opened by P&Q. Just wait and enjoy !

  • MBA Reviewer

    I applied only to Harvard and got accepted.. But looking into the rankings, I am going to decline the HBS seat and apply to Booth and Darden. Thanks so much P&Q for opening my eyes.

  • quest

    IMD people, you see we love you! we just joked a little 🙂 we put you 7th among Non american schools, and 23rd worldwide! 9 places jump from last year! don’t be greedy, 9 places is the maximum allowed tip per year per school 🙂

  • quest

    Please, someone save the Economist, the magazine, from its intelligence unit with this ridiculous ranking. It destroys its credibility. INSEAD is in Spain… What the hell is going on..


    Queensland Business School NUMBER 10? LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL NUMBER..?
    JE JE,


    this ranking is very bad,