2016 Businessweek MBA Ranking

Stanford University's Graduate School of Business gained five places to finish second, right behind Harvard Business School

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business gained five places to finish second, right behind Harvard Business School


The most revealing insights into the ranking’s flaws are exposed through several core elements of the methodology, namely the magazine’s employer and student surveys that together account for 65% of the overall ranking. In some cases, a school’s fall or rise can be easily explained by the results of Businessweek’s employer survey. In all probability, Kellogg’s six-place drop to ninth place this year occurred after its employer rank fell from second to seventh. Rice’s surprising eighth place finish can easily be explained by its 26-place improvement in the recruiter ranking from 40th last year to 14th this year. Behind North Carolina State plunge of 40 places was a 35-position drop in its recruiter scores from 20th to 55th (see our analysis of how the employer ranking changed for the top 25 schools last year).

Among the schools suffering the biggest drops on the employer survey were William & Mary, down 37 places; George Washington, down 33 spots, Miami, falling 30 positions, and Georgetown University’s McDonough School, which declined by 23 spots. American University’s Kogod School, meantime, somehow jumped 38 places on the employer survey, from 43rd to 15th–above NYU Stern and Virginia Darden–while Syracuse University’s Whitman School saw a 38-point increase to 19th from 47.

How it’s possible for a school to gain or fall that much in a single year says more about the inherent flaws in the ranking’s methodology than it does about rising or falling recruiter enthusiasm for a school’s graduates. And for every somewhat explainable rise or fall, there are as many inexplicable ranking changes. Stanford’s five-place improvement that put it in second place from seventh in 2015, for example, was despite a six-position drop in its employer ranking to 20th place from 14th a year earlier.


Truth is, Businessweek’s employer survey is riddled with mysteries. How is it possible that the University of Washington’s Foster School ranks 12th among employers when Stanford is 20th and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School is 26th, just ahead of Buffalo which sits at 27th? How is it even remotely the case that Rice University’s Jones School is thought to be the 14th best producer of MBAs in the U.S. by the employers who filled out the Businessweek survey when Yale’s School of Management is ranked 22nd?

The nonsensical results are largely a function of the survey’s design and the fact that the magazine is sending its questionnaires to alumni, many of whom only recruit at a single school and have no basis for comparing one school’s graduates with another. The anomalies can very well be the result of sample error as well. Some recruiter alumni may be more likely to fill out the Businessweek survey than others. This year, Businessweek says it surveyed 11,877 recruiters and received responses from 1,055 recruiters at more than 500 companies.

The results of the alumni survey, accounting for 30% of the ranking, are another head-scratching exercise. Businessweek says the results are based on more than 15,000 responses from the classes of 2008, 2009, and 2010, but does not disclose how many alums received the surveys nor the response rate. Here, too, roller-coaster up-and-downs are common. The alumni rank of Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business plunged 47 positions to 67th from 20th, while the rank for UT-Austin’s McCombs School of Business dropped 22 places to 35th from 13th (see our analysis of how the alumni survey ranks changed for the top 25 schools last year).

While it’s certainly possible for alumni of the University of Oklahoma to be more satisfied with their MBA experience, to have experienced hefty pay increases and to be happier about their current jobs than graduates of other more prominent schools, it certainly seems improbable for Oklahoma to outperform so many great schools. Yet, Businessweek accords Oklahoma an alumni rank of 15, better than MIT Sloan (25), UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School (26), Columbia Business School (31), the University of Texas at Austin (35), and Michigan Ross (48).


  • Michelin

    LOL – sounds like someone who was rejected from the GSB. 🙂 Not sure what your beef is with Stanford, but I know plenty of folks who got into HBS (but were rejected from the GSB) who would certainly have chosen Stanford had they gotten in. These rankings are pretty much a joke.

  • MBAHopeful

    I’m having a hard time deciding, I got into Fuqua and Wharton and don’t know which one to go to. Fuqua is rated higher but I heard Wharton is pretty good too..any thoughts?

  • Princeton Graduate

    Cool story.

  • CBSsquared

    I guess it speaks to the unity of Duke students to ban together to generate higher rankings wherever possible…but to actually think Fuqua (avg.gmat <700) is higher than Wharton, Booth, MIT, CBS, Kellogg etc etc….is ridiculous. I know a lot of students at Fuqua. They are hard working and determined, but certainly not top-tier quality.

  • Rolandgardner


  • CBSsquared

    Honestly – there is no way to take this ranking seriously….Rice over CBS, Haas, Kellogg, Yale, Ross ??

    I guarantee there is 0 students currently at Rice who were admitted to any of those other programs. That should be the true test of a rank – if you go into a higher ranked you generally choose to go there.

  • Booth’17

    You are right bro!

  • StanfordSucks

    Ah. As you can see, Harvard is consistently on top (or top 5) in ANY list. Stanford,not so much. Stanford is now a has been, just like its ex-Dean who has no ethics. Stanford is below Harvard in ever reputable (and even disreputable) ranking that matters.

    Stanford better watch because Booth is now its peer, not Harvard. Stanford is going to decline to rank 5-10 just like Wharton did 5 years ago and it will never recover just like Wharton never recovered.

  • C. Taylor

    On Rice:
    It is a little silly to think guys considering Rice expect an HBS experience or outcome. Rice has a fine MBA program and falls in a different consideration set. Consider your profile and what you’d like to do post-MBA, if that matches up with Rice–put in an app! Rice places a lot of guys in the Southwest.

    On the BB-BW ranking:
    It’s not all out yet. In general, I like the changes Bloomberg initiated last year. Bloomberg’s ranking is nicely differentiated now–and not in a bad way. Would I change some stuff? Definitely. Does it have value as is? Absolutely. BB put its own twist on the rankings and I like how this shakes things up.

    The thing about USN’s ranking is that it is based in large part on what deans of b-schools think. And those old stodges are, shall we say, not flexible in their thinking. The reason rankings like BB’s show some differences is that BB brought in other parties who have fresher bases for comparison.

    So BB’s ranking isn’t ideal–but it does bring a welcome freshness in a positive direction. Keep at it Bloomberg! And bring in PPP.

  • Shivek Maroli

    you’ll need to do the number of placements over the total class size, or rather, number of people who apply to MBB within the class to get to a fair comparison. and yes, MBBD isn’t a thing. There are other consulting firms that are closer to MBB eg OW than Deloitte.

  • Stanford’19

    Also, logically it seems more likely that students from lower ranked schools (Rice) are more likely to artificially inflate certain variable scores in order to appear higher in the ranking (Bloomberg). It’s not personal experiences that shape the school rankings, but just a bunch of students who got rejected at M7 and T-15 trying to justify going to lower ranked schools.

    IMHO Rice will never be a top 25 school!

    MBA is a one time opportunity, and you will either have Harvard on your resume for your entire career or Rice. Big difference.

  • DACochran

    Thank you for eloquently describing my source of frustration with many who commented. Many cannot fathom how I can honestly say I would have chosen Rice over Kellogg or Columbia based on my life goals.

    Assuming that every high quality business school applicant desires a particular set of careers at a particular set of employers ignores the personal nature of business school. For me, accepting an offer at one of those firms has been the cherry on top that in no way changes the underlying transformative experience.

  • Very true, Barbara.

  • Barbara Coward

    I think that what’s behind some of the surprising results is, in part, due to the very personal experience and expectations of one’s education. For example, someone who is going to a top school will bring very high expectations of what the brand will deliver. One other hand, someone who has a broad and flexible approach to career goals (e.g., “I want to transition from the military to corporate sector, and it doesn’t have to be a blue-chip employer”) will invariably be more satisfied with the outcome. It’s all relative.

  • MBA alum

    one questions whether Rice does secure a ton of highly talented MBAs. Realistically, Rice still lags by a fair
    amount in average overall job placement compared to the top 10 MBA programs,
    especially for the most competitive employers.

    Using your example of job placement in consulting, you noted that Rice annually
    generates between 0 to 3 job placements at MBB.
    If you compare this to Kellogg and Columbia, which are rated lower on Bloomberg’s
    highly flawed MBA ranking system, then you will find that their MBB job
    placement is 30X to 40X greater than Rice.
    Kellogg generated 88 MBB jobs (34 McKinsey, 28 Bain and 26 BCG) and Columbia
    generated 119 MBB jobs (55 McKinsey, 35 Bain and 29 BCG). This may be one of the reasons that Kellogg
    and Columbia annually generate 6x to 7x more applications to their MBA programs as
    compared to Rice’s MBA program.

  • DrewRosenbaum

    Data that points to “frequent offers that effectively pay for business school via sign-on bonuses”? I’m seeing CBS at $30k and Rice at $25k from P&Q April article “The Highest MBA Signing Bonuses”.

    Completely agree with you about the global brand of Columbia vs. Rice and the flexibility that gives.

    As for entrepreneurship: I have to disagree, as does the Princeton Review. Rice is ranked 3rd, CBS is not in the top 25.

  • David__D

    Feel free to believe whatever you wish. Rice places anywhere from 0-3 per year at MBB. I’m not arguing that Rice places as well as CBS, simply noting that there are in fact a great deal of excellent MBA candidates who choose Rice for a number of reasons and I can speak to that personally.

  • MBA survey

    No one who works at one of the MBBs would ever refer to themselves as MBBD. It’s clea that you are working at Deloitte, which is a solid choice. Have not searched online, but do you happen to know how many students a year out of Rice get into MBB? Thanks.

  • Guest

    Columbia – any good MBA candidate would agree. Better education at the school. Better post graduation opportunities and income. Frequent offers that effectively pay for business school via sign-on bonuses. Globally known unlike Rice, thus affording graduates the chance to live and work in a greater variety of locations including Rice’s backyard.

    Also, in contrast to what the poster below states, Columbia would outdo Rice in entrepreneurship and real estate by some distance.

    In summary, the average present value of the Columbia investment would be much higher than the average present value of the Rice investment even with the $40,000 cash.

  • David__D

    Depends on a candidate’s goals. Rice places very well in energy banking, decent in consulting. Rice would edge out CBS in Real Estate, Energy, Healthcare, and Entrepreneurship.

    PE/VC/other high finance goals should go to CBS. General Management is probably a wash, I highly doubt Rice does as well at the C-Suite level but CBS isn’t HBS either. Still, if that was my goal I’d likely go to CBS.

    And then there’s the question of location. I’m not a NY guy (loved living in Boston) and I’m from Texas so for me making $150k living like a king in Dallas or Houston is 10x better than trying to live on that in Manhattan. That’s a personal preference though, I completely understand many people want to be in NYC.

    Full disclosure: I go to Rice, transitioned from engineering to consulting (MBBD) and couldn’t be happier. I would have gone to Sloan or HBS over Rice but can honestly say I wouldn’t have gone to CBS (didn’t apply, not interested in NYC or finance).

  • MBA alum

    Good point. In fact, Bloomberg’s methodology is somewhat silly. For example, the student salary rank and job placement rank is equally rated by Bloomberg. Stanford is ranked #1 in salary and #57 in job placement. Whereas, Rutgers is ranked #47 in salary and #1 in job placement. Thus, Rutgers gets a better overall combined job salary and placement ranking compared to
    Stanford. This does not remotely reflect reality, where Stanford’s graduates have much better access to the most desirable or elite jobs (PE, IB, VC, BMB Consulting, Google, etc.) and Stanford
    average starting salary of $140,553 is over 50% higher than Rutgers’ average starting salary of $91,588.

    The US News & World Report ranking methodology clearly more accurately reflects the true market value for the top 25 MBA programs using its combination of peer assessment, recruiter assessment, salaries, employment rates, and selectivity measurement (GPA, GMAT, acceptance
    rate). It is not a perfect system, but is much more in line with student selectivity, recruiter preferences, and short and long term compensation.

  • Orange1

    Couldn’t agree more.

  • Tesla

    Columbia no question..

  • AP

    Columbia any day. Not even close.

  • MBA survey

    Question to everyone!! Please like so it gets on top and everyone would get a chance to respond!!
    Which option would you choose:
    1) Rice -> full ride + $40K cash at graduation as your bonus
    2) Columbia -> no scholarships

  • Top Tier MBA

    As someone who has followed various MBA rankings for a number of years, I think B School candidates should view/use both the Bloomberg and US News rankings in order to get a couple of data points. Yes, the US News rankings display more reliability over time, but you you really think the Dean’s Peer Assessment Scores are gong to change materially over time as well? In my view, the Bloomberg rankings can help candidates identify diamonds in the rough (i.e., Rice), and they can couple that assessment with the US News Rankings in order to determine specifically what schools to apply to.

  • WizWaz

    Dear Bloomberg Joking team, every single cow in Netherlands knows that Kellogg is better than Rice. Please stop this Joke.

  • radish

    Not really. Students and MBA aspirants are pretty aware these days about the top 20 programs, that are: (without order): M7 schools + Haas, Tuck, Duke, Darden, Yale, Cornell, NYU, Michigan, UCLA, UNC, Tepper, Emory, and Indiana + Texas. M7 schools are the top followed by these schools, everyone of them provide almost same quality education, same target jobs. There are of course what called soft differentiation for choosing program over the other, for example, if someone interested in consulting, it is better to go for Kellogg from M7 or Darden, Tuck, or Emory. For finance, there are Wharton, Chicago, Columbia on M7 and there are Cornell, NYU, and UNC. For technology, there are Stanford, MIT in M7 and Tepper, Cornell, and Haas or UCLA or Texas. For general management there are HBS, Kellogg, Stanford, in M7 and Tuck, darden, Michigan..So, this list is solid and it is very hard to be affected by any fluctuation in rankings..

  • zamiatin

    Not a knock on Jones (Rice) as I had a client apply there last year, but there are at least five lower-ranked schools that most applicants would prefer. The year-to-year swings in the ratings underscore how unreliable they are, as programs (and the perceptions thereof) don’t change that much in that short a timeframe.

  • Mario

    I think these rankings need a good sanity check.
    These rankings are harmful for strong MBA programs that are consistently between the 10th and 20th spots.

  • James

    Just wonder: What kind of employers that put Stanford in 6th place?!

  • Edward

    For me, and after long time observing MBA rankings, It is clear that USNEWS ranking is the most credible, most reliable, and provide much more information than any other ranking. This Bloomberg rank is the economist US equivalent rank. Complete joke.