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).