2016 Poets&Quants’ MBA Ranking



Larger movements on the P&Q ranking tend to occur when a school lands on or falls off a consequential ranking. Consider Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management. It moved up nine places this year to rank 34th from 32rd in 2015. The major reason for the upward trend? The school’s MBA program was ranked 39th best in the U.S. by The Financial Times which didn’t rank the school at all a year earlier.

Similarly, Boston College’s Carroll School of Management jumped nine places as well to place 50th this year from 59th a year earlier. That’s because Bloomberg Businessweek included the school on its new 2016 list, at a rank of 48th. In 2015, BC didn’t make the Businessweek list at all. So its presence this year made a big different in our ranking.

That makes sense because if all five of the most influential rankings list a school, it leads to a more credible result. If a school is only ranked by one or two of the five lists, the resulting rank is less authoritative. Some schools, morevoer, chose to cherry pick rankings in which they have more natural advantages based on a list’s methodology. The P&Q rank, by penalizing schools that are not ranked across all five lists, marks down MBA programs that seek to either game the rankings or simply aren’t good enough to appear on all five lists.


The school that lost the most ground this year? It was the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics which plummetted 25 places to rank 95th from 70th last year. Ranking declines in both Businessweek and U.S. News resulted in the free fall for Gatton. UC-San Diego’s Rady School of Management plunged 21 places to a rank of 82nd this year from 61st in 2015. The school’s fall can be attributed to lower rankings from both U.S. News and Businessweek as well as its disappearance from the Financial Times’ ranking in 2016. The University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business lost a dozen places this year, dropping to a rank of 76th from 64th. Both the Financial Times and The Economist failed to rank the school among the best this year after placing Moore 49th among U.S. MBA programs a year earlier.

As for the big winners this year, Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business climbed 16 places to rank 83rd from 99th last year. The difference? U.S. News ranked Gabelli this year, after not including it on its list a year earlier, and the school had an improved showing in the Businessweek survey. The University of Connecticut’s business school jumped 10 places to rank 63rd after gaining ground on both the Businessweek and Financial Times lists. And a trio of schools—Brigham Young, Boston College and Pepperdine University—each rose nine places this year. BYU’s Marriott School of Management advanced to place 34th after improved rankings in both U.S. News and Businessweek as well as gaining a spot on the 2016 Financial Times list. BC’s Carroll School of Management moved up to 50th from 59th by an improvement in its FT rank and getting on the Businessweek list. Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business and Management rose to 72nd from 81st after gaining a place on the list of U.S. News’ best business schools.

Some schools often lose ground in one ranking and gain in another. The University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, for example, dropped four places in the all-important U.S. News ranking this year to a tie of 27th place with three other schools, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. But improved rankings from the Financial Times, The Economist, and Businessweek helped to offset the U.S. News decline. The result: Foster’s standing on the P&Q list at No. 22 was unchanged.


Year-over-year changes in a school’s MBA ranking can sometimes be misleading. More important, however, are the ups and downs over a longer period of time which can reflect a school’s momentum forward or early decline. Over seven years worth of rankings, it’s more notable that Yale University’s School of Management has shown the biggest gains, rising to tenth from 14th in 2010. The Kellogg School has risen three places in that time span, from seventh to fourth. These are especially important changes at the top of the rankings where significant gains or declines are difficult to maintain.

It may be more consequential, in fact, that Chicago Booth has maintained its lead over Wharton for a number of years now and that Kellogg has forced a two-way tie for fourth in this year’s P&Q ranking. In a recent town hall meeting on campus, Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett addressed concern over the school’s declining rankings performance. “Correlation is not causation, but it is true that HBS and GSB spend considerable more money at the MBA level than we do and we suspect that’s true for Chicago Booth as well,” he told students. “We’ve talked about how important the financial aid is for the MBA program for you all and that’s a very big deal. The closer you are to the schools that you have more information, the less relevant the rankings are. We should just try to do the best job we can and it’ll work out in the rankings. I think it’s much harder to game at the top.”

Garrett acknowledged that Wharton is lagging peer schools on scholarship support, which other schools have been using to attract quality applicants who would have otherwise accepted Wharton offers, and that the school’s facilities are less than adequate today. “We seem to be out of space, and the indicator I have for that is the amount of time spent in my office trying to allocate 100 sq. ft., 200 sq. ft., which is enormous,” Garrett added. “I think that space challenges at Wharton are sufficiently serious right now. The other reality about the university is that if we turn the switch to build new buildings, it takes three to four years. If we debt finance the building, we need to take it out of our operation revenue. To be a 100% philanthropic building, we need to raise our fundraising campaign and there are other issues regarding this.”


School Decline 2016 Rank 2015 Rank Reason
Kentucky (Gatton) -25 95 70 Lower rankings by U.S. News & BW
UC-San Diego (Rady) -21 82 61 Lower rankings in U.S. & BW, lost FT ranking
South Carolina (Moore) -12 76 64 Fell off both FT and Economist rankings
Arizona State (Carey) -8 44 36 Lower U.S. News ranking, loss of FT rank
Texas Christian (Neeley) -8 64 56 Lower BW & Economist rankings
Tennessee (Haslam) -8 79 71 Loss of BW ranking

Source: P&Q analysis

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