Wharton Holds Top Spot In Academic Research Ranking

Wharton School operations and innovation management professor Christian Terwiesch – Ethan Baron photo

Wharton’s faculty is stacked. Top-to-bottom, you’d be hard-pressed to find a weak link. Call Wharton the New York Yankees of the MBA world. In this star-studded lineup, you’ll find Jeremy Siegel (Mantle), Adam Grant (Berra), Barbara Kahn (Maris), Michael Useem (Richardson), Brian Bushee (Ford), and Karl Ulrich (Houk). Their lectures may have been transformative experiences for MBAs, but their research has left an imprint on scholarly journals, faculty lounges, and cube farms around the world.

That influence shows in the Top 100 Business School Research Rankings sponsored by the University of Texas-Dallas’ Jindal School of Management. For the past decade, Wharton has headlined the ranking, which measures publication in 24 top business journals. While Wharton may have ceded a little ground in 2017, the school remains perched atop the research rankings, a streak that stretches back to 2004.


How dominant is Wharton in the field? From 2012-2016, the school posted 305 articles in the journals cited by Jindal, producing an index score of 158.75. In one sense, that could be cause for alarm, as the 2011-2015 period included 327 articles for an index score of 170.82. However, Wharton can afford the drop-off. The runner-up, Harvard Business School, churned out 245 papers in these same journals for a 118.37 score. That’s 60 articles and 40 points short of their Quaker City rivals. Like Wharton, Harvard also slipped in its research production over the past five years, reinforcing the gap between the schools.

Hasan Pirkul, dean of the School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas

The Jindal Research Ranking was started in 1990. The move, says Hasan Pirkul, Dean of the Jindal School, was inspired to fill a void. Back then, new business school rankings launched by Bloomberg Businessweek and U.S. News & World Report had taken over the spotlight. Both rankings, in Pirkul’s view, had de-emphasized research. In response, business schools began to shift resources away from research and towards areas that would help them climb in the rankings. For Pirkul, the Jindal rankings are a way to restore some balance. Even more, they are a vehicle to hold schools accountable.

“In the past, there were a number of universities that were accepted as excellent schools, but they actually did not do that much research,” he explains in a February phone interview with Poets&Quants. “Since this was not known, I think they got away with it. It was eye-opening. I’m glad to see significant movement up for some schools and others falling behind. That’s what competition does.”


This ranking is as competitive as any. New York University (Stern), for example, a large urban university like Wharton and Stanford, takes the third spot, knocking MIT down to fourth. The top five is rounded out, surprisingly, by Jindal, which ranks ahead of resource-rich state programs like Michigan and North Carolina, not to mention highly-decorated privates like Stanford, Columbia, and Duke. Sweeter still, Jindal basically switched spots with the University of Texas, which dropped to 11th.

What programs do best in the Jindal rankings? Think large, urban, and American. Seven of the top 10 research programs are based in large metros. That number could rise to nine, considering that Ann Arbor is just a 40 minute drive from Detroit and INSEAD sits right outside Paris. The other, Chapel Hill, is smack dab in North Carolina’s acclaimed research triangle.

In addition 22 of the top 25 business research programs are based in the United States, with just INSEAD (9th), the University of Toronto (12th), and the London Business School  (25th) being the exceptions. The numbers improve, to an extent, as the list continues. Overall, the top 50 consists of 39 American schools. Canada features three programs in the top 50 (University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, and McGill University), followed by China (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and City University of Hong Kong), Singapore (Singapore Management University and the National University of Singapore), and the Netherlands (Tilburg University and Erasmus University).


Studying at the NYU Stern School of Business – Ethan Baron photo

Jindal’s methodology tones down the wild year-to-year swings found in other rankings. The 2017 research ranking, for example, is a five year compilation covering publication from 2012-2016. In contrast, 2016 encompassed 2011-2015, meaning the rankings share three of the same five years. As a result, small movements carry greater significance in this ranking. That includes Columbia Business School (9th to 7th) and USC Marshall (11th to 8th), which burnished their credentials as thought leaders with an uptick in production.

The same can’t be said for the University of Toronto (8th to 12th) and INSEAD (7th to 9th). Otherwise, the rankings remained relatively consistent, with the occasional winners (Georgia State jumping from 35th to 27th) and losers (Yale falling from 39th to 46th). This stability is further reflected in the fact that just one school joined the top 50 (Temple sneaking up from 51st to 50th) and one school dropping out (University of South Carolina slipping from 50th to 54th).

That changes decidedly the further back in the rankings that you go. Take the 2012 research, which covered 2007-2011. Here, Wharton and Harvard hold down the top two spots. However, Michigan, currently ranked 6th now, placed 3rd back then. Duke took an even steeper dive, dropping from 4th in 2012 to 15th today, with 52 fewer papers published in the academic journals gauged by Jindal. The University of Chicago and Stanford, which consistently rank among the top five MBA programs globally, punch well below their weight in this research ranking. Over the past five years, Booth has tumbled from 5th to 17th. Stanford has taken a similar fall, going from 7th to 14th. In the same breath, MIT has really ramped up their research over the same period, rising from 14th to 4th. The same could be said for Jindal itself, which has made a similar climb from 16th to 5th.

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