Stanford Tops New B-School Ranking
Another week, another business school ranking. Two weeks ago, Forbes released their bi-annual ranking, which focused on pay growth for MBA. Now, Times Higher Education (THE), a London-based magazine covering higher education, comes to the plate. This week, THE released its 2018 World University Rankings for business and economics. The rankings compare universities’ “overall broad provision in the fields of business and economics.”
Here, you can chalk up another accolade for Stanford University, which topped the 2018 list. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) dropped a spot to 2nd, as Oxford finished 3rd again. The London Business School is the “highest new entry” coming in 4th place. Harvard and Wharton placed 6th and 9th respectively.
Overall, the rankings are dominated by universities from the US and UK. However, Asian universities also fared well with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the National University of Singapore, and Peking University all securing spots in the top 20.
The World University Rankings carry a certain validity, as perennial powers like Northwestern Kellogg, Chicago Booth, and U.C.-Berkeley Haas produced Top 10 finishes—no different than gold standard rankings like U.S. News & World Report. However, prospective students should pay close attention to the methodology behind THE’s rankings.
For starters, THE focused on the following subjects for 2018’s rankings:
- Business and Management
- Accounting and Finance or Business and Economics: Business and Management and Accounting and Finance (combined)
- Economics and Econometrics
In other words, it discounted popular specializations like operations and marketing, which immediately makes the results suspect. THE based its business and economics rankings on the following performance indicators and weights:
- Teaching: the learning environment (30.9%)
- Research: volume, income and reputation (32.6%)
- Citations: research influence (25%)
- International outlook: staff, students and research (9%)
- Industry income: innovation (2.5%)
Research accounts for the highest weight among all other performance indicators for business and economics. While research can provide students with cutting-edge ideas and practices, it covers a limited picture of an institution’s value to students. In fact, in many cases, you could easily argue that schools that do well in research-heavy rankings are better for PhD students than MBAs. At research-focused schools, teaching is considered a burden by some professors. So even at world class institutions, MBA students can find themselves with uneven teaching quality and inaccessible professors who fail to deeply engage with their students.
Notably, THE’s rankings lack crucial inputs such as a measure of average GMATs and undergraduate GPAs upon acceptance as well as outputs such as pay and placement for graduates. In other words, it completely dismisses the caliber of classmates and the ultimate goal (landing a good job) as important measures.
THE’s rankings also lack insight into networking opportunities available at institutions. For many prospective students, proper networking resources can lead to a higher chance of landing a job. According to Access MBA, 50-60% of MBA graduates have found a job by networking.
THE does maintain a strict criteria when determining eligibility for its rankings. According to THE, an institution cannot be included in its business and economics rankings unless it has published a minimum of 200 papers over the last five years. THE also requires that an institution have at least 5% of its staff “working in this discipline in order to include it in the subject table.” While such criteria can help to filter out institutions, it also places an implicit bias towards larger institutions with higher number of faculty and a deeper pool of resources.
If you are an MBA applicant hoping to become a professor, THE’s World University Ranking can offer an idea of academic quality for business academics. In the end, the rankings lack important points that are high priorities for everyday applicants, particularly outputs like pay and placement rates. Worse yet, it fails to filter out undergraduate and doctoral efforts, further muddying the waters.
As with any ranking, readers should know that there are many other considerations that often aren’t conveyed through reputation. Matt Symonds is co-director of Fortuna Admissions, an MBA admissions consulting firm, and author of The MBA Admissions Edge. Symonds told Poets & Quants that rankings are only the first step in determining an MBA program.
“If you know that the school can help you to open the career doors you want, this is the time to turn away from the endless chatter about rankings, and focus on the people and the place,” Symonds says. “Interaction with students, staff and alumni are a remarkably reliable indicator about the culture and personality of an institution.”