Wharton MBA Slams Teaching Quality

Wharton School of Business

A current Wharton student has launched a scathing attack on the quality of teaching in the school’s MBA program, laying blame for what the student calls “cartoonishly bad” teaching squarely on the shoulders of Wharton’s senior leadership. The student, writing anonymously in the student newspaper, The Wharton Journal, lambasted one professor in particular for “reading someone else’s slides aloud” and becoming “visibly annoyed” by questions in class.

“Students dropped out in droves, complained to academic advisors, but ultimately bore the brunt of his sloppy syllabus and demotivating indifference,” the MBA student wrote in a highly critical essay entitled “Wharton Doesn’t Care About Teaching. Why Should We Care About Academics?” “Professor X garnered a rating of 1.27 out of 4 for instructor quality, implying that, at best, 73% of the 159 students surveyed gave him the lowest possible rating. Professor X is back in the classroom this fall.”

The quality of teaching in many elite MBA programs has long been uneven and inconsistent, largely because of the outsized emphasis business schools place on academic research in promotion and tenure decisions. That often comes as a surprise to students who expect a world class institution with a highly ranked MBA program to deliver top-notch teaching quality. But students are often disappointed.

STUDENT RATINGS FOR WHARTON TEACHING IS WELL BELOW BOTH PEER SCHOOLS & LESSER-RANKED RIVALS

Among the leading schools, Wharton is clearly a laggard when it comes to MBA teaching. The Economist, which surveys alumni from top schools annually, last year reported that the student rating of Wharton faculty ranked the school 70th among 100 schools. That is not only well below all of Wharton’s M7 peers. It is also below most U.S. business schools that are ranked in the Top 25 on most lists.

Wharton, for example, gained a lowly 4.55 grade from surveyed alumni in last year’s Economist survey. In contrast, Chicago Booth is ranked fourth, with a score of 4.88, while Harvard is sixth, with a score of 4.80. The school generally regarded to have the most outstanding MBA teaching faculty is the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business which ranked third in the latest Economist survey, with a 4.81 score.

Teaching quality is also not a new issue at Wharton. A few years ago, an analysis by Poets&Quants of the teaching grades in BusinessWeek’s then biennial B-school rankings showed that Wharton faculty have never been in the top 20th percentile of the survey in teaching quality over a 24-year period that BusinessWeek shared those teaching scores with readers.

SCHOOL’S ‘LOFTY RHETORIC IS REGRETTABLY DISCONNECTED FROM THE CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE’

Geoffrey Garrett took over as Wharton’s new dean on July 1, 2014

Though the published essay is “anonymous,” it was published by the student editors of The Wharton Journal who clearly vouched for the fact that the critic is a current student.

“There are, of course, a few great professors at Wharton but the average experience is at best average and the bottom quartile is cartoonishly bad,” wrote the student in the critique published Oct. 20.. “Students at Wharton are besieged with grand admonitions by administrators to take full advantage of the school’s unmatched and exceptional curricular opportunities. This lofty rhetoric is regrettably disconnected from the classroom experience. Wharton fails to provide its students with a guaranteed minimum level of teaching quality despite receiving $70,200 a year in tuition from each student and benefitting from the support of wealthy alumni. There are deeper and more existential questions that plague the MBA value proposition; however, teaching quality is an aspect of the student experience that Wharton can control.”

The student author the zeroes in on a specific example of an unnamed professor in the core MBA curriculum. “Professor X taught an accelerated version of a core course last fall. Professor X’s course was the worst single academic experience for many of the students in his class. He went through the motions of reading someone else’s slides aloud and was visibly annoyed by student questions. Students dropped out in droves, complained to academic advisors, but ultimately bore the brunt of his sloppy syllabus and demotivating indifference. Professor X garnered a rating of 1.27 out of 4 for instructor quality, implying that, at best, 73% of the 159 students surveyed gave him the lowest possible rating. Professor X is back in the classroom this fall.”

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.