Kellogg Topples Booth To Capture First In 2017 Economist Ranking

To celebrate the building’s lakefront location, Kellogg’s new 415,000 square foot Global Hub pays pays homage to the environment in two ways – the curved exterior walls reflect the wave movement on the lake, while the glass reflects the blues of the water as well as the sky.

For Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management Dean Sally Blount, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. After being dean of the school for seven years, she opened the doors to a new $250 million Global Hub  on the shores of Lake Michigan. Now, for the first time under her watch, Blount can claim a number one ranking for the school’s prestige MBA program–seven months before she steps down from her job at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year.

Kellogg toppled Chicago Booth to capture first place in the new global ranking from The Economist today (Oct. 26), nudging aside its arch-rival Booth which had held the top title in the ranking for five consecutive years. Though Kellogg only had to gain one place to knock out Booth this year, it’s No. 1 status caps a long, upward climb in this topsy-turvy, unpredictable ranking. In the past five years, Kellogg went from finishing 23rd in 2013, to 14th the following year, to seventh in 2016, and to second place last year before finally emerging the big winner.

The Economist list is the fourth of the five most influential MBA rankings to come out this year. It follows the Financial Times in January, U.S. News & World Report in March, and Forbes in September. INSEAD capped the FT list this year, while Harvard Business School and Wharton shared top honors in U.S. News, and Wharton also claimed the No. 1 spot in Forbes for the first time ever. The last and final big brand list from Bloomberg Businessweek is expected to make its appearance in mid-November, most likely on Nov. 15.. Poets&Quants will then quickly follow with its composite ranking before the end of next month.


Right now, however, the spotlight is on The Economist‘s perspective of MBA programs. After Kellogg and Booth, Harvard Business School edged a place higher this year to rank third. Continuing its highly successful rankings year, the Wharton School of Business rose eight places to finish fourth, just ahead of No. 5 Stanford Graduate School of Business. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management also jumped eight spots to rank sixth. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business gained nine positions to finish 12th. The first non-U.S. MBA program to pop up on the list is HEC Paris with a rank of 15th.

Of all the most-watched rankings, The Economist tends to make business school administrators positively dizzy. That is largely because of the big year-over-year swings on the list. This year is no exception. Some 27 of the 100 schools ranked by The Economist experienced double-digit changes. If you add two of the four schools that fell off the 2017 list, there are 29 MBA programs with double-digit dips or jumps.

Typically, such dramatic changes occur further down on rankings as the data used to crank out a numerical rank thins and becomes less reliable. More often, rankings show only small changes year-over-year among the top 10 to 20 schools. Not so with The Economist‘s oddball MBA ranking. This year, only two of the Top 25 schools maintained their year-earlier ranks. The 23 remaining programs saw changes that ranged from a gain of 20 places–the University of Florida’s Hough School of Business–to a loss of nine positions–IESE Business School in Spain–in a single year. The average movement for a Top 25 school this year was five places.


But what also causes B-school deans headaches is The Economist‘s head-scratching conclusions. This year, for example, Hult International School is ranked above both Cambridge University’s Judge Business School and the University of Oxford’s Said Business School. The Economist ranks Hult as having the 54th best MBA program in the world, just one spot ahead of Cambridge at 55th and 21 places in front of Oxford! Yes, you read that correctly: Hult, a school that only gained accreditation from the AACSB (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) in June, trashes Oxford by 21 positions.

How can The Economist, a widely respected weekly, come out with such a dubious ranking? The peculiar results are fundamentally a function of the magazine’s methodology. While it is similar in some ways to the ranking by the Financial Times, its results are often dramatically different. Both of these British-based publications produce rankings that are global in scope and weigh several factors that tend to favor non-U.S. schools. But The Economist examines the most criteria—21 different metrics in all versus the 20 at the FT–from the diversity of the on-campus recruiters to the range of overseas exchange programs. Compensation and career placement are heavily weighted, including starting salaries, pre-MBA versus post-MBA pay increases, and the percentage of graduates who land jobs through the career management center. Pay and placement account for 45% of the methodology.

The one big difference with the Financial Times is The Economist’s rather significant reliance on student satisfaction, gathered by an annual survey of current MBA students and recent alumni. They’re asked to rate the quality of the faculty, the career services staff, the school’s curriculum and culture, the facilities, the alumni network, and their classmates. The methodology takes into account new career opportunities (35%); personal development/educational experience (35%); increasing salary (20%); and the potential to network (10%). The figures are a mixture of hard data and the subjective marks given by the school’s students who are aware that their answers will result in a ranking that could reflect on the reputation of their degrees.


Measuring MBA programs on those dimensions should insure that Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and London Business School do well. Yet surprisingly, year after year they tend to lag in this ranking. In the 16 years that The Economist has cranked out the most entertaining of the top MBA rankings, Chicago Booth has claimed the most first-place wins, racking up seven. Kellogg is next with four, while IESE can boast a trio of No. 1 victories. Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and IMD have each claimed the top spot one time in 2011 and 2008, respectively.

Oddly, Harvard, Stanford and Wharton have never captured the No. 1 position.  There are many explanations for this, including the likelihood that students and alumni who complete The Economist‘s survey are cheerleading for their underdog schools, while graduates of the most elite institutions are confident enough not to care. Less credible results also can result from the sample size of the surveys and the fact that some schools have dropped out, refusing to participate in the ranking because they believe it lacks credibility.

Generally, wild swings in a ranking tell you less about the quality of a school’s MBA program than it signals about the methodology of the ranking itself. After all, schools rarely if ever change much year over year. In fact, a school’s standing should generally be fairly stable over even longer periods of time, unless there is an aggressive effort to boost a school or a scandal or mishap. So when there are unexplainable changes in a ranking, it’s more often a sign that the methodology is severely flawed and lacks statistical validation. Often times, for instance, the underlying index scores–which The Economist does not reveal–are so close together that inconsequential changes in just a few  measurements can send a school soaring or plummeting.

  • Brad
  • avivalasvegas

    As much as I hate disagreeing with you, statistically speaking, you’re wrong. Historically, Kellogg has had more companies recruiting there than most M7 programs. That’s a plus because of the sheer breadth of career options in addition to the standard names that punt at every M7 business school. And a minus… because who wants to work for Bumfuckall Consulting in Idaho?

  • Mballs

    I did MBA from Henley Business School, Full-time (2014-2015). So, 2016 ranking was based on our assessment. Let me paint a sample picture of reality versus Economist ranking.

    Ranking: Percentage who found jobs through the careers service 3 (out of 100)
    Reality: Careers consists of MBTI and Belbin personality test. Nothing else. No recruitment related guidance, or employer panels or anything else for that matter. The School’s reasoning was that the career’s team is new and the head of careers is busy pursuing PhD.

    Ranking: Post-MBA salary ($)107,766; Percentage who received a job offer within three months of graduation 71.0
    Reality: Only 9 people were working after three months of graduation and 7 months of course completion. None had anything to do with careers service. Out of 9, 6 were able to go back to their old jobs after the frustrations of job search.
    Oh and not even the highest salary of any one of them was even close to ($)107,766. As per ranking that’s the average salary.

    Ranking: Potential to network: 1
    Reality: Actual networking events: 0

    Economist ranking doesn’t consist of any matrix for fact checking or avoidance of data manipulation. We had to rank each between 1 to 5. This data submitted to the university is then forwarded to the rankings board. So obviously, the strategy was to give highest points in order to attain highest rankings.
    If you compare the 2016 and 2017 rankings of Henley,it is seen that there is very little change in the inputs. I think the drastic drop in rankings is because the other schools are catching up to the Economist ranking game.

    Point is, either Economist MBA ranking is a complete fraud or hopelessly gullible. Either ways it is not at all reliable.

  • Phillip

    Like I said, look into it. Think of it as a challenge 🙂

    “How significant a change can it really be”: The changes were significant, hence the results across all of the relevant rankings.

    “But most schools”: Certainly one wouldn’t anticipate that all schools behave like the average….

    “I find it hard to believe”: When a person looks at data alone, and ignores the underlying causes, that person may find a lot of things hard to believe.

    Comments often made by those who got blind sided by the competition:
    “How significant a change can it really be?”
    “But most (insert relevant organization type)”
    “I find it hard to believe”

  • BradHasNoData

    How do you know that Kellogg doesn’t attract the companies that HBS/Stanford/Wharton/Columbia do? Where’s the data?

  • ha..

    …and you sound like a try-too-hard Kellogg student or alum with nothing better to do than try to prop up your school. Shouldn’t you be trying to look for a job or something? I guess I expect nothing more from some guy who went to a school named after a cereal company.

  • Sunil Mittal

    Nice try… you sound like a Columbia alum whose trying way too hard here. And clearly who knows nothing about all the top cos that recruit at Kellogg. Let’s have a data-driven discussion here rather than generalities penned by a #fakealum.

  • Deep ak N.A.Shine

    Hey Kellogg , now you are no 1 👍Congratulations. ….keep it up……

  • halo

    See, boys and girls this is an example of the type of “broad” thinking, and “risk-taking”, potential students of “top” MBA programs are known for.

  • Brad

    As a recent Kellogg alum who got admits from other top 5 schools, I chose kellogg because of its amazing tight knit student body and culture. It is an incredible school. It could be ranked #1 in terms of student culture and academics.

    But it does not compare to other top 5 bschools in terms of the number of employers it attracts on campus or job postings. It’s a top 5 school but nowhere near hbs/Stanford/wharton/Columbia in terms of number of companies it attracts. Kellogg should spend 1% of its $350M on the CMC working to attract employers such as tech startups and other medium and small sized companies. Also with an almost 40% international student body that rely on h1b to get a job, they should look at getting most of the below companies on OCR.

  • Satoshi Endo

    haha sarcasm is real here

  • Tough to gauge which one’s the correct one to follow

  • Hahaha

    Yay! Kellogg is number 1!
    Number 1 breakfast cereal!

  • Cam

    Economist always has the most unusual rankings compared to everyone else, we know why it’s so radically different? Are their measurements focussed on different KPIs than US/BW/Forbes?

  • MBAapplicant

    I’m in real dilemma on how to decide between Queensland and MIT. I know Queensland is better but MIT is nice as well. The only concern is brand recognition, everyone knows Queensland MBA and it is one of the most selective (12%) with great parent university unlike MIT where you can get without GMAT and it is nearly unheard of by MBB and tech companies…

  • maas

    @JohnByrne In all honesty I think you should update the metrics of the P&Q ranking. Have the US News rank weigh upwards of 50%. All these other shops are getting way too wild with all the yearly school changes and methodology used.

  • JB87

    LOL!!!! These rankings are a joke!! How can schools swing 20 spots from one year to the other. US News is the only “reliable” ranking out there. I guess all the sway in rankings helps sell magazines!

  • ojo

    Hmmm I am trying to decide between enrolling in Florida (Hough) and MIT Sloan, both next to each other in the rankings….. super tough choice

  • Why

    First, how significant a change can it really be? It’s Florida… Second, schools make significant strategic changes all the time, but most schools stay within a narrow band in the rankings. I find it hard to believe Florida can move 70 slots upward as a result of a “strategic change.”

  • Carol

    Ok, so either way…even if the P&Q allocation methodologies change slightly in HBS’s favor, Wharton can probably finish no more than ~2 slots behind HBS in BW and still win. Thus, even if HBS repeats with a #1 finish in BW, Wharton will more or less GUARENTEE a #1 P&Q 2017 finish by ranking #3 or better in BW. More likely, though, P&Q allocations will remain and Wharton can guarantee a win with a #4 BW ranking.

  • GuptaPrince

    With four of five rankings in for 2017, based on last year’s P&Q ranking methodology of 35% USN, 25% Forbes, 15% FT, and 10% Economist, it looks like the current results would be as follows:
    Current 2017 P&Q Standings:
    Wharton #1 (comp score of 1.45)
    HBS #2 (comp score of 2.00)
    Stanford #3 (comp score of 2.70)
    Kellogg #4 (comp score of 4.30)
    Booth #5 (comp score of 4.35)
    Of course, BusinessWeek will determine the final P&Q result in November, but if we assume the same BW results as 2016, then HBS would take #1 (2.15 comp score) for P&Q 2017, Wharton #2 (2.35 comp score), Stanford #3 (3.00 comp score), Booth #4 (4.95 comp score), and Kellogg #5 (5.65 comp score).
    However, for Wharton to take #1 overall, it can finish no more than 3 slots behind HBS (ex. HBS #1, Wharton #4) in BusinessWeek. For Wharton to hold off Stanford, it can finish no more than 8 slots behind Stanford in BusinessWeek.
    Again, this all assumes the same P&Q allocation as last year. We will see in 19 days.

  • Phillip

    They made significant strategic change back in 2012. Look into it.

  • Why

    How does Florida go from #90 to #20 in a matter of a few years? Ugh. ::Headdesk::