THIS YEAR’S WINNERS & LOSERS
Given this ranking’s high volatility, there are plenty of big winners and losers. The school making the largest single year gain was Audencia Business School which forged ahead 31 places to finish 63rd from a rank of just 94 last year. But if you count how many steps UC-Irvine had to make to land on its rank of 56th this year from not even making the 2016 list, that school would have had to climb even further–a whopping 45 positions (see table below). Business schools at several other public universities also did incredibly well: Besides The University of Florida’s 20-place jump to rank 20th, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management gained 16 positions to rank 32nd from 48th a year earlier.
And this year’s losers? Britain’s Henley Business School led the pack, plummeting 34 places to rank 61st, quite a drop from its 27th place finish last year. Hong Kong University of Science & Technology also had a tough year, plunging 27 places to 97th from a rank of 70th in 2016. IE Business School in Spain lost 18 spots to rank 34th, from its 18th place finish a year earlier. The University of Maryland had the biggest fall of any U.S. MBA program, losing 19 places to end up at a rank of 68th from 47th last year.
With such wild and unjustified year-over-year changes, you’d think few business schools would be eager to cite their Economist rankings. But one benefit of the list is that no matter where you turn up, you can certainly claim to be among the top 1% of all the business schools in the world. Even more importantly, the number of metrics used by The Economist allows schools to parse its rankings and brag about more noteworthy showings in different parts of the ranking.
WITH 21 METRICS, BUSINESS SCHOOLS CAN PICK AND CHOOSE WHAT TO BRAG ABOUT IN THE ECONOMIST RANKING
Of course, as puzzling as the overall school ranks often are, once you dive deeper into the data the results can be even more confounding. The school whose graduates have the highest salaries, according to The Economist? It’s HEC Paris, followed by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. That is an utterly unexplainable outcome because year after year, based on actual school employment reports, no MBA program anywhere in the world beats Stanford when it comes to the starting pay awarded graduates. Last year, the average total compensation for an MBA graduate from Stanford was an eye-popping $179,346.
HEC Paris posts excellent starting pay results, with its MBAs last year averaging $101,153 in base salary. But Stanford’s comparative number was $140,553. The formula used by The Economist to track this element of the ranking, however, includes the increase of pre-MBA salary over post-MBA salary, excluding all bonuses, as well as the actual average starting salary, without sign-on or guaranteed year=end bonuses or other perks.
How about the strange category called “diversity of recruiters?” Why that should matter and factor into a ranking is beyond logical, but so are the results. This year’s winner is Hult International Business School, just ahead of the International University of Monaco. It is hard to imagine that either of those schools would draw a more diverse range of corporate recruiters than any of the elite MBA factories such as Harvard, Columbia, Wharton, Kellogg or Booth.
Still, the findings get even more entertaining. The MBA program that beat every other rival in the world for “personal development/educational experience” is the University of Bath School of Management, followed by MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Yet, when it comes to personal development, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business probably has what is the most innovative offerings of any business school. For years, it has devoted substantial time and resources to this part of its MBA experience, becoming the world-class standard to benchmark on MBA personal development. How did Kelley do? It finished last in 100th place.
FACULTY QUALITY? THE POWER OF THE NETWORK? DON’T RELY ON THESE RANKINGS
What about faculty quality? The Economist‘s winner is the University of Maryland’s Smith School, just ahead of Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business. Duh! Pretty much every business school observer knows that the best MBA teaching faculty in the world–based on student and alumni surveys over many years–is at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, but Darden finishes 27th in this category.
Many MBA applicants, of course, make the decision to go to a business school because of the network they will inherit upon graduation. The Economist attempts to measure graduates’ “potential to network” in its student and alumni surveys. The result this year? HEC Paris and the University of Warwick’s business school finish No. 1 and No. 2. Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, generally regarded as a powerhouse in this department with the highest percentage of alumni participation in its annual fundraising campaigns, is in 32nd place. Blame methodology again. For this portion of the ranking, accounting for 10% of the overall weight, The Economist equally considers three factors: 1) the ratio of current MBA alumni to current MBA students, 2) the number of overseas alumni chapters, and 3) its student surveys that rate the value of the alumni network. More important than the size of the alumni base or how many city clubs there are, however, is how loyal, accessible and helpful alums are to others in their network.
Finally, who wins plaudits for having the best career services function, according to The Economist survey? Why it’s the University of Florida’s Hough Graduate School of Business. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, which in fact boasts an excellent career service unit, comes in second. However good a job Hough has done in this area–and we are not doubting the efforts of the school in this regard–it’s hard to fathom that the school is better than any other in the world. Such student survey results are most often caused by two major flaws: Cheerleading by survey respondents and highly clustered data which is statistically meaningless because it fails to truly measure the differences between and among the schools.
HOW DID KELLOGG WIN THE BIG PRIZE?
Interestingly enough, the Kellogg School emerged on top of this year’s list, even though it failed to get a No. 1 ranking in any of The Economist‘s individual metrics. But the school fared well enough across most of the measurements to nudge the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business out of the top spot.
Kellogg was seventh in “opening up career opportunities” and also in “potential to network.” The school was judged fifth in “student diversity.” It ranked 10th in post-MBA alumni salaries, and 12th in “personal development/educational experience.” Kellogg also was ninth in “the number of overseas alumni chapters” and “the alumni rating of alumni effectiveness,” whatever that really means.
This is the first time Kellogg has won The Economist‘s MBA sweepstakes since 2004. Kellogg was on top of this list for the first three editions of the ranking starting in 2002. When Blount became dean in 2010, the school placed 16th. At the end of the day, what matters is who comes out on top. Few will read the fine print in the methodology, and fewer still will remember the ranks of the also-rans. And this year, for the first time in many years, it’s Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.