Wharton, MIT Gain Big In Businessweek MBA Ranking

For the third year in a row, Harvard Business School hung on to its number one ranking on Bloomberg Businessweek‘s now annual list of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. But there were plenty of dramatic changes near the very top of the ranking.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, continuing its run of ranking gains this year, surged four places on the list to pass Stanford, Duke, Chicago and Dartmouth to place second. It is Wharton’s best showing in Businessweek since 2014 when it also ranked second. MIT’s Sloan School of Management also zoomed up four places to rank third, and the University of Washington’s Foster School gained four spots as well to land squarely in 15th place above the business schools at Yale, the University of Virginia, NYU, and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Columbia Business School climbed back into the top ten by rising two places from 11th last year.

And, of course, there were programs that lost ground, according to Businessweek. UVA’s Darden School of Business lost five places to rank 17th from 12th a year earlier. Texas A&M Mays School of Business also dropped four spots, falling to 22nd from 18th. Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, two of the most highly selective MBA programs in the world, both lost three places each to rank fifth and 11th, respectively.


Among the top 20 schools on a list that ranks 85 different MBA programs, 18 institutions had year-over-year changes in rank, with only Harvard and No. 4 Chicago Booth holding on to their year-earlier places. In recent years, the Businessweek ranking has become more volatile in general, in part because of several changes in the methodology used by the magazine to rank schools and also due to the already slim statistical differences among the schools on the list. In fact, the magazine’s editors added pay and placement data to the mix as ballast to help calm down the roller-coaster results.

This year, however, the magazine has somehow figured out a way to make its ranking less volatile, perhaps by including data in previous surveys. Not including the newcomers on the list or schools that fell off entirely, there were only six schools that had double-digit changes this year. That is a big improvement on last year’s list when 18 of the ranked schools experienced double-digit increases or decreases, including a 40-point drop by North Carolina State’s Jenkins School, which unexplainably plummeted to 69 from 29. Businessweek will publish its separate ranking for international MBA programs on Dec. 11.

Yet, the list does contain some counter-intuitive outcomes. How to explain Rice University’s impressive 10th place showing, down two spots from eighth last year. A top ten ranking puts the Jones School of Business at Rice above such elite heavyweights as Berkeley, Michigan, Yale, and Cornell, among other typically higher ranked MBA programs. Penn State’s Smeal MBA program, which enrolls about 60 students per class, cracked the top 25, surging 12 places to move above the excellent MBA offerings at Indiana, Georgetown, and Vanderbilt.


Harvard stayed at the top as a result of a number one ranking from corporate recruiters, a survey that asks companies to name the programs that best deliver the skills sought in MBA hires. That portion of the methodology counts for 35% of the ranking. HBS was also third best in the magazine’s poll of alumni from 2008 to 2010, which accounts for 30% of the methodology. Businessweek said that nearly 10,000 MBA alums responded to the survey.

Harvard also was second, only to Stanford, in starting salaries, a portion of the ranking that is worth 10%. Another 15% of the ranking is based on student satisfaction surveys filled out by 9,461 MBA graduates this year, while a final 10% is based on placement rates three months after graduation. The salary and placement data used for the ranking is a year old, reflecting the outcomes for the Class of 2016.

Perhaps the biggest news at the top of the list is Wharton’s rise. Only last year, at a town hall meeting in October, Dean Geoffrey Garrett and Vice Dean of the MBA program Howie Kaufold found themselves addressing student concerns over the school’s ranking declines in recent years. “The process of rankings is pretty arbitrary,” conceded Kaufold at the session, “but no apologies about it –- our goal is to be at the top of all those rankings if we can.”


Ever since Dean Garrett’s arrival in July of 2014, the school has lost ground in every major ranking with only one exception: the Financial Times where it eked out a one-place gain. Even more disturbing for Whartonites, Chicago Booth has consistently outranked the school, giving rise to conversations that a new Big Three has emerged with Harvard, Stanford and Booth in that category. Last year, the Poets&Quants‘ composite ranking saw Wharton tied for fourth place with Kellogg after what some observers considered the new Big Three.

Howard Kaufold, vice dean of the MBA program at Wharton

Well, this year is a very different story. Besides tying Harvard Business School in the U.S. News survey for number one, climbing three places from a fourth place finish a year earlier, the school also topped the Forbes ranking, moving up six places from seventh. Wharton gained a spot on the Financial Times list, ranking third this year, and also soared eight places on The Economist list to rank fourth from 12th. All told, the school has moved up 21 places in all five of the most influential rankings, the biggest gainer this year.

The Businessweek ranking is the last 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, Forbes in September, and The Economist last month. 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. Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management earned top honors on The Economist list. Poets&Quants will soon follow with its composite ranking before month’s end.

All rankings should be taken with a big grain of salt, of course. But you often have to read deep into the methodology for a ranking organization to admit as much. The last two lines of Businessweek’s methodology this year read this way: “…A suitable program for one person might be an odd fit for another. Don’t let rankings alone make your school decision for you.” That’s good, solid advice.


As is often the case, the lower one goes down a list, the more likely one sees bigger changes, whether up or down. William & Mary’s Mason School, for example, jumped nine places to rank 42nd this year. The University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business gained eight places to finish 30th. On the other hand, the University of Maryland’s Smith School dropped seven spots to end up in both place from 33rd last year. In 2014, Businessweek had ranked Maryland 17th best in the U.S.

After making a complete disappearance from the U.S. News list this year, George Washington University’s business school plunged 14 places to rank 59th from 45th a year ago. It was one of the biggest swoons of the year in the Businessweek ranking.

Worse than a drop in ranking, perhaps, is the total disappearance of a school on the list. Gone this year were the full-time MBA programs at American University, ranked 43rd in 2016, the University of South Carolina, ranked 62nd a year ago, Tulane University, 73, and the University of Missouri, ranked 79th last year.


  • Phil

    We’ll never truly know why, but we know that the numbers are skewed to GSBs advantage (with admissions and elite branding)

  • avivalasvegas

    OR, those out of state students are already there and working for the companies listed.

    But let’s approach it this your way – why would anyone chose Foster other than the career move to Seattle? And where would their career most likely take them when they graduate? Either way, Foster’s rise is linked to 3 companies. And that growth is anything but holistic.

  • Gemmy

    It is always amusing to have your thoughts on these things. Out of curiosity, what do you do for living?

  • hmm

    Are your math skills and deduction skills that weak? It exactly means. Clearly, based on the numbers, Foster attracts out of state talent to live and study MBA in Seattle full time for 2 years – 80% of its student body to be exact.

  • tenX

    “over 4 times greater per capita than Boston”, It looks like you miss very important thing, the respect for and interest in the business school, in general, and for the graduate management education in particular. It is widely known that the silicon valley is not (generally speaking) in favor of MBAs or traditional outdated business education. Silicon valley entrepreneurial culture “disregard” the MBA, such culture encourage “wild” actions, rebellious minds, and doesn’t like “structured education”. On the other hand, the east cost where the MBA was born, the modern management education was developed, and the global corporation model was created. So, being close to silicon valley is irrelevant point. It may be a valid point if the field was computer science. Stanford GSB knows this fact, but they illegitimately take credits of it and market their program to delusional prospective applicants.

  • JohnAByrne

    We actually did a story on the tough choice admits make when they are accepted to both HBS and Sanford. It’s a fun read:

  • MBA alum

    tenX – I find your assertion odd that others are delusional who claim Stanford is on equal footing to Harvard. The majority of MBA students, alumni and the most prestigious employers tend to view these two MBA programs relatively equally. Clearly, the quality of the two student bodies are nearly identical. Harvard has important advantages with a traditionally stronger global brand and with a larger alumni network. Yet, Stanford is able to offset this with a key advantage of being located in the heart of Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is the most dynamic employment market with the world’s highest concentration of venture capital funding (over 4 times greater per capita than Boston). As such, MBA and EMBA programs like Wharton, Kellogg, Columbia, Cornell and Babson each have recently set up satellite programs based in Silicon Valley. Numerous other MBA programs are scrambling to identify options to increase their MBA students and alumni access to Silicon Valley. P&Q has covered this topic frequently in recent years. In turn, this gives Stanford clear advantages over Harvard in job placement related to venture capital, technology, and early stage/startup companies. Harvard has advantages in investment banking and for non-tech Fortune 500 companies. Stanford and Harvard are relatively even with private equity and consulting job positions. Bottom line, most objective persons view these two world class MBA programs relatively evenly. For the rare MBA students lucky enough to get admitted to both HBS and GBS, they find themselves with a very tough choice with their final decision being made mostly on personal preferences.

  • Mijo

    Would agree that HBS is the best school out there, but you cannot say that the other schools are way behind. There are many students out there that turn HBS down. Most people that turn down HBS end up going to Stanford, Wharton or even MIT Sloan. And some people don’t even apply to HBS, some might want a more tech, finance or smaller class school.

  • C. Taylor

    Foster is a tier-three stalwart in the group breathing down the necks of tier-two programs. Compare it to other such stalwarts such as Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana (Kelley), or Georgia Tech.

    If looking at this tier, I suggest looking for a program with close regional ties to specific employers you want to work for. Notre Dame is unique, here, in its continued success placing grads across the nation. Wisconsin should be noted in this group for its strong history of impacting career success. Kelley has had outsized success placing its grads in consulting.

    One item to note in comparing future outcomes between tier-two and tier-one programs, is that any convergence should appear stronger at the peak of the economic cycle.

  • avivalasvegas

    Unless the remaining 80% are flying in to attend classes, that only emphasizes my point. Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks are known to attract their talent to Seattle. Foster is not. It’s an obscure program that just happened to be in the right city at the right time.

  • avivalasvegas

    But that essentially negates the innovation sharing that the M7 programs are known for. Population increase simply puts pressure on the demand side. If anything, limited supply will make the top 10 programs even more desirable and elite.

  • tenX

    Stanford is in its right place. The most reliable ranking US News has repeated this again, by ranking Stanford in 4th place. I really don’t understand how people can get delusional by comparing Stanford to Harvard ?! Repeating it hundreds of times does not make it true, There is no HWS, it is fake and misleading, there is Harvard as almost everyone agrees the #1 business school on the planet, and the others behind.

  • hmm

    Ah, have you seen their class profile? Only 20% are from Washington state. You clearly are lying with the whole “rise in applications from employees (and their families) of those very same companies”

  • brian

    Not saying it’ll displace HAAS or tuck, I’m just making a point. The best schools will continue to be the best. The 2nd tier schools are closing in on the gap. Sooner or later, the quality of education and students will all be homogeneous within the top 20 schools due to increase in population rates growing faster than bschools expanding their programs.

  • Adam Allcock

    Everything you said is wrong. The GSB does not expand its class size as it would not deliver the same educational experience. You can’t simply hire more of one-of faculty.

  • That’s a great idea. Showing as many as 20 programs over ten years (we started in 2008) could be rather confusing in a line chart. I’ll run it and see what it looks like first. Thanks Shaq.

  • Shaq

    This would have to be footnoted, of course, for times when P&Q methodologies had changed. And to provide P&Q Rankings for past years, you’d need to assume a standard high-level methodology that works across the board to fill the gap.

  • Shaq

    In the P&Q ranking this year, it’d be great to see a line chart showing the top 15-20 programs (represented by different colored lines) and how they’ve performed over time since, say the year 2000 (or 2008…over 10 years). I know P&Q Rankings don’t go back that far, but couldn’t the same methodology be used to quickly provide P&Q-equivalent rankings for those past years?

  • avivalasvegas

    You say its silly but the Foster’s increase in admission/ yield rates are driven solely by the rise in applications from employees (and their families) of those very same companies. There’s nothing organic about it. Where else are these people going to get a degree from?

  • avivalasvegas

    To suggest that Rice, UCLA or Foster can somehow displace even HAAS or Tuck (forget the M7) as a Top 10 program is as utterly clueless as they come.

    These programs rarely attract the best students each year and typically serve as back up schools, if that. As far as the top tier MBA is concerned, its important to remember that its quality over quantity every single time.

  • Tempest

    Wharton is now #1 without a doubt. Why? Because with the only two rankings that Harvard topped Wharton this year (Economist and BusinessWeek), Harvard only edged Wharton by ONE slot in each ranking (Economist: H #3 / W #4, BusinessWeek: H #1 / W #2. So even if P&Q assigned higher weight to certain publications, these are the only two that would help HBS. And I don’t see a viable case right now for P&Q to raise the weighting of either (or both) of those publications – both for methodology consistency and because there’s no case to do so.

  • High Beta school

    Stanford undoubtedly has the best admissions stats, but it is immensely helped by purposely suppressing the growth of its class size. People get that. The school could easily add 100 seats a year to accommodate the swelling interest in Silicon Valley, but….they don’t. In growing their seats, the applications would certainly not grow in numbers along with them…DUH. This is also why the school doesn’t have the same number of tried and true relationships with top corporations that look for some scale in their recruiting efforts, so Stanford’s “elite-package” strategy is backfiring to some degree.

    Stanford will keep playing the game, but the rankings have a way of normalizing things – even though Stanford is a fantastic program sought by some of the brightest minds.

  • John

    Rice (Jones) top 10 again? Wow nice! Known as the “Ivey of the South”

  • Brian

    Think about it like this. The student population is growing exponentially faster than B-schools can expand their program intake. The number of highly qualified students are growing and because of that, not everyone can get into those top schools. Competition is cut throat. The result is the 2nd tier b-schools (top 15-30), gaining a lot more highly qualified applicants – thus bolstering their quality and image. The 1st tier b-schools, which have dominated for decades, really aren’t going to change much. They continue to recruit the best, have the best reputation, etc. Those 2nd tier schools are really closing in on the gap. Those schools include Rice, Duke, UCLA, UT, Foster, etc.

    In 20 years, it won’t be surprising to see those current 2nd tier b-schools mixed in amongst the top 10. We already are seeing some of that now.

  • Gerhard

    Did they release the international ranking?

  • Honesty

    Wharton falsifies their salary data and their % reporting. These rankings are a complete farce. They are all a load of crap.

  • joe

    What are your thoughts on best management consulting schools after M7? Ross, Emory, Darden, Mccombs, Kenan Flagler, and Fuqua?

  • hmm

    Foster has grown its applicant base much faster than any top school. Admission rates improved the most. Yield rate improvements are unmatched. These are all organic improvements, unlike Yale’s which are cosmetic and came from Snyder’s bag of tricks. Forster, too, has improved outcomes much better than any top school.

    It is silly to ding Foster because it is “helped” by Amazon & Starbucks over Yale is like dinging Stanford in the 200s because it is “helped” by Google and Apple over Harvard.

  • somsquared

    Yes, I agree. I can’t and will not trust this report. If Yale SOM isn’t in top 10, I will discount the report. Cannot believe Foster is ahead of SOM by week!!

  • andip01

    My question would be: How reliable can be a ranking almost exclusively based on surveys?
    And I do not doubt about the intellectual hoensty of those responding to surveys. I just wonder how different can be students, alumni and employers expectations at different schools. I just wonder how two alumni that are working for the same company can have different level of satisfaction with their jobs when they come from different schools. And how the differences come into play in their answers and in the scores they give to their schools.
    How can you rank with the same scale employers that clearly have a set of expectations from a student coming from Harvard (or any top school) and a different one from a student coming from a second or third tier school. And I am not blaming, again, the answers; I just believe it is in the human nature to have different expectations based on the different perceptions we have on (in this specific case) different schools. Where the difference can be, rank, tradition, reputation, size, or even simply location.
    Aren’t they ranking together apples and oranges?

  • avivalasvegas

    Whenever I see schools like Fuqua & Rice displacing schools like Columbia and Haas, I immediately write off the editors as totally bonkers!

    The reality is that these programs, despite their famed rigor and generous scholarships, simply cannot match the overall might of any of the M7 programs. That’s not to say that the lower ranked business schools cannot improve their standing and displace one of the M7 programs. Take Yale SOM for instance – its now considered a firm entrant to the Top 10 and is really giving programs like Tuck and Haas a run for their money. It’s conceivable that any one of those 3 could, someday, displace the 7th M7 program.

    But to claim that Foster is a better program than Yale, only because Microsoft and Amazon employees flock there, being their only local option, is a new low for Businessweek’s editorial team and their credibility.

  • I certainly do and it is among the most generous with scholarship aid as well which allows Rice to put together a stellar class of MBA students.

  • EDoyle

    Rice (Jones) ranked top 10 last year and this year. It’s known as one of the top undergrad schools in the nation, but I guess now their b-school is gaining reputation as well. Awesome! Just curious, but does anyone here recognize Rice as a good bschool?

  • Paul

    1. Wharton
    2. Harvard
    3. Stanford
    4. Booth
    5. Kellogg
    6. Sloan
    7. Columbia
    8. Tuck
    9. Haas
    10. Yale
    11. Ross
    12. Fuqua
    13. Stern

    14. Darden
    15. Johnson


  • Yup. Fixed. My bad.

  • Yes, sorry about that. It was fixed as soon as I realized the error.

  • Thanks for letting us know. The school needs to update its MBA class profile then:


  • Chris

    Mason actually had a graduating class of over 100 full-time students for the Class of 2017 and enrolls over 175 full-time students

  • Cam

    Seems no like matter what list or methodology Ross is fated to be 11, 12, or 13. Most consistent schools across any rankings it seems like (must be painful constantly hovering on the top 10 mark)

  • Heather Soderquist

    Thanks! We’re working on the fix now and will also include Penn State’s gains in the other table.

  • AnalystMafia

    The administrators of this ranking are dealing with the Opioid Crisis and it’s effecting their work!
    1. How can letting alumni recruiters possibly give an honest reflection of the programs.
    2. Any ranking that uses this ranking is a bum ranking.
    3. I “BOOOO” these ranking with a shame filled “BOOOOOO!”

  • BoogyWoogy

    You have Notre Dame listed in both the 25th and 26th position. Penn State should be listed as the #25 school.

  • Hmmm

    So at Stanford you make the most money, the alumni are the most satisfied (per their survey), and it’s the most selective school in the country with the highest GPA/GMAT — and it’s not #1? To me everything else is lagging indicator…stupid to ding GSB because of an employer score when so many of their students aren’t pursuing corporate jobs that come to campus because they have better opportunities elsewhere…

  • natasha

    Artificial because you don’t like where they are?

  • maas

    If Bloomberg were to include GMAT and Acceptance Rate (or amount of applicants) this ranking wouldn’t be so bad. Apart from artificial high placements from Duke, Rice (and maybe Tuck) the top 15 doesn’t look too bad.

  • avivalasvegas

    Looks like an error for Kellogg (showing as -1 YOY) when it actually went up a spot.

  • Heather Soderquist

    I love the predictions of the P&Q rankings. A prize to the reader(s) who can name Poets&Quants Top 15 U.S. business schools in order! Email your predictions to me at heather@poetsandquants.com.

  • Spartan22

    Rice over Haas? Stanford at #5?


  • Ram Lakshman

    Assuming the same methodology as last year, the P&Q rankings for 2017 are:
    1. Wharton (!)
    2. Harvard
    3. Stanford
    4. Booth
    5. Kellogg
    6. MIT Sloan
    7. Tuck
    8. Columbia
    9. Haas
    10. Yale SOM
    11. Ross
    12. Fuqua
    13. Darden
    14. Johnson
    15. Anderson
    16. Stern

    Interesting, because P&Q has never been a very strong advocate of Wharton, but it can’t be helped if its been the darling of all rankings this year. Top 10 unchanged, Stern makes a deserving and expected return to the Top 16

  • LongTimeFirstTime

    Welp, you can pretty much figure out what the P&Q ranking will look like…

    1. Wharton (or Harvard)
    2. Harvard (or Wharton)
    3. Stanford
    4. Kellogg (or Chicago)
    5. Chicago (or Kellogg)
    6. MIT (or Tuck or Columbia)
    7. Tuck (or MIT or Columbia)
    8. Columbia (or MIT or Tuck)
    9. Haas
    10. Yale (or Ross or Darden or Fuqua or Johnson or Stern)
    11. Ross (see above)
    12. Darden (see above)
    13. Fuqua (see above)
    14. Johnson (see above)
    15. Stern (see above)

    The interesting thing will be if P&Q updates their methodology. Personally — I think they should give USNews and Forbes equal 30% weight. In addition, they should only rank US schools against US schools (e.g. for the FT rankings, they should rank H/S/W 1,2,3 rather than 2,3,4 just because INSEAD got the top spot; same with The Economist, etc.).