Wharton, MIT Gain Big In Businessweek MBA Ranking

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business


While everyone can certainly quibble with any given school’s ranking on the 2017 list, it’s when you look under the hood at the individual components of the Businessweek ranking where the most evident flaws can be found. In the one metric that counts the most–the survey of corporate recruiters–there are a myriad of head-scratchers. Consider Stanford University’s GSB, where employers willingly pay MBAs the highest compensation packages in the world. On Businessweek‘s recruiter ranking, Shockingly, Stanford is in 20th place. Who’s ahead of the West Coast giant of business education? According to Businessweek, it’s Texas A&M, Syracuse, Purdue, Penn State, and Rice, among 14 other schools.

How is that even remotely possible? A clue lies in who exactly the magazine surveys for corporate perspectives. Businessweek now asks schools for the names of every recruiter who shows up on its campus. Most MBA recruiting, however, is done by a school’s alumni who return to campus so they have a vested interest in cheerleading for their MBA program. The magazine said it invited 11,801 recruiters to take the survey and received 686 responses, a response rate of 5.8%.

Then, Businessweek weights recruiters’ scores by how many MBAs they hired. If a company hired more, it had a greater impact on the ranking than if it had hired just a few. That methodology would greatly favor schools that graduate larger classes of MBAs because recruiters would naturally be able to hire higher larger numbers of MBAs from those institutions. The fact that Stanford has a smaller MBA program and more of its MBAs land jobs requiring one-off searches with startups greatly disadvantages the school. How did Syracuse, Purdue, Penn State and Rice, all of which have even smaller graduating classes than Stanford, do better? More of their alumni recruiters filled out the surveys, perhaps even excluding the better schools to make their own alma maters look better.


Or take the second most important component of the ranking, the magazine’s survey of alumni. Information gathered for this portion of the ranking focuses on median compensation increases, job satisfaction, and feedback on 16 questions about their MBA experiences, ranging from the specific impacts their MBA programs have had on their careers to whether they would recommend their program to others.

The survey shows that MBA alumni from Baylor (ranking 13th on the alumni survey), Oklahoma (14) and Texas A&M (15) are happier campers than those at UCLA (16), Northwestern Kellogg (18), MIT Sloan (20), Chicago Booth (35), Texas at Austin (37), and Michigan Ross (47), among other highly admired schools. Rather than cast aspersions on the alumni of the schools that are more highly ranked by alumni, it’s certainly prudent to ask if these results pass the smell test. We think not.

In fact, schools known over the years for having close-knit student cultures and highly loyal alumni networks tend not to fare nearly as well as you would expect in this part of the ranking. Dartmouth Tuck, where a higher percentage of MBA alumni give money to the school every year than any other in the world, ranks only seventh–behind No. 4 Rice, No. 5 Emory, and No. 6 Notre Dame. The University of Virginia’s Darden School, where the quality of the MBA teaching is second to none, finds itself in 12th place behind No. 11 Wharton and No. 8 Brigham Young.


And finally, there is that student survey with 27 questions on everything from the campus climate, the effectiveness of career services, and the responsiveness of faculty and administrators. Businessweek says that it received 9,461 responses from graduates in the Class of 2017. To be included in the rankings, each school was required to have at least 30 students respond to the survey; larger programs were required to reach a threshold ranging from 15% to 40%.

And the envelope? William & Mary’s Mason School of Business placed second this year behind UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. That put Mason, with 60 students in a class and a total enrollment of 120 full-time MBAs, ahead of No. 14, Kellogg, No. 16 Stanford, No. 18 Harvard, No. 21 MIT Sloan, No. 27 Yale SOM, and No. 35 Dartmouth Tuck. It’s very possible that in s small intimate MBA program the satisfaction rates among students can be higher than at larger, big brand schools. But few applicants would pick Mason over those other schools.

There are still more surprises in the student survey, as you would expect. USC’s Marshall School of Business and Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business finished sixth and seventh, ahead of UVA, Chicago Booth, and Duke. Those schools also did better, of course, than all the big brand schools we just mentioned above.