Ten Biggest Surprises In Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2017 MBA Ranking

Kelley School of Business at Indiana University/Photo by Josh Anderson

7) Indiana’s Kelley School Goes From 1st To 32nd

Any double-digit fall in a ranking has to be immediately suspect. Afterall, very little changes from one year to the next in an MBA program. The only explanation for a big drop is some sort of crisis that strikes a business school, especially when it comes to student opinion. It could be the eruption of a controversy, the failure of an administration to swiftly react to major student concerns, a screwup in the career management office that results in fewer job offers.

So how to explain the free fall in Businessweek’s student survey experienced by Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business this year? Kelley, which has one of the more innovative MBA curriculums and one of the most attentive and responsive deans of any business school, plunged from first place last year to 32nd this year. And, of course, there was no crisis at the school that could even remotely justify the drop which pushed Kelley out of the Top 25 overall to a rank of 27.

The 31-place drop in the student survey is even more striking because Businessweek tosses in the previous year’s results in an attempt to diminish such wild year-over-year swings. “We also included data from our 2016 Student Survey to diversify the student feedback that contributes to this portion of the rankings.” Yet, 18 of the Top 50 schools experienced double-digit gains or drops in the student ranking this year.

As we explained earlier in the item on Stanford’s fall, scores on student surveys are ridiculously clustered close together. So minute fractions of a change can create major swings in rankings, even though those swings are not statistically significant. That is why Kelley fell from first to 32nd, and why Cornell’s Johnson School climbed 34 positions to rank third this year from 37th in 2016. It’s also why the University of Texas McCombs School soared 29 places to rank 26th and Houston’s Bauer School rushed ahead 26 spots to place 24th or the University of Maryland’s plunged 30 places to rank 39th after finishing ninth last year.

Remember that these unpredictable outcomes are occuring even AFTER Businessweek adds in the year-earlier results not to “diversify” student feedback but to dampen down embarassing changes that make the ranking less credible. We’ll borrow and paraphrase an accounting term to describe what all this means: Garbage in, garbage out.

Students’ Bridge at USC Marshall

8) No Respect For The Famed Trojan Network?

Among the nation’s strongest and most loyal alumni networks has long belonged to the University of Southern California. People speak of the Trojan Network with a mixture of envy and pride, envy if you’re not part of it and pride if you are a part of the Trojan Family.

Indeed, many argue that it is the school’s greatest asset, an incredible networking and mentorship resource. Alums help each other out in every possible way. They return phone calls and emails. They offer advice and counsel to each other. They open doors for career opportunities.

Yet, Businessweek accords the network no respect. Out of 85 schools, the alumni rank for USC’s Marshall School of Business is a lowly 58 this year, just two positions above last year’s 60th ranking. The alumni grade trails Maryland, Michigan State, Iowa, William & Mary, UC-Irvine, and the University of Connecticut

We’re not sure why this is so, but it doesn’t compute. Oddly, however, it is the lowest rank USC’s Marshall gets in any one of the five components measured by Businessweek in its ranking. Marshall is sixth in the student survey, 30th in the employer survey, 23rd in salary and 30th in placement. How the school gets a 58th rank from alumni is beyond comprehension.

USC Marshall School of Business alone has more than 75,000 alumni over 85 countries around the globe. As the school notes, “being a Trojan does not end after graduation, the Trojan Network is always there to support you throughout your future endeavors.” Except when it comes to Businessweek’s alumni survey.


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