What a difference a year can make.
Little more than a year ago at a crowded town hall meeting on the Wharton campus, Dean Geoffrey Garrett found himself addressing the concerns of Wharton MBA students who peppered him with questions on a number of thorny issues. Among all their worries, one especially loomed large: The school’s deteriorating performance in rankings.
Ever since Aussie 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 outranked the school on six of the past eight Poets&Quants’ lists, 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.
‘WE SHOULD JUST TRY TO DO THE BEST JOB WE CAN’
Dean Garrett’s perspective on the sagging rankings was that Harvard, Stanford and Chicago Booth were all outspending Wharton on scholarship aid to lure the best students. “We should just try to do the best job we can and it’ll work out in the rankings,” he said at the town hall. “I think it’s much harder to game at the top.”
Just 13 months after that October session with students, Garrett has delivered the goods. For the first time ever, Wharton has claimed the top spot in Poets&Quants’ composite ranking, narrowly dislodging Harvard Business School which lost the No. 1 honor for only the second time in eight years. The only other time HBS failed to win top honors was in 2014 when Stanford’s Graduate School of Business nudged it aside.
Wharton accomplished the feat by moving up a combined 21 places in all five of the most influential rankings used by Poets&Quants to construct its annual list of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. Besides tying Harvard 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 this year, moving up six places from seventh. The school also soared eight places on The Economist list to rank fourth from 12th. And Wharton improved its standing on the Financial Times list, edging up one place to rank third this year.
MICHIGAN, CARNEGIE MELLON & GEORGETOWN ALSO GAIN GROUND IN TOP 25
The upshot: The most consequential improvement on this year’s P&Q list was scored by Wharton which climbed three places, gaining the most ground of any MBA program in the Top 25. Three schools improved their ranks by two places in the Top 25: the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business moved up to 11th place, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business improved to a rank of 17th, and Georgetown University’s McDonough School also rose two to finish 23rd.
Rounding out the top ten schools on this year’s P&Q list was Harvard, just .4 index points behind Wharton, Stanford, Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, MIT Sloan, Dartmouth Tuck, Columbia Business School, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, and Yale’s School of Management in tenth place for the third year in a row.
P&Q ranks MBA programs outside the U.S. and this year INSEAD won top honors for the third consecutive year followed by IESE Business School in Spain, London Business School in the United Kingdom, IE Business School in Spain, and IMD in Switzerland ( for the full international ranking see The Best International Business Schools of 2017).
HOW THE RANKING IS PUT TOGETHER
Unlike other rankings, the Poets&Quants’ composite list combines the latest five most influential business school rankings in the world: U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Financial Times, and The Economist. Instead of merely averaging the five, each ranking is separately weighted to account for our view of their credibility. (U.S. News is given a weight of 35%, Forbes, 25%, while both The Financial Times and Businessweek is given a 15% weight, and The Economist, 10%.)
Combining these five major rankings doesn’t eliminate the flaws in each system, but it does significantly diminish them. When an anomaly pops on one list due to either faulty survey technique or biased methodology, bringing all the data together tends to suppress it. So the composite index tones down the noise in each of these five surveys to get more directly at the real signal that is being sent.
On P&Q’s lineup of the best U.S. MBA programs, all top ten schools in last year’s ranking, for example, remain in the top ten this year. In fact, every Top 25 school retained its Top 25 status in 2016. While there were some changes, they were slight: Besides Wharton, Ross, Tepper and McDonough, most schools either stayed exactly where they were last year or moved up or down by one place. Only two MBA programs, UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Management—lost two positions year-over-year in the Top 25.
A MORE RELIABLE AND CREDIBLE RANKING FOR APPLICANTS
In fact, over the eight years of the Poets&Quants’ ranking only one school has cracked the Top Ten. Yale’s School of Management displaced Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 2015 and has remained in tenth place since then (see chart below on ranking changes for the Top Ten schools).
The upshot: The list is far more stable–and reliable–than most rankings published elsewhere, taking into account a massive wealth of quantitative and qualitative data captured in these major lists, from surveys of corporate recruiters, MBA graduates, deans and faculty publication records to median GPA and GMAT scores of entering students as well as the latest salary and employment statistics of alumni.
What’s more, users can see at one glance where their target schools fall across the spectrum of core rankings. And for the second time, we’re including year-over-year changes in each of the five lists that comprise our overall ranking (see this year’s ranking tables.) As a result, you can more clearly assess why a school moved up or down on the new 2017 list.