Big Changes In This Year’s BW Ranking

Rankings illustration from the new graphic novel on MBA admissions by Menlo Coaching

For the first time ever, Bloomberg Businessweek will produce a global MBA ranking this fall, comparng U.S. and international business schools on the same list. Up until now, Businessweek has published separate rankings for U.S. and international MBA programs.

The new combined ranking—disclosed to the business school community in an email obtained by Poets&Quants—is among a series of yet another group of changes to the magazine’s methodology for assessing the quality of MBA programs. Businessweek also revealed that it will separately measure schools on five “indexes” that group the answers to its survey questions under broad categories including compensation, learning, networking, diversity and transformation.

What impact the changes will ultimately have on a school’s ranking is uncertain because the magazine has not yet disclosed how much weight it intends to put on each metric within an index or on each of the five indexed components of the new ranking. But the outline of the proposed changes suggests some major upheavals in how schools’ MBA programs will be ranked by Businessweek in what will be the 30th anniversary since the launch of the magazine’s rankings in 1988.


In recent years, Businessweek has gone back to the drawing board to alter its methodology on several occasions, causing widespread angst and frustration among deans and administrators. Those methodology tweaks have led to dramatic changes in the year-over-year ranking of schools, having little to do with the actual quality of an MBA program or the impact of MBA education on either students or corporate recruiters.

Businessweek will continue to base its rankings on four surveys to schools, students, alumni and corporate recruiters. Those surveys were closed in late July, with the magazine editors now crunching the data collected in them. But exactly how they use the data to crank out a new ranking has yet to be determined. “We are still waiting on structure, distribution and packages,” according to the email. “But we know there will be some kind of school page and a customisable user experience by index and region at the very least.”

The revamp comes at a time of new competition and heightened concern by deans over the influence rankings wield on application volume, student choices, recruiter satisfaction, and alumni fundraising. This fall, the Wall Street Journal will get back into the act of publishing a new MBA ranking in partnership with Times Higher Education, a  publication in the United Kingdom. Many of the most highly selective U.S. business schools, including Harvard, MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg and Columbia, have decided not to participate in that ranking (see Many Top Schools Bow Out Of New WSJ & THE Ranking). Some of the schools have given serious consideration to dropping out of the Businessweek list as well because earlier changes have led to greater volatility in the results.

Last year’s Businessweek ranking saw the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School surged four places to pass Stanford, Duke, Chicago and Dartmouth to place second (see Wharton, MIT Gain Big In 2017 Businessweek MBA Ranking). It was 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.


This year, the most visible change in the Businessweek survey will be a combined global ranking and the elimination of a separate “international” list. Businessweek, however, said it will continue to publish a separate ranking of only U.S. business schools. The magazine expects to unveil its U.S. ranking in mid-November, with the global list set for release a month later in mid-December. The combined ranking follows the lead of both The Financial Times and The Economist in comparing and contrasting all the world’s best MBA offerings, no matter where they are or whether they are one- or two-year programs.

““We’re making big changes this year in how we rank schools and the information and experience we’ll provide,” according to the communcation from Businessweek obtained by P&Q.

“The global ranking will include all the schools from the U.S. and all the schools elsewhere in the world. That means, for instance, that CEIBS and INSEAD will be in the same global ranking as Booth and Harvard. The global ranking will be sortable by region, e.g. all APAC schools and how they compare with each other.” That approach has been used by both the FT and The Economist for many years.


In fact, some of the changes are centered around the presentation of data in an attempt to allow users to parse the rankings for information deemed more important to an individual reader.

“We’re making our rankings dynamic, to reflect students’ changing needs, especially their desire to customize what, in the end, is a highly personalized decision. We want our rankings—and how we publish them—to better reflect this reality. To that end, we are creating five indexes that will make up the heart of how we judge schools: compensation, learning, networking, diversity, and transformation.”

Here is how Businessweek is describing what it intends to include in each index:

Compensation: Pay right after graduation, what alumni are earning, percentage of students employed three months after graduation, size of bonuses, and percentage of a class receiving a bonus. This index draws from the employment data we obtain from schools, as well as from our student and alumni surveys.

Learning: This is the core of what schools do, so we use questions from all three surveys to explore the quality, depth, and range of experiences from students, alumni, and employers. In addition, we’ll ask about the comparative strengths of one school’s education vs. another’s. Rather than view innovation and entrepreneurship as specialized subjects, we regard them as essential to a student’s learning experience, making them part of our Learning Index.

Networking: This is one of the key takeaways students expect from a business school. So we focus on the quality of networks being built by classmates; students’ interactions with alumni; the success and personalization of the career-services office; the quality and breadth of alumni-to-alumni interactions; and the school’s halo, or brand power, from a recruiter’s vantage.

Diversity: Do students—no matter their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, or physical disability—feel comfortable in a school, with equal opportunities to learn and succeed? By pulling information from all three surveys, this index aims to capture the climate of a school and determine whether it produces a talented and diverse pool of candidates. This matters to prospective students, to schools, to society, and to us at Bloomberg.

Transformation: Alumni who rave about their business school experience often call it “transformative.” This means different things to different people. For some, it means successfully switching careers. For others, it means learning to think and act strategically and to acquire the skills needed to make a positive impact on society. Still others aim to boost their compensation or start businesses. Through our student, alumni, and employer surveys, we want to capture transformative goals and assess whether schools are meeting them.


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