Chicago Booth Regains Top MBA Program In 2018 Economist Ranking

The University of Chicago’s Booth School has captured first place in The Economist ranking in six of the past seven years

What goes up must come down?

In The Economist’s new 2018 MBA ranking out today (Oct. 25) that is what it comes to as the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business recaptured first place after losing the spot to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business last year. Kellogg, meantime, slipped to second place, just behind its Chicago arch rival. It is the sixth time in the past seven years that Booth has been No. 1 in this ranking.

But outside the top five, which includes No. 3 Harvard Business School, No. 4 University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and No. 5 Stanford Graduate School of Business, all of which retained their previous year ranks, there were some big changes.

UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business fell out of The Economist’s top ten, slipping four spots each to 11th and 12th, respectively. IESE Business School in Spain jumped 11 places to rank sixth from 17th a year ago. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business climbed five spots to rank seventh from 12th a year earlier.


Rounding out the top ten schools among the 100 ranked are No. 8 UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, No. 9  University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and No. 10 Columbia Business School.

As is often the case in the British magazine’s rather unpredictable and often nonsensical ranking, there are some real shocks. Warwick Business School, placing 18th for the second consecutive year, is ranked one spot higher than INSEAD, a school that is often neck and neck with London Business School for being the best in Europe. Meantime, this year London landed outside the top 20, ranking 27th, below No. 24 SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy and No. 21 University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business.

But there were still more wild ups and downs. The University of Washington’s Foster School of Business soared 14 places to finish 22nd, up from 36th only a year earlier, while the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business jumped 10 spots to finish 25th, up from 35th in 2017. The University of Bath shot up 20 places to finish 47th from 67th last year, while Penn State’s Smeal College of Business gained 15 spots to rank 50th.


On the downward side, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business plunged 14 spots to rank 36th, down from 22nd last year. Even worse, the University of Queensland in Australia went into free fall, dropping 22 places to rank 38th from 16th in 2017. Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business sunk 10 spots to 48th, from 58th last year. IE Business School in Spain tumbled 29 spots to rank 63rd this year, the school’s second significant fall in a row. Only two years ago, in 2016, The Economist had ranked IE’s MBA program 16th best in the world. IE’s fall comes in a year when the school also lost its Financial Times ranking.

Of all the major rankings, The Economist’s ranking often is the most volatile list. This year proved no exception to that rule. All told, 32 of the schools that remained on the list year-over-year experienced double-digit gains or declines. That turmoil does not include the ten MBA programs that fell off the list or the ten that replaced the fallen. Some of the steepest drops on this year’s list were very nearly breathtaking. Macquarie University’s Graduate School of Management in Australia plunged 30 places to finish 79th, from 49th just a year ago, while Audencia Nantes School of Management lost 27 spots on The Economist list to fall to 90th from 63rd.

Just as stunning, UC-Davis’ Graduate School of Management rose 29 spots to secure a 54th place finish, while the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business jumped 20 places to rank 44th from 64th last year. The business schools at the University of Bath and the International University of Monaco both zoomed ahead 20 places each to rank 47th and 62nd, respectively.


Changes of that magnitude in any ranking should give readers great pause. It’s not possible, after all, for an MBA program to change all that much in a single year. In fact, it’s rare for a business school’s quality to change dramatically over a five-year timeframe. The reason for such roller-coaster results can largely be attributed to the fact that the underlying index scores that determine a numerical rankings are often so close s to be statistically meaningless.

As bad as those radical ups and downs are, The Economist also routinely undervalues some of the best MBA programs in the world. Consider the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. The Economist ranks Saïd 78th this year, down three places from 75th in 2017. That rating shockingly places the business school at Oxford, one of the world’s greatest universities, behind No. 43 Hult International and No. 62 Monaco. Meantime, the Financial Times ranks Saïd 27th in the world, while Bloomberg Businessweek puts Saïd fourth among all schools outside the U.S.

The Economist list is the third of the five most influential MBA rankings to come out this year. It follows the Financial Times in January, and U.S. News & World Report in March. Forbes did not publish its biennial list this year, both Wharton claimed the No. 1 spot in Forbes last year for the first time ever. Stanford Graduate School of Business capped the FT list this year, while Chicago Booth also scored for the first time top honors in U.S. News. The last and final big brand list from Bloomberg Businessweek is expected to make its appearance in mid-November. Poets&Quants will then quickly follow with its composite ranking before the end of next month.


The Economist said that Booth came in first because of high student ratings. Students “praise its world-class facilities and faculty, which includes several Nobel laureates. Job opportunities are among the best, thanks to a highly rated careers service and an alumni network of 52,500 people, one of the largest in the world. Employment outcomes are outstanding: 97% of students find a job within three months of graduation. Graduates pocket an average salary of $129,400, a 67% rise on their pre-mba paychecks.”

The Economist examines business schools by considering the most criteria—21 different metrics in all versus the 20 at the FT–from the diversity of the on-campus recruiters to the range of overseas exchange programs. Compensation and career placement are heavily weighted, including starting salaries, pre-MBA versus post-MBA pay increases, and the percentage of graduates who land jobs through the career management center. Pay and placement account for 45% of the methodology.

The one big difference with the Financial Times is The Economist’s rather significant reliance on student satisfaction, gathered by an annual survey of current MBA students and recent alumni. They’re asked to rate the quality of the faculty, the career services staff, the school’s curriculum and culture, the facilities, the alumni network, and their classmates. The methodology takes into account new career opportunities (35%); personal development/educational experience (35%); increasing salary (20%); and the potential to network (10%). The figures are a mixture of hard data and the subjective marks given by the school’s students who are aware that their answers will result in a ranking that could reflect on the reputation of their degrees.

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