On the 30th anniversary of the Bloomberg Businessweek MBA ranking, something happened that had never occurred since 1988 when the magazine began ranking business schools: Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business is in first place. On the inaugural list, Stanford was ninth. To capture the top prize in the U.S. this year, the school moved up four spots from fifth last year.
It’s just one of many changes on the topsy-turvy list this year, made even more volatile due to substantial changes in the way Businessweek is ranking full-time MBA programs. In fact, Bloomberg Businessweek decided not to provide readers comparative scores from last year’s rankings because it said “the new ranking methodology is different from the one we’d used in previous years.”
But comparisons are inevitable. After all, only 12 months ago Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the vast majority of these same schools with as much authority as it does today. And year-over-year comparions, by the way, are not only eyebrow raising, they are also somewhat embarrassing. Just among the top 25 U.S. MBA programs alone, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business jumped eight spots to land in ninth place. Duke University’s Fuqua School, once the beneficiary of an earlier change in methodology that boosted the school’s MBA program into first in 2014, slipped nine places to rank 15th. Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business plunged 12 spots to 19th, while the MBA programs at Georgetown and Vanderbilt Universities gained big ground, rising 15 and 13 places, respectively, to 20th and 21st.
TOP FIVE PRETTY STABLE WITH STANFORD GSB, WHARTON, HARVARD, MIT & CHICAGO BOOTH
Those wild swings make this year’s top five look boring. After Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School took second honors, followed by No. 3 Harvard Business School, No. 4. MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and No. 5 University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Harvard, the GSB’s perennial East Coast rival, slipped out of first, a place it occupied for the past three years from 2017 to 2015 (see Ten Biggest Surprises On The 2018 Businessweek MBA Ranking).
In all the shuffling up and down the ranking, it’s easy to overlook smaller, though significant, movements on the list. But among the most highly selective MBA programs, there were some notable advances. Berkeley Haas, Yale SOM, and NYU Stern, for example, all gained five places this year, to rank sixth, 11th and 13th, respectively.
Over the 30 years since the debut of Businessweek’s original ranking, the MBA degree became the most popular graduate degree in America. More schools thn ever offer the credential, though applications in recent years have declined at many U.S. business schools. One telling difference: In 1988, Wharton MBAs drew average starting salaries of $55,183, a sum that was just 60.3% of the $30,880 tuition they paid over their two years in the program.
Last year, average starting salaries ballooned to $137,717, but total tuition of $153,160 now exceeds first-year salaries. The far more limited debut ranking placed numerical ranks on the full-time MBA programs at 20 U.S. business schools. Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management led the list, followed by Harvard, Tuck, Wharton, and Cornell (see table below).
KELLOGG STILL LEADS WITH FIRST PLACE FINISHES SINCE 1988
This is the 18th Businessweek MBA ranking, which had been published every other year until the editors moved the list to an annual publication schedule in 2014. Over that time, Kellogg landed in first place five times, Wharton and Chicago Booth four times each, Harvard three times, and Duke and Stanford once each.
In this first go-round of the new 2018 ranking, Businessweek assessed only U.S. schools. On Dec. 11th, the magazine will publish a global list, combining U.S. and non-U.S. MBA programs on a single ranking for the very first time. Before this year, Businessweek would publish separate U.S. and international rankings in the belief that its methodology was not easily transferable across vastly different cultures and regions.
The magazine’s editors have put considerable effort behind what can only be called a relaunch of its ranking. After a lengthy listening tour with B-school stakeholders, they reinvented the methodology, organizing round four building blocks: compensation, learning, networking, and entrepreneurship. Besides the overall ranking, the magazine publishes the index scores and rank for each school in all four categories (see table on how the top 25 schools scored).
A MASSIVE UNDERTAKING WITH RESPONSES FROM 10,473 STUDENTS, 15,050 ALUMS & 3,698 EMPLOYERS
They gathered responses from 10,473 students who graduated from Oct. 1 of 2017 through Sept. 30 of this year, up 11% from 2017; 15,050 alumni who graduated from Oct. 1 of 2009 through Sept. 30 of 2012, an increase of more than 50%, and 3,698 employers who have recruited MBAs at business schools in 2016 and 2017, a fivefold jump in respondents from last year. The rankings of 92 U.S. MBA programs are based on their responses, as well as year-old compensation and job-placement data from each school.
The result of all this effort? Well, it’s as entertaining as it is informative. Nearly 40%, or 33, (39.3% to be exact) of the 84 schools that appear on both this year’s and last year’s lists experienced double-digit gains or falls. Ten of them, in fact, advanced or declined by 20 or more places. That compares to a mere six schools with double-digit changes last year and just 18 in 2016. If you include the eight newcomers to the list and where they landed, more than 40%, or 36, (42.4%) of the 92 ranked schools would have had to jump or fall in double-digits.
The champagne corks will surely be popped today at Howard University, up 30 places to rank 60th from 33rd from 63rd; North Carolina State, up 23 spots to 47th from 70th; San Diego, which climbed 21 steps to place 60th from 81st, and Utah, up 20 to finish 36th from 56th. Conversely, the Kleenex tissues may be needed today at SUNY-Buffalo, which plummeted 32 places to 78th from 46th; Texas A&M, which had a free fall of 27 spots to rank 49th from 22nd; Oklahoma, which skidded 26 places to 79th from 53rd; Michigan State and Illinois, which both slipped 24 spots to rank 53rd and 69th, respectively.