Say what you will about the new, completely revamped Bloomberg Businessweek MBA ranking. If your school did well, you’re not asking any questions. You’re celebrating. And if your school unexplainably tanked, you’re wanting to either seethe in anger and disgust or simply ignore the bad news.
While many of the outcomes in the 2018 version of the ranking may be hard to digest, you’ve got to give the editors some credit for trying to do something different. The decision to rate schools on four core dimensions–compensation, learning, networking and entrepreneurship–is a novel to make use of the massive dataset the magazine collects for its now annual list. Those four “indexes” are the foundation of this new ranking and that foundation, as it turns out, isn’t all that solid.
This year, the magazine collected an unprecedented amount of information that went into the project. The list is based on survey responses from 10,473 students, an 11% increase over last year; 15,050 alumni, up more than 50%, and 3,698 corporate recruiters, a fivefold increase from 2017. That big jump is a vast improvement on the puny 5.8% response rate for recruiters last year, resulting in just 686 responses.
Regardless of the sometimes screwy results, millions of potential students will read and be influenced by the ranking. But let’s face it, there are outcomes in this ranking that defy explanation or even common sense. Which business schools were overvalued by this new ranking and which ones were undervalued? Which MBA programs were among the big winners or losers? The answer to these questions will surprise you–and there are many more surprises buried in the data crunched by Businessweek to produce its 30th anniversary ranking of the top 92 U.S. full-time MBA programs.
Here ‘s our top ten biggest surprises:
1. Is the MBA learning experience at William & Mary really twice as good as Harvard Business School?
In almost all MBA rankings, one of the more elusive elements to measure is the quality of the academic experience. There are no GMAT scores, undergraduate GPAs or starting salaries and placement rates to plug into a ranking system when it comes to how good and how innovative is a school’s MBA curriculum. So attempts to get a handle on this come through student and graduate surveys, both subject to self-interested cheerleading from alumni who want to see their schools ranked highly. The differing expectations of students at each school along with the sample size of a school’s respondents can also have a big impact on these results.
Bloomberg Businessweek‘s objective is trying to do this is commendable, but the results are questionable. The magazine’s editors say their new ‘learning’ index is meant to measure the quality, depth, and range of instruction. “We focus on whether the curriculum is applicable to real-world business situations; the degree of emphasis on innovation, problem-solving, and strategic thinking; the level of inspiration and support from instructors; class size; and collaboration,” explained Caleb Solomon, a Bloomberg senior editor.
Which schools meet that test? The answers, at least according to Bloomberg Businessweek, constitute the single biggest surprises of many surprises in this ranking. The magazine’s editors would have you believe that the best three MBA programs are learning are at William & Mary, the University of Utah and the University of Texas at Dallas. We have no beef with the excellence of those MBA programs, but is there anyone in the world, outside of those schools’ stakeholders, who would agree that these programs provide better MBA learning than Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and the rest of the so-called Magnificent 7? We don’t think so.
Yet, the Businessweek data actually shows that William & Mary’s MBA provides a learning environment that is nearly twice as good as that of the Harvard Business School, with William and Mary earning a perfect 100.0 score on the learning index versus Harvard’s 55.8 (see below). Now that is one big surprise.