9. The Roller-Coaster Outcomes: The Big Dips
Business school rankings are notoriously volatile. Even though there often are few year-over-year changes at most MBA programs, a school’s rank can experience dramatic swings. Usually, those changes say less about the quality of a program and more about the flaws and limitations of a ranking. They typically occur because the underlying index scores used to determine a school’s rank are clustered so closely together as to be statistically meaningless. So small and often subtle changes, even something as simple as the size of the responding sample, can have bigger impacts than warranted. High annual volatility should breed little confidence in a ranking because those ups and downs fail to reflect any real change in a school’s MBA program.
And when the methodology is revamped, as it was this year, the volatility can be massive. Some 33 of the 84 schools, or nearly 40%, that appear on both this year’s and last year’s lists experienced double-digit gains or falls. That compares to a mere six schools with double-digit changes last year and just 18 in 2016. Leading the parade of 16 double-digit plungers this year? SUNY-Buffalo which lost 32 places and Texas A&M which plummeted 27 spots. The biggest decline to hit a Top Ten MBA program occurred at Dartmouth’s Tuck School which fell a dozen places to rank 19th, from the lofty spot of seventh last year.
10. The Roller-Coaster Outcomes: The Big Climbs
In highly volatile rankings, schools not only go down. They go up. This year, 17 of the schools that had been on last year’s list experienced double-digit gains in their rankings. While they are no doubt celebrating the big ranking improvements, they need to be reminded that what artificially goes up in a big way will ultimately come down for no reason.
The biggest climber this year–Howard University’s School of Business–rose 30 places to rank 33rd, up from 66th in 2017.