WHO’S UP, WHO’S DOWN, AND HOW COME
Still, among the top 50 ranked MBA programs this year, only one experienced a year-over-year, double-digit change: UC-Davis’ Graduate School of Management, which jumped 11 places to rank 49th this year, from 61st in 2017. It took a lot of rankings momentum to gain that kind of improvement. UC-Davis earned rankings from both The Economist and Bloomberg Businessweek this year after being unranked in 2017. The school also had a five-point increase in U.S. News’ ranking.
Not surprisingly, volatility becomes a bigger issue as you wade further down the list of schools. That’s because the measurable differences among the schools tends to be much smaller and often less consequential, if not meaningless. That is one of the biggest issues in each of the five most influential rankings due to index scores that are clustered so closely together that they have little statistical relevance to justify putting a definite numerical rank next to a school.
Even so, only 11 of the 100 schools on the P&Q list had a double-digit advance or decline this year (see table below). In the more recent Bloomberg Businessweek ranking, nearly 40% of the schools that were ranked this year and last experienced a double-digit change, with 10 MBA programs improving or declining by 20 or more places. That is an unusual degree of volatility that says more about a ranking’s methodology than it does about the changing quality of MBA programs. Afterall, the vast majority of programs don’t change all that much year-over-year to justify double-digit jumps or falls. Volatility is the antithesis of reliability.
WHY GIES COLLEGE OF BUSINESS TUMBLED 15 PLACES THIS YEAR
A quick look at our ranking tables makes obvious the reasons for bigger movements up or down the list. More often than not, double-digit changes on the P&Q list occur when one of more of the most influential rankings drop or add an MBA program. Case Western University’s Weatherhead School of Management, for example, rose 14 places this year because it gained new rankings from The Economist and Forbes and improved its standing on both the U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek lists. In short, Weatherhead had a great rankings year.
On the down side, the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business at Urbana-Champaign tumbled 15 places this year because it lost two rankings—Financial Times and Forbes—and suffered declines on U.S. News’ list (falling eight places to 48th) and Bloomberg Businessweek’s ranking (dropping 24 places to rank 69th). The loss of the FT and Forbes’ rankings were consequential because the school’s full-time MBA program had ranked 43rd among U.S. programs on the Financial Times list and 44th on Forbes’ ranking.
Every ranking list contains what would be considered anomalies, and the P&Q annual list, while more stable than others, is not an exception. The most glaring example of this is Howard University’s School of Business which had the single biggest gain this year. Howard’s full-time MBA program jumped 23 places to rank 71st from 94th last year. The reason: It was the biggest gainer in Bloomberg Businessweek’s ranking this year, rising a remarkable 30 places to a 33rd finish.
There is no good reason that would explain such a huge jump in a single year on the Bloomberg Businessweek list. The school’s MBA program is unranked by Forbes, the Financial Times and The Economist. It is ranked 78th by U.S. News. While the P&Q approach dampens the full impact of that unexplainable improvement in the Businessweek ranking, Howard still managed a P&Q rank is defies its historical rankings. Is the improvement a fair reflection of Howard’s MBA program. Of course not. But then again, there’s a lot in life and plenty in rankings that is unfair.