Cornell Johnson | Mr. Advisory Consultant
GRE 330, GPA 2.25
Kellogg | Mr. Equity To IB
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
INSEAD | Mr. Marketing Master
GRE 316, GPA 3.8
Darden | Ms. Marketing Analyst
GMAT 710, GPA 3.75
Wharton | Mr. Aspiring Leader
GMAT 750, GPA 3.38
Darden | Mr. Corporate Dev
GMAT Waived, GPA 3.8
Cornell Johnson | Mr. SAP SD Analyst
GMAT 660, GPA 3.60
Kellogg | Ms. Public School Teacher
GRE 325, GPA 3.93
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Military MedTech
GRE 310, GPA 3.48
Stanford GSB | Mr. Latino Healthcare
GRE 310, GPA 3.4
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Army Officer
GRE 325, GPA 3.9
INSEAD | Mr. Future In FANG
GMAT 650, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Hedge Fund
GMAT 740, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. Deferred MBA
GMAT 760, GPA 3.82
Stanford GSB | Mr. Robotics
GMAT 730, GPA 2.9
Stanford GSB | Ms. Artistic Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 9.49/10
Yale | Mr. Army Pilot
GMAT 650, GPA 2.90
Kellogg | Mr. Double Whammy
GMAT 730, GPA 7.1/10
INSEAD | Mr. Tesla Manager
GMAT 720, GPA 3.7
Darden | Mr. Tech To MBB
GMAT 710, GPA 2.4
INSEAD | Ms. Investment Officer
GMAT Not taken, GPA 16/20 (French scale)
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Startup Of You
GMAT 770, GPA 2.4
Kellogg | Mr. Hopeful Admit
GMAT Waived, GPA 4.0
UCLA Anderson | Mr. International PM
GMAT 730, GPA 2.3
Harvard | Mr. Policy Development
GMAT 740, GPA Top 30%
Ross | Mr. Brazilian Sales Guy
GRE 326, GPA 77/100 (USA Avg. 3.0)
GMAT -, GPA 2.9

Harvard & Wharton Tie for 2018’s #1 MBA Program


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.


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.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.