Big Surprises In Topsy-Turvy 2019 Economist MBA Ranking

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business captured the number one spot in The Economist’s MBA ranking for the second consecutive year

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business captured top honors for the second consecutive year in The Economist‘s newest ranking of the world’s best MBA programs. For Booth, it’s the seventh time the school has topped the British magazine list in the past nine years, a streak interrupted only by the Kellogg School of Management in 2017 and Dartmouth Tuck in 2011.

But while Booth has been a model of stability in The Economist‘s rankings, the same cannot be said for other business schools on this annual list. This year, for example, 19 of the 100 ranked MBA programs experienced double-digit jumps or declines in a single year, including a fall of 28 places by the University of Hong Kong to 67th from 39th a year ago and a decline of 20 places by Texas Christian University to 87th from 67th.

Another seven business schools fell completely out of the ranking, including the University of Maryland which placed 81st last year and Northeastern University which came in at 82nd in 2018. Those schools were replaced by seven newcomers, including Brigham Young University which took the 47th spot on the ranking after its Marriott School of Business was excluded in 2018.

TOPSY-TURVY RESULTS IN THE ECONOMIST’S 2019 MBA RANKING

Those topsy-turvy results, bound to make deans and other ranking observers shake their heads in disgust, still led to a relatively familiar group of schools at the top of the ranking, though the biggest gain in the Top Ten this year was racked up by HEC Paris. The European school gained ten places, soaring to a third-place finish behind only Booth and the No 2. Harvard Business School. HEC’s grads boosted their pre-MBA salaries by a whopping 153% to $127,410, the single biggest salary increase for any Top 20 school.

The Economist data shows that Harvard MBAs had the slimmest salary bump as a result of their degrees: just 29% because students left jobs that on average paid a shockingly high $108,303, making Harvard students the most highly paid of any business school in the world–before they went for their MBAs. Last year, pre-MBA salaries at HBS were $93,318. Upon graduation, salaries averaged just $139,339, according to the magazine’s data crunching.

Rounding out the Top Ten were No. 4 Kellogg, No. 5 Wharton, No. 6 UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, No. 7 UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, No. 8 Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, No. 9 the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and No. 10 IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain.

Two prominent U.S. business schools slipped out of this year’s Top Ten list: The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business dropped seven places to rank 16th this year from ninth in 2018, while Columbia Business School fell five spots into 15th place from tenth last year.

THE ECONOMIST TYPICALLY IS ONE OF THE MOST VOLATILE RANKINGS

Still, up and down the list of 100 schools, there are plenty of surprising, often head-scratching outcomes.  MBA programs that are routinely considered among the best in the world in other rankings often end up below schools that would frankly struggle to attract the same quality students and faculty.  At a rank of 19th, for example, MIT’s Sloan School of Management finds itself behind Italy’s SDA Bocconi which is ranked 13th, up 11 places from a rank of 24 only a year ago. Yet, only five years ago, Bocconi was ranked 50th by The Economist, when MIT then ranked 15th. MIT is also below the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, ranked 18th this year after a gain of ten places.

Britain’s Warwick Business School, which captured 24th place, is just ahead of London Business School, even though Warwick fell by half a dozen places this year from 18th in 2018.  By The Economist’s quirky methodology, Warwick even nonsensically bests No. 31 Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, No 35 IMD in Switzerland, No. 45 Georgetown University’s McDonough School, and No. 52 the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School.

What accounts for such unpredictable results? The Economist has an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to ranking MBA programs. It examines business schools by considering the most criteria—21 different metrics in all versus the 20 at the FT–from the diversity of the on-campus recruiters to the range of overseas exchange programs. Compensation and career placement are heavily weighted, including starting salaries, pre-MBA versus post-MBA pay increases, and the percentage of graduates who land jobs through the career management center. Pay and placement account for 45% of the methodology.

The volatility in the ranking is especially jarring because The Economist actually attempts to smooth the year-over-year changes by taking a weighted average of data from 2019 (50%), 2018 (30%) and 2017 (20%) to, in its words, “provide a rounded picture of the school over a period of time.” Still, only eight of the 100 schools ranked on this list retained their previous year’s ranking.

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.