Ten Biggest Surprises In The Economist’s 2019 MBA Ranking


INSEAD School of Business

4) No Love For INSEAD…Or The London Business School

Think The Economist treats MIT Sloan poorly? Well, it isn’t personal. Look no further than INSEAD or The London Business School, which ranks 22nd and 25th respectively. Holy afterthoughts! What sins did these schools commit to antagonize The Economist’s ever-prickly metrics?

Let’s start with INSEAD, which placed 57th in the “Open New Career Opportunities” category. Here, the school ranked 78th in job placement. Dig deeper and you’ll find that INSEAD placed 91% of their graduates within three months of graduation in 2018, up from 90% in 2017 and 89% in 2016 – not exactly outliers compared to their peers. That said, respondents did give the school’s career services center a 3.53 score in The Economist’s student survey – a noticeable drop over last year’s 3.99 average. What’s more, INSEAD ranked 47th for the Diversity of Recruiters, defined as the “spread of industry sectors that recruited the most recent graduates.”

Beyond these hiccups, INSEAD is technically a Top 10 program in The Economist. Although the program ranks 31st in “Increase in Salary” overall, that stems from students who enter with higher pre-MBA salary ($70,955) than most schools – a bedrock for a program that prides itself on a higher level of professional experience in the classroom. In addition, the program ranks 10th in “Professional Development and Educational Experience” and 11th for “Potential To Network,” a finish that is hindered by INSEAD ranking 90th for Breadth of Alumni Network (i.e. ratio of existing alumni to current MBA students – a number that punishes INSEAD for growth).

In short, INSEAD tumbled in a category that rewarded placement and career services to the tune of 35% of the ranking’s weight. Despite this, INSEAD managed to produce student survey scores that were comparable, if not exceeded, its traditional peer schools in student survey questions like culture and classmates (4.48), and alumni effectiveness (4.41).

LBS was punished by The Economist for similar sins. Despite performing better than INSEAD in placement and career services, the school placed 75th for the Diversity of Recruiters. At the same time, LBS’ metrics didn’t set the school apart in any category; it ranked 34th in “Personal Development and Educational Experience,” 38th in “Increase in Salary” and 18th in “Potential To Network.” On the plus side, LBS ranked 1st in the Internationalism of Alumni metric. However, this positive was undercut by the school failing to even register among the 100-best scores in Breadth of Alumni Network, another drawback to being a larger school.

Bottom line: INSEAD and LBS tended to recruit a higher caliber student on the front end, meaning the post-graduation pay increase didn’t match up well to peer programs. By the same token, the programs often drew recruiters from fewer industries with both schools struggling in the areas of Faculty Quality – a number that mixes a student survey with a ratio of student-to-faculty and percentage of full-time faculty with Ph.Ds. In both of these areas, INSEAD and The London Business School fell far short of HEC Paris and IESE. Fair or not, these are areas that The Economist values – and priorities determine positioning.

UCLA Anderson School of Management

5) California Dreaming? Is UCLA Anderson Really Better Than Stanford GSB and Berkeley Haas?

Well, that was one of the more unconventional findings of The Economist rankings. This year, UCLA Anderson ranked 6th overall, just ahead of Berkeley Haas (7th) and Stanford GSB (8th). That flies in the face of rankings like U.S. News, where Stanford, Haas, and UCLA rank 2nd, 6th, 16th and respectively. In The Financial Times global ranking, the order repeats itself, this time in the order of 1st, 10th, and 26th. The same is true with Bloomberg Businessweek (1st, 6th, and 18th). So what makes The Economist so different?

Let’s start with UCLA Anderson’s strengths. It ranks 2nd in “Opening New Career Opportunities,” which accounts for 35% of a program’s ranking. Not surprisingly, the school placed 2nd in survey respondents’ assessment of career services (which, in itself, accounts for 11.6% of the total ranking weight). That’s par for the course, with Anderson’s Parker Career Management Center traditionally ranking atop this survey thanks to its intensive engagement with students and employers alike.

Beyond career services, UCLA Anderson simply doesn’t stand out anywhere. Aside from Post-MBA Salary (17th) and Alumni Effectiveness (18th), Anderson fails to rank in the Top 20 in any other category. Take “Personal Development and Educational Experience,” a category that includes faculty and student quality, student diversity, and educational experience. According to student surveys, UCLA Anderson ranked 31st for student quality and 33rd for faculty quality. What’s more, the program placed 43rd in both Student Diversity and Education Experience.

Mind you, the school didn’t score low, technically, in any category. For example, survey respondents gave UCLA Anderson a 4.52 for Culture and Classmates and a 4.51 for Faculty Quality – which were middle-of-the-pack among peer schools. However, the 4.56 average they doled out to career services ranked 2nd-best overall – a testament to both how clustered these categories can be – and how different survey scores can be in various areas.

What’s more, UCLA Anderson didn’t move up far in this year’s ranking, placing 8th in 2018 and 6th in 2017. Compared to 2018, for example, the program didn’t move the needle far. It again ranked 2nd in the “Open New Career Opportunities” category, improving in “Potential To Network” (31st vs. 37th), while actually losing ground in “Personal Development and Educational Experience” (26th vs 24th) and “Increase In Salary” (26th vs. 24th).

Still, UCLA Anderson’s dominance in “Open New Career Opportunities” – which again carries a third of the ranking weight – is what sets it apart for its California counterparts. Take Berkeley Haas, which bests UCLA Anderson in “Potential To Network” (4th vs. 31st), “Personal Development and Education Experience” (13th vs. 27th), and “Increase in Salary” (23rd vs. 26th). Why does Haas rank a spot lower than Anderson – ever with “Personal Development and Education” also making up a third of the ranking? That’s a good question that is difficult to discern, though UCLA Anderson’s higher placement in “Open New Career Opportunities (2nd vs. 19th) might have been its saving grace. The same could be said when UCLA Anderson’s performance is contrasted against Stanford GSB, which placed in the Top 10 in two categories – “Person Development and Education Experience” (7th) and “Increase in Pay” (1st) – but falls way short of UCLA in “Open New Career Opportunities” (2nd vs. 43rd).

Which MBA program is truly the best in California? Come 2020, it may not be any of these three programs. Since 2016, USC’s Marshall School of Business has climbed from 65th to 40th to 28th to 18th in The Economist rankings. At that rate – and considering the rollercoaster nature of The Economist rankings – Marshall should be breaking into the Top 10 and disrupting the status quo in the coming year.

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