Ten Biggest Surprises In Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2019 MBA Ranking

USC Marshall students

8) An Early Sign Of The Reckoning For USC’s Marshall School?

Over the years, we’ve noticed a rather disturbing trend in all MBA rankings. Schools that do exceptionally well in one year tend to snap back to their earlier ranking in the next. It’s almost as if the media ranking poohbahs are embarrassed by a school’s rocket up that something of a comeuppance tends to follow. As Tuck proved this year, it can happen the other way around as well: when an MBA program falls well beyond its natural level, it can unaccountably rise the following year. (By the way, this phenomenon does not bode well for Dartmouth Tuck next year.)

Consider the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. In recent years, the school has made a steady rise in most rankings under highly popular Dean James Ellis who was forced out of his job earlier this year. The early return from that ouster is not good for the school. In fact, the biggest drop in Businessweek‘s top tier this year belongs to Marshall which fell nine places to rank 22nd. In the previous year, of course, the school jumped 17 places to its unlikely 13th place finish. But in 2017, Marshall was ranked 30th best, and in 2016, it ranked 38th.

A similar pattern of success under Ellis occurred in the U.S. News‘ rankings. This year, before Ellis’ departure, the school rose another three places to its highest rank ever in U.S. News, finishing 17th, up from 20 in 2018, 24th in 2017, and 31st in 2016. You can get a similar reckoning in U.S. News is coming.

Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett will assume the Marshall deanship in July of next year. He’ll arrive with high expectations and have to navigate a tricky political situation in which most faculty remain outraged over what they consider the unfair dismissal of Ellis. This first rankings reversal for Marshall will certainly test Garrett’s mettle because it’s highly likely that more ranking tumbles will occur in the near future. In the world or rankings, a school’s historical position tends to be where it lands over the long haul.

Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management suffered the biggest fall of any MBA program on the list this year

9) Ouch! This Year’s Biggest Decliners

Every year, of course, schools go up and they go down. The worst possible outcome for a school is to disappear off the list into oblivion. But it’s also no fun when your MBA program plunges in double digits, a far more common occurrence than you might imagine. This year the single biggest loser in the Bloomberg Businessweek ranking was none other than Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Purdue plunged a breathtaking 28 places to rank 78th in the 2019 MBA ranking, the biggest drop of any school that remained on the list.

But it was hardly alone. Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business fell nearly as much–23 places to finish 79th from 52nd, while Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business fell 23 spots to rank 69th from 46th.

You might ask how is it even remotely possible for a school to lose that much ground in a single year when no dramatic changes in the school’s MBA program occurred. And frankly, that is the big, recurring surprise every year in just about every ranking. These dramatic changes largely happen because the underlying index scores that determine the numerical ranks are so closely clustered together that mere fractions determine a school’s rank. Of course, the results are not statistically meaningful and are disingenuous, to say the least. But that’s part and parcel of the rankings game.

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