Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
Chicago Booth | Mr. Semiconductor Guy
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Polyglot
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Wharton | Mr. Sr. Systems Engineer
GRE 1280, GPA 3.3
Darden | Ms. Unicorn Healthcare Tech
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Tuck | Mr. Consulting To Tech
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Rocket Scientist Lawyer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65 Cumulative
Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Darden | Mr. Stock Up
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Classic Candidate
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Cambridge Judge Business School | Mr. Social Scientist
GRE 330, GPA 3.5
Darden | Mr. Federal Consultant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.26
INSEAD | Mr. Consulting Fin
GMAT 730, GPA 4.0
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Enlisted Undergrad
GRE 315, GPA 3.75
INSEAD | Ms. Hope & Goodwill
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Milk Before Cereals
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3 (16/20 Portuguese scale)
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Leading Petty Officer
GRE (MCAT) 501, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Sales To Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 3.49
Columbia | Mr. NYC Native
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Tepper | Mr. Leadership Developement
GMAT 740, GPA 3.77
Harvard | Ms. Athlete Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Education Consulting
GRE 326, GPA 3.58
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Unrealistic Ambitions
GMAT 710, GPA 2.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Equal Opportunity
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Tuck | Mr. Over-Experienced
GRE 330, GPA 3.0

Businessweek Agrees To Suspend Its MBA Ranking This Year

Bloomberg Businessweek, which annually publishes one of the five most influential rankings of MBA programs, today (May 7) announced that it would suspend its 2020 ranking due to the disruptions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision comes less than two weeks after the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT exam, and two business school accreditation agencies asked ranking organizations, including Businessweek, to halt their work and postpone the publication of their lists (see GMAC Leads A Call For A Pause In MBA Rankings). U.S. News & World Report, the most followed MBA ranking in North America, has told Poets&Quants previously that it is reviewing its policies.

In an email to business schools, Bloomberg News Senior Editor Caleb Solomon suggested that the request by GMAC and the agencies–AACSB and EFMD–was just one reason for the decision. “AACSB, GMAC, MBA CSEA and many schools asked us to delay, cancel or alter this year’s ranking,” he wrote. “Asking students, alumni and recruiters to take a rankings survey in this environment felt inappropriate, we were told. Staff workloads were already stressed. Data collected could be overwhelmed by the pandemic and not really show differences among schools. While schools in good faith launched our rankings surveys this month, some are finding it difficult to achieve survey completion thresholds because of Covid-19.”

AN EARLIER BOYCOTT BY HARVARD & WHARTON WAS A FAILURE

Ever since the launch of the first regularly published MBA rankings in 1988 by Businessweek magazine, schools have groused about the time and expense involved in data collection as well as the impact rankings have on application volume, recruiting efforts by companies, and alumni fundraising. But this is the first time that an effort to halt a major ranking has been successful. After Wharton performed poorly in the 2002 Businessweek ranking due to poor student satisfaction with its careers office, Wharton and Harvard Business School declined to cooperate with ranking surveys in 2004, calling rankings “meaningless beauty contests.” Both schools also spearheaded an effort with GMAC to develop a 2006 database of standardized information to allow applicants to compare MBA programs. But the boycott failed after Businessweek obtained the data it needed to rank the schools. The GMAC database, meantime, never gained a following and also was abandoned.

Bloomberg‘s decision will put increased pressure on U.S. News, The Economist and the Financial Times to reconsider their ranking efforts. Forbes, which ranked MBA programs in 2019, publishes a biennial ranking so it does not have a 2020 list. The announcement by Bloomberg will also provide business schools–which often only begrudgingly cooperate with rankings–to decline to bow out of the other lists this year. Bob Morse, chief data strategist for U.S. News, told Poets&Quants that “the team at U.S. News continues to monitor the unprecedented disruptions to business schools themselves, their current students and prospective students caused by COVID 19.  As a result, we’re still reviewing our strategies for both our next U.S. News Full-time and Part-time Best Business Schools rankings and fall 2020 data collection.”

Yet, prospective students, commenting in online forums including Poets&Quants, have argued against a pause.  They maintain that a pause would only result in less transparency of key data used by applications to inform their decisions on which schools to attend. “Every institution is facing the same hurdles right now,” wrote one critic on Poets&Quants. “Why shouldn’t they be judged on how they reacted to this crisis, and by extension how students reacted to their solutions. Continue to do the rankings, because honestly, the playing field has not changed where certain schools are more disadvantaged then others.”

PIVOTING TO A SURVEY TO MEASURE EFFECTIVENESS OF ONLINE LEARNING

In announcing its decision to cancel the 2020 MBA ranking, Bloomberg said it would like to pivot to a survey of online learning without a ranking. “Because of the overwhelming impact of Covid-19 on business school education around the world, Bloomberg Businessweek will not publish a ranking of full-time MBA programs this year. Instead, we think it more valuable to learn from the extraordinary shift schools have had to make to online learning — practically overnight,” wrote Solomon. “So, we are asking for your help in pivoting to a student survey to explore what aspects of online learning worked, what didn’t, and what can be improved. We think collecting data on the online experiences of your students, current and graduating, is important to business schools, prospective students and all of higher education.”

Solomon made clear that the magazine does not plan to publish a ranking based on the surveys. “Unlike our traditional rankings surveys,” he added, “we will only publish aggregated results of these student questions. We will not use the data to make any comparisons among schools, rather we will explore if there are differences among regions, school size, tier, and other factors. We will not survey alumni or recruiters this year. These revised student surveys, a sample of which is attached, will provide us with data for stories on how the pandemic has changed B-School programs, how schools and students have adapted and what we’ve learned about online learning.”

DECISION FOLLOWS A REQUEST FOR POSTPONEMENT DUE TO ‘UNKNOWN IMPACTS ON KEY METRICS’

Bloomberg said it would provide cooperating schools with detailed, custom reports on the results, with comparisons to all business schools, by region and by tier. “Due to the time-sensitive nature of the data we will collect, we are moving up our Best B-Schools publication to September from the fourth quarter,” Solomon wrote in the email. “We will also provide schools with their custom report around the time of publication so you can act on results more quickly.”

In their April 17th letter to Bloomberg and several other ranking organizations, including the Financial Times, The Economist, and Forbes, GMAC and the accreditation agencies asked for the rankings pause due to the pandemic. “The current crisis will have unknown impacts on key metrics that rankings institutions rely on to create their respective products,” according to the letter signed by GMAC CEO Sangeet Chowfla, AACSB President Tom Robinson, and EFMD President Eric Cornuel. “Graduating students, recent alumni, and companies that recruit business school graduates are all dealing with their own challenges—a fact that on its own stands to skew results in a way that calls the viability of rankings surveys into question.”

They cited a series of COVID-19 impacts that include “increased restriction of student mobility, test center closures, and how corporations will assess hiring plans and growth in a time of contraction; all key metrics across any set of rankings.” In an interview with Poets&Quants, GMAC’s Chowfla said the letter represents a “request” and not a “demand.” “Our intent is not to interfere with their role in the ecosystem of informing candidates and certainly rankings have a role to play,” he said. “We are hopeful we will get into a discussion. We are not in a position to make a demand. It is a request to work together with them to find the right structure and timing this year.”

BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK WILL STILL COLLECT DATA TO UPDATE ITS SCHOOL PROFILES

While the letter did not specify how long a postponement should occur, the executives suggest that rankings should be put on ice “to provide business schools worldwide the opportunity to rebound in these tumultuous circumstances.”

Solomon told the business schools that Bloomberg Businessweek still intends to update its profile pages, even though it will not do a ranking. “Though schools’ rankings won’t change this year, we do plan to update school pages with the tuition, employment and other data we collect via our Dashboard. This will ensure that prospective students can find the most up-to-date data on your school.  To schools that have already sent out rankings surveys on our behalf to students, alumni or recruiters, we deeply apologize for the inconvenience of resending surveys to students.   We launched our ranking process this year based on the best information available in March, which now seems like years ago. If your school already sent rankings surveys to students, watch for an additional email with instructions immediately following this one.

“We at Bloomberg Businessweek’s Best B-Schools are trying to be agile and adjust to serve the Business Schools community amid the extraordinary challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. With this pivot, we believe the data we collect and the stories we publish will prove far more valuable in these historic times than our traditional ranking,” wrote Solomon.

The full email from Bloomberg Businessweek follows:

Hello Business Schools,

Because of the overwhelming impact of Covid-19 on business school education around the world, Bloomberg Businessweek will not publish a ranking of full-time MBA programs this year. Instead, we think it more valuable to learn from the extraordinary shift schools have had to make to online learning — practically overnight. 

The reasons for our pivot are many. AACSB, GMAC, MBA CSEA and many schools asked us to delay, cancel or alter this year’s ranking. Asking students, alumni and recruiters to take a rankings survey in this environment felt inappropriate, we were told. Staff workloads were already stressed. Data collected could be overwhelmed by the pandemic and not really show differences among schools. While schools in good faith launched our rankings surveys this month, some are finding it difficult to achieve survey completion thresholds because of Covid-19.

So, we are asking for your help in pivoting to a student survey to explore what aspects of online learning worked, what didn’t, and what can be improved. We think collecting data on the online experiences of your students, current and graduating, is important to business schools, prospective students and all of higher education. 

This will not be a ranking. Unlike our traditional rankings surveys, we will only publish aggregated results of these student questions. We will not use the data to make any comparisons among schools, rather we will explore if there are differences among regions, school size, tier, and other factors. We will not survey alumni or recruiters this year. These revised student surveys, a sample of which is attached, will provide us with data for stories on how the pandemic has changed B-School programs, how schools and students have adapted and what we’ve learned about online learning. 

Based on many conversations with business school deans, faculty, administrators and others in the past two weeks, we know you are asking these same questions. So, as we do with our rankings surveys, we will provide schools with a detailed, custom report on their student survey results, comparing them to all business schools, by region and by tier. 

Due to the time-sensitive nature of the data we will collect, we are moving up our Best B-Schools publication to September from the fourth quarter. We will also provide schools with their custom report around the time of publication so you can act on results more quickly. 

Though schools’ rankings won’t change this year, we do plan to update school pages with the tuition, employment and other data we collect via our Dashboard. This will ensure that prospective students can find the most up-to-date data on your school.  

To schools that have already sent out rankings surveys on our behalf to students, alumni or recruiters, we deeply apologize for the inconvenience of resending surveys to students.   We launched our ranking process this year based on the best information available in March, which now seems like years ago. If your school already sent rankings surveys to students, watch for an additional email with instructions immediately following this one.

We at Bloomberg Businessweek’s Best B-Schools are trying to be agile and adjust to serve the Business Schools community amid the extraordinary challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. With this pivot, we believe the data we collect and the stories we publish will prove far more valuable in these historic times than our traditional ranking. 

We have attached a one-pager on our pivot to this email. We will make changes to your Dashboard next week, including making the Covid-19 survey available to send to students. If you have questions about our decision, our path forward, our process or anything else, as always please don’t hesitate. We’re at BestBSchools@Bloomberg.net.

Thank you,
Caleb

Caleb Solomon

Senior Editor
Bloomberg News
@CalebS

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.