Months after Poets&Quants launched in August of 2010, we produced the site’s first MBA ranking — a composite of the five major rankings from the Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, and U.S. News and World Report. Since then, we’ve published the ranking every single year for a total of 10 rankings.
Say what you will about the volatility of MBA rankings that often lead to nonsensical results that inevitably pop up on any list in a single year. Over a ten-year period, however, across the world’s five most influential rankings, you get to a greater truth about where schools stand and how enduring brand value can be in the annual ranking sweepstakes. Consistency and consensus matters, after all.
While things have certainly changed since 2010, a lot of the ranking — especially towards the top — has remained the same. Harvard Business School, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, the Chicago Booth School of Business, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School have all placed in the top four every single year. The only time another school broke into that upper echelon was 2016 when Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management tied Wharton for fourth.
And how about this result? The entire top-nine schools have remained largely unchanged for the past decade. The only time the same nine schools didn’t comprise the top nine spots was 2013 and 2014 when Duke’s Fuqua School edged out UC Berkeley Haas for the ninth spot.
HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL TOPS DECADE RANKING OF U.S. MBA PROGRAMS
As part of Poets&Quants‘ 10th Anniversary series, we decided to take a look back at every single U.S. MBA ranking we’ve published to create a decade-long uber ranking of schools. The methodology was simple. We took a school’s ranking placement and inverted it to award points. So the No. 1 ranked school would receive 100 points, No. 2 would get 99, No. 3 would get 98 points, and so on. We did that for each year of the ten lists and totaled up the score to create a 10-year ranking.
Can you guess which school came out on top? The undisputed winner: Harvard Business School, which received 996 total points out of a possible 1,000. HBS finished first in the rankings seven different times, second two other times, and earned its lowest placement of third only this past year. While many observers often put Harvard and Stanford on the same footing, the truth is no school in the world can match Harvard Business School’s dominance at the very top. Sure, Stanford’s GSB is right behind HBS, but the West Coast rival has only finished first in two of ten rankings (2014 and 2019). Not unlike HBS, Stanford hasn’t finished lower than third in any year.
The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business edged out Wharton for the third spot–but just barely–earning 978 points to Wharton’s 977. Booth has never finished first in the rankings, having placed fourth in two of the past three lists, but was able to beat out Wharton for the third spot largely because the school has more often than not lagged behind Booth, placing fourth in seven of the 10 years. Rounding out the top five is Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
SCHOOLS MAKING THE BIGGEST MOVES UP IN THE RANKING
While taking into account the ten separate rankings over ten different years lead to one picture, a more simple comparison can be had by contrasting the standing of schools on our first list in 2010 with those on the latest 2019 ranking. On that basis, the biggest surprise is Yale University’s School of Management which breaks into the top ten, moving from 14th a decade ago to tenth last year. Duke’s Fuqua School of Business is 14th, slipping four spots from its tenth place finish in 2010.
While things have been fairly consistent in the top-nine, outside of that, there’s been a bit of fluctuation. Of those seeing changes in the positive, the University of Texas-Dallas and Baruch College both saw the largest jumps, each climbing 34 places. UT-Dallas’s increase, in particular, has been impressive as the school has gradually climbed from 78th in 2010 into the top 50, ranking 44th in 2019 — its highest position ever in the Poets&Quants composite ranking.
The University of California-San Diego also climbed 29 spots since 2010 to 71st in 2019. The University of Colorado at Boulder’s Leeds School of Business has also seen impressive movement, catapulting from 90th in 2019 to 62nd last year, also its highest-ever placement. Rounding out the top-five in terms of ranking gains is the University of Pittsburgh Katz School of Business, gaining from 64th in 2010 to 39th — also its highest ranking — in 2019.
Our study shows that it is tougher to break into the top-30 or 25, to be sure. But that is what Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business and the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business have both done over the past decade. Of the 30 schools that have improved their rankings position by at least 10 places over the past decade, only those two have broken into the top 30. Georgia Tech has surged 13 spots from 39th to 26th, while Washington Foster has climbed 11 spots from 32nd to 21st. Both schools have benefited from the emergence of technology as a powerful force in the world economy: Scheller by virtue of the university’s reputation in engineering and Foster by virtue of its presence in Seattle near Amazon and Microsoft.