Stanford Again Tops P&Q’s 2020-2021 Ranking Of The Best MBAs

In one of the most turbulent years ever, this year’s MBA ranking reflects the calm in the middle of the pandemic storm.

For the second consecutive year, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business took top honors in Poets&Quants‘ 2020-2021 annual ranking of the best MBA programs in the U.S., and every single Top Ten school from last year made the list this time around.

There were changes in the top tier, but they were largely inconsequential, though Harvard Business School slipped to its lowest rank ever, sliding one spot from last year to land in fourth place behind Stanford, Chicago Booth, and the Wharton School.

Harvard’s surprisingly poor showing in the final year of Dean Nitin Nohria’s deanship occurred as the school found itself caught up in controversy over its failure to make more progress on racial equity, a circumstance that caused Norhia to publicly apologize to Harvard’s community. At the same time, Stanford, the most selective prestige MBA program in the world, helped to lead the conversation on racial equality by becoming the first major business school to publish a diversity and inclusion report that laid bare the GSB’s metrics on diversity.


Rounding out the Top Ten are No. 5 Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Columbia Business School, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, and Yale University’s School of Management. All of those schools finished with the exact ranking each achieved in the previous year. In fact, among the Top Ten only two schools changed places: Wharton moved up one spot to fourth, passing Harvard which assumed Wharton’s year-earlier rank.

Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business just fell out of the Top 25, dropping one spot, having been replaced by Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business which improved a place from last year to finish 25th.

Unlike other rankings, the 11th annual Poets&Quants list combines the latest five most influential business school rankings in the world: U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, the Financial Times, and The Economist. Instead of merely averaging the five, each ranking is separately weighted to account for our view of their credibility. (U.S. News is given a weight of 35%, Forbes, 25%, while both the Financial Times and Businessweek is given a 15% weight, and The Economist, 10%.


COVID-19 has clearly had an impact on this year’s ranking. Bloomberg Businessweek decided not to publish a ranking this year due to the pandemic. As a result, we included Businessweek‘s year-earlier ranking in our calculations. The Economist, meantime, has delayed its ranking due to delays caused by COVID. But even when The Economist publishes its new list, which could slide into next year, all of the M7 business schools–Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, MIT, Chicago, Kellogg, and Columbia–will be missing in action because they declined to participate in the ranking. As a result, we opted to include the magazine’s previous ranking which is more reflective of the overall standing of business schools.

Nonetheless, combining these five major rankings doesn’t eliminate the flaws in each system, but it does significantly diminish them. When an anomaly pops on one list due to either faulty survey technique or flawed methodology, bringing all the data together tends to suppress oddball results in a single ranking. So the composite index tones down the noise in each of these five surveys to get more directly at the real signal that is being sent.

The Poets&Quants list, therefore, is more stable–and reliable–than most rankings published elsewhere. Among the top 50 ranked MBA programs, for example, only two experienced double-digit changes in their year-over-year rankings: The University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business which rose 10 places to rank 36th this year and Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business which plunged ten spots to rank 44th. Only 11 of the MBA programs on this year’s list, in fact, rose or fell by 10 or more places year-over-year.


Georgia Tech’s MBA program made its advance on the basis of ranking improvements in both U.S. News & World Report‘s and the Financial Times‘ rankings. The school moved up three places on this year’s FT list, rising to 28th among U.S. programs from 31st a year earlier, while it gained two places in U.S. News to rank 27th from 29th. Carey’s drop, meantime, can be attributed to the loss of its Financial Times ranking (the school’s MBA program had ranked 32nd best in the U.S. in 2019), and a two-place decline in U.S. News‘ ranking to 35th from 33rd.

The overall list takes into account a massive wealth of quantitative and qualitative data captured in these major lists, from surveys of corporate recruiters, MBA graduates, deans and faculty publication records to median GPA and GMAT scores of entering students as well as the latest salary and employment statistics of alumni.

What’s more, users can see at one glance where their target schools fall across the spectrum of core rankings. And for the fourth year in a row, we’re including year-over-year changes in each of the five lists that comprise our overall ranking.  As a result, you can more clearly assess why a school moved up or down on the new 2019-2020 list of U.S. MBA programs. A separate ranking for international MBA programs will be published in the next week.

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