The Economist’s MBA Ranking To Publish Jan. 21

The Economist

The Economist is one of the most respected media brands in the world

Better late than never? After all, isn’t it better to do something after it was supposed to have been done than not to do it at all?

That philosophy seems to be in place during these pandemic-upended days at The Economist which will finally publish its annual ranking of the best MBA programs in the world next Thursday on Jan. 21st. That schedule would put the ranking more than two and one-half months behind its usual publication date in late October. So the British magazine’s 2020 ranking will come out in 2021.

The new list will be dramatically different from any of the previous MBA rankings put out by The Economist. For one thing, every M7 business schools–Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, MIT, Columbia, Chicago and Northwestern–has declined to participate in the ranking for the first time. Their refusal to play will result in some wild ranking changes for sure. The absence of the big U.S. programs also will likely raise the prominence of the European and Asian business schools.


The Economist list is among the five most influential MBA regularly published rankings, along with U.S. News, The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Forbes. Like the FT ranking, it is a global list, combining U.S. business schools with their rivals all over the world.

The decision to move ahead with publication follows Businessweek‘s earlier agreement to suspend its MBA ranking this year due to the disruptions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Businessweek decided in May to forego its list after the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT exam, and two business school accreditation agencies asked ranking organizations to halt their work and postpone the publication of their lists (see GMAC Leads A Call For A Pause In MBA Rankings). At the time of the request, both the Financial Times and U.S. News & World Report had already put out their MBA rankings for the year.

While several of the most highly ranked U.S. business schools decided not to participate in the ranking, the biggest surprise was the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which last year captured top honors for the second consecutive year in The Economist’s 2019 ranking. It was the seventh time the school has topped the British magazine list in the past nine years, a streak interrupted only by the Kellogg School of Management in 2017 and Dartmouth Tuck in 2011.


Booth’s decision to go along with Harvard and Wharton will inevitably hurt the school’s ranking’s reputation, opening the door for HEC Paris or Stanford Graduate School of Business to emerge as the top winner of the ranking. HEC Paris gained ten places last year, soaring to a third-place finish behind only Booth and the No 2. Harvard Business School. So if you’re placing bets, HEC Paris would be The Economist‘s most likely winner.

Harvard and Wharton have less to lose given the strength of their brands. Besides, neither school has done particularly well in Economist rankings in the past. In 18 separate rankings over 18 years, Harvard and Wharton have never managed to capture a No. 1 ranking from The Economist. Harvard has climbed no higher than second place, only reaching that level this year, and has been as low as 13th. Wharton has fallen as low as 21st and has never received a ranking higher than fourth place.

The absence M7 programs will also have another impact. It would allow more European rivals to shine, reinforcing the notion that European MBA programs have come into their own and are formidable alternatives to the best U.S. schools. More international candidates have been naturally flowing to the European schools as anti-immigration rhetoric has flourished in the U.S. under the Trump administration and uncertainly over obtaining visas continues to grow. In Trump’s last days in office, the president has killed the H-1B visa lottery, though its death is probably temporary.


The Economist has an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to ranking MBA programs. It examines business schools by considering the most criteria—21 different metrics in all versus the 20 at the FT–from the diversity of the on-campus recruiters to the range of overseas exchange programs. Compensation and career placement are heavily weighted, including starting salaries, pre-MBA versus post-MBA pay increases, and the percentage of graduates who land jobs through the career management center. Pay and placement account for 45% of the methodology.

Chicago’s past dominance in The Economist ranking occurred not because it blows away its rivals on the magazine’s metrics, but rather because it scores well on those measurements across the board. Students last year gave the highest possible scores for their satisfaction with the overall MBA program while awarding the second-highest scores for the faculty which includes several Nobel laureates. Booth’s average class GMAT scores are fifth-best in the world. Job opportunities were among the best, thanks to a highly rated careers service (which earned the tenth highest scores in the student survey) and an alumni network of 52,500 people, one of the largest in the world. Employment outcomes also were outstanding: 96% of students find a job within three months of graduation (tenth best overall). Graduates pocketed average salaries of $131,893 (fifth highest in The Economist survey), an 84.3% rise on their pre-MBA paychecks.

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