The M7 boycott of The Economist’s MBA ranking has failed to hold for the forthcoming list by the Financial Times which will unveil its new global ranking on Monday (Feb. 8). Many business schools which refused to cooperate with The Economist have played ball with the FT this year, including Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, Yale, Dartmouth Tuck, INSEAD and London Business School.
All told, 20 of the schools that had shunned The Economist cooperated with this ranking (see table below).Yale’s decision to play ball gained its MBA program the distinction of being ranked among the top five in the world for the first time ever. Yale rose 10 places from 14th, the only double-digit rise in the top ten. Some nine European schools came back as well, including INSEAD, London Business School, Cambridge and Oxford. And the best school in China, CEIBS, which walked away from The Economist, returned to be included in the Financial Times ranking. A total of 143 schools took part in the 2021 edition of the ranking, while roughly 6,570 from the class of 2017 completed the newspaper’s alumni surveys, a response rate of 44%.
Even so, some of the biggest names in business education will be missing from the FT’s 2021 ranking which is scheduled to come out on Monday. Among the most notable are Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT Sloan, Columbia and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
Their absence will undoubtedly lead to some fascinating—and entertaining-changes in the annual ranking that is the most influential in Europe and Asia. Last year, after all, Harvard, Wharton and Stanford respectively held the top three positions in the ranking. But the FT list will have far greater credibility than last month’s Economist ranking because the vast majority of highly ranked schools decided to cooperate with the more important FT list.
A GOOD SIGN FOR U.S. NEWS’ ANNUAL MBA RANKING
The high level of participation bodes well for this year’s U.S. News ranking. After considering a request to postpone its MBA ranking due to the pandemic, U.S. News & World Report decided in October to move ahead with its annual list that would come out in March of next year. U.S. News would clearly have more leverage because its ranking is the most read and watched list of U.S. MBA programs. Last year, in fact, Harvard Business School surveyed its MBA students to see which rankings mattered most to them. U.S. News came out on top. Some 74% of the responding HBS students said they consulted the U.S. News list while applying to business school, while 46% said the publication’s rankings influenced their school choices.
Of the five most influential rankings, The Economist has long been seen as the most disposable of the lists. For years, deans have questioned the often unusual ranks of schools. After all, Harvard, Stanford and Wharton have never emerged winners since the list’s debut in 2002. Neither has INSEAD nor the London Business School.
The Economist revolt was deep, forcing the magazine to rank only 90 full-time MBA programs rather than its typical list of the top 100 in the world. Some 49 schools either declined to play or were deemed ineligible out of the 165 schools invited to participate. They included a broad range of schools from China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, widely considered the best business school in China, to Imperial College in London. Another 13 schools, including Cornell, Dartmouth and Duke, refused to send The Economist‘s survey to their students and alumni.
GMAC LED THE REVOLT
The rankings revolt was led by the Graduate Management Admission Council which called in April of last year for all ranking organizations to suspend their lists during COVID. GMAC was joined in its efforts by two accreditation agencies—AACSB and EFMD. The primary argument against participation was that disruptions caused by COVID would lead to unusual distortions in key admissions and employment metrics typically used in rankings.
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has had an impact on those statistics: Applications are up. GMAT scores are down. MBA salaries have reached record levels. Employment stats have fallen. But the changes have mostly been positive and have been across the board. Some schools have weathered the crisis better than others, for sure. And many schools simply did not want to burden their students with ranking surveys when they were coping with the impact of the pandemic.