Poets&Quants 2021-2022 MBA Ranking: It’s Stanford Again At The Top!

Stanford Graduate School of Business again leads the top five MBA programs in the U.S. in Poets&Quants 2021-2022 MBA ranking

Stanford Graduate School of Business held on to win top honors for the third consecutive year in Poets&Quants‘ 2021-2022 ranking of the best MBA programs in the U.S. Stanford’s East Coast rival, Harvard Business School, slipped to its lowest P&Q ranking ever into fifth place from fourth last year. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business MBA program finished right behind Stanford in second place, with the Wharton School third, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in fourth place.

In a topsy-turvy year for business school rankings, there were surprisingly few major changes among the top 25 MBA programs. Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business made the biggest gain, rising three places to finish 11th from 14th a year earlier, while Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management slipped three places to end up 15th from 12th last year. Two schools fell out of the Top 25: Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. They were replaced by No. 24 Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business and No. 25 Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management.

The top ten proved even more stable. All the MBA programs that ranked in the top ten last year returned, with more than half in their exact same place. No top ten business school moved more than a single spot in this year’s ranking, with Kellogg and Dartmouth Tuck edging higher and Harvard and UC-Berkeley Haas slipping a bit (see our top ten below).

The Top Ten U.S. MBA Programs Of 2021-2022

Rank & School Change Total Cost Average GMAT Average GPA
1. Stanford GSB ----- $239,928 737 3.80
2. Chicago (Booth) ----- $223,710 724 3.60
3. Pennsylvania (Wharton) ----- R$230,928 722 3.60
4. Northwestern (Kellogg) +1 $223,316 730* 3.54
5. Harvard -1 $223,084 727 3.70
6. MIT (Sloan) ----- $235,996 720* 3.54
7. Columbia ----- $237,554 726 3.60
8. Dartmouth (Tuck) +1 $237,630 720 3.48
9. Berkeley (Haas) -1 $221,190 727 3.65
10. Yale SOM ----- $209,504 720 3.63

Even so, for the obsessives who closely follow MBA rankings, 2021 was a truly bizarre year. The Economist released its 2020 ranking two-and-one-half months late in early 2021 with every M7 business school and a lot of other top MBA programs boycotting the list. Then, Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, MIT, and Columbia declined to participate in the Financial Times ranking. Bloomberg Businessweek’s latest list came under serious criticism from a high-profile academic who accused the magazine of major methodological errors.

BIG CHANGES IN OUR MBA RANKING APPROACH TO ACCOUNT FOR A BIZARRE YEAR OF B-SCHOOL RANKINGS

The newly updated lists from both Forbes and The Economist, scheduled for this year, have yet to come out. And if all that wasn’t enough, a prominent business school dean was found guilty of cheating on the rankings, further undermining the credibility of the much-consulted lists.

So how do you navigate the business school landscape with all that noise in the picture? The turmoil forced Poets&Quants to significantly adjust its methodology for its annual composite ranking to take into account the disruptions largely caused by the pandemic and schools that used COVID as an excuse to bow out of the rankings. The upshot: For the first time in our 11-year history, we publish this ranking with a big asterisk attached.

The biggest change in our methodology this year was to eliminate both the Businessweek and The Economist rankings from our composite list. We set aside the Businessweek ranking due to the serious questions raised about its credibility, while we passed on The Economist list because 15 of the top 25 schools refused to cooperate and were therefore missing from the ranking. The boycott led to all kinds of distortions for the programs that remained. Those anomalies would only serve to mislead candidates seeking to apply to the best programs.

NINE NEWCOMERS AMONG THE TOP 100 RANKED MBA PROGRAMS

While the Financial Times' list this past year also was impacted by a boycott, it was not nearly as extensive. Still, enough elite MBA programs declined to play, including a half dozen schools that are typically among the top ten in the U.S. Poets&Quants decided to give those schools credit for the previous year's FT rank and reduced the overall weight of the Financial Times to 10% from 15%. More weight was put on U.S. News, 60% versus 35%, and Forbes, 30% from 25%.

Those changes helped to clear the way for nine newcomers to arrive in the ranking, all in the fourth quartile of the 100 ranked programs, along with an equal number of dropouts. The newest MBA programs on the list this year include St. Louis University's Chaifetz School of Business, whose MBA program ranks 77th best in the U.S., and the University of San Francisco's School of Management which placed 88th.

In the past, combining the five major rankings tends to significantly diminish odds results in any one ranking. When an anomaly pops on one list due to either faulty survey technique or flawed methodology, bringing all the data together tends to suppress peculiar 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. This is obviously less true in 2021 given all the turmoil in the rankings.

Still, the Poets&Quants list remains 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: Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business which reversed last year's ten-place plunge, gaining back all its lost spots with a ten-place improvement this year to rank 34th; Texas A&M also rose ten spots to finish 35th.