HOW WHARTON ROSE TO THE TOP OF THE FINANCIAL TIMES MBA RANKING YET AGAIN
How did Wharton end up in first place this year from second in 2020? And how did Stanford slip to sixth from third?
Wharton improved its position in exactly half of the 20 different data points used by the Financial Times to rank MBA programs, losing ground in only four categories. The 10 improved metrics accounted for nearly two-thirds (65%) of the entire ranking. Weighted salaries of alumni, which gets a 20% weight in the ranking, hit $237,530, highest for any school and up from $211,543 two years ago. The average salary increase, accounting for another 20% of the ranking, for a Wharton alum was 115%, up from 107% in 2020. The percentage of female MBA students, worth 2% in the FT methodology, jumped to 52% from 46%, while the percentage of international students, which accounts for 4% of the ranking, rose to 51% from the pandemic-caused low of 32%.
All told, Wharton beat Stanford on 11 measured data points (see table below). For its part, Stanford lost ground in seven metrics–not all that bad but those categories represent 64% of the FT ranking. Many of these metrics will matter little to applicants, students or alumni. In fact, in the categories that best reflect on the student experience–aims achieved, career progress, and value for money–Stanford beats Wharton. On alumni assessments of their career progress, for example, Stanford MBAs ranked second among all schools, while Wharton was 21st. In what may well be the most important measure–overall satisfaction–Stanford scored the highest of any Top Ten program, with a 9.71 on a ten-point scale. Wharton lagged slightly behind at 9.42, also below Columbia, Harvard, Kellogg.
By the way, even though the FT collects and reports an overall satisfaction score from alumni, it DOES NOT include this data point in its ranking calculations. But in the often mindlessly subjective view of editors who put these lists together, the chips have fallen precisely where the Financial Times wanted them to fall. And precious few users of these rankings will dive deep into the methodology to determine what really separates one school from another.
LEADERS IN ALUMNI SALARIES, VALUE FOR MONEY, CAREER PROGRESS, AIMS ACHIEVED
To produce its ranking, the FT weighs 20 different metrics. Eight of those data points, accounting for 61% of the total ranking, come from its surveys of alumni. Another 11 metrics, representing 29% of the list, are derived from its surveys of the business schools. One metric--faculty research--is put together by the newspaper's editorial staff and accounts for 10% of the ranking. The judgments that go into valuing these various metrics would cause a good deal of head scratching. The FT, for example, places twice the value of an international student over a female student in a school's incoming cohort. It also weighs "international mobility"--the percentage of grads who change countries after getting their MBAs--as three times more important than actual employment three months after graduation.
A pair of metrics taken from the alumni surveys dominates all others and accounts for 40% of the weight: the current "weighted" salaries of alumni three years removed from graduation as well as the increase alumni report over pre-MBA base salaries. As noted earlier, Wharton came in first with the highest weighted alumni salaries of $237,530. Wharton was one of only six MBA programs--all in the United States--where alumni reported annual base salaries of more than $200,000. Stanford followed Wharton on this measure with average salaries of $218,805, a tweak above the $218,542 for Columbia Business School grads, while UC-Berkeley Haas MBAs were next with $207,853, followed by Harvard's $207,180, and Northwestern Kellogg's $201,455.
For Wharton MBAs, the salary figure translates to a 115% increase over pre-MBA salaries. Compared to some of the lesser ranked programs, it’s a gain that is not nearly as impressive as the highest salary jump of 184% reported by alumni of the Indian School of Business or the 183% for Fudan University School of Management. The biggest percentage increases for U.S. schools were for alumni of the University of Rochester's Simon Business School (169%), Rutgers Business School in New Jersey (166%), and Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business (160%).
BEST VALUE FOR MONEY: UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
But no schools score well across all of the FT’s many metrics. Some 86 MBA programs, for example, were ahead of Wharton on the newspaper’s “value for money rank,” a metric that takes into account the full cost, including tuition, fees and opportunity costs vs. the immediate short-term salary rewards of the degree. Ranking first this year was the University of Florida, followed by Lancaster University Management School in the United Kingdom, Brigham Young University's Marriott School, SDA Bocconi in Italy, and Penn State University.
Coming in first on the “career progress rank” which attempts to measure an alum’s advancement in a career by seniority and company size is the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad, followed by Stanford Graduate School of Business, No. 3 Babson College, No. 4 Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and No. 5 CEIBS in Shanghai. Both IIM and Babson had been in the top five in this category last year.
When the FT asked alums if they achieved their goals with the MBA, two schools came out on top: Stanford Graduate School of Business and Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business, both with 93% of their respondents indicating that they accomplished their aims. The results demonstrate that you don’t have to go to a Harvard to achieve your objectives. Some 91% of the alumni of eight other schools came next, a group that included MIT Sloan, NYU Stern, Dartmouth Tuck, Michigan Ross, Washington Foster, Rice Jones, Penn State Smeal and London Business School. The lowest scoring school–Tongji University School of Economics & Management–has a 77% alum rate on aims achieved.
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