Ten Biggest Surprises In The Financial Times 2022 MBA Ranking

Highly Ranked, Highly Recommended 

Some critics describe the U.S. News MBA ranking as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Deans and directors rate their rivals on their academic quality despite possessing minimal day-to-day experience with their operations. The result: reputation often trumps progress on a measure that accounts for 25% of a ranking. At the same time, placement and pay — variables where brand names hold an advantage — make up another 35% of the wright. Of course, the virtuous cycle of inputs — better schools can incentivize higher performing students to enroll — means these same brand names excel in GMATs, GPAs, acceptance rates, which hold another 25% weight. 

The ranking is rigged, some say. While The Financial Times has its issues — such as giving 10% weight to academic research that favors resource-rich programs and 10% weight to international populations that undercut Asian and American programs — it does attempt to integrate a wider range of measures than U.S. News. Still, it can be difficult to dislodge the old guard. And that is proven with the FT’s Alumni Recommendation category, which makes up a 3% share of the ranking weight. Here, survey respondents ranked schools by the recent MBA graduates they would want to recruit to their firms. 

Sure enough, they were looking to add the crème de la crème. 

Not surprisingly, Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB snagged the #1 and #2 spots, a consolation prize perhaps for finishing #3 and #6 respectively in the overall FT ranking. The same could be said for MIT Sloan, which earned the bronze for recommendations despite tumbling out of the Top 10 this year. The rest of the top 10 wouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, they all made the FT Top 10: INSEAD, London Business School, Wharton, Columbia Business School, Northwestern Kellogg, Chicago Booth, and Yale SOM. 

In fact, IESE was the only Top 10 program not to also make most recommended — it finished 19th. Otherwise, rank and recommendation were closely correlated (though #1 Wharton has to be miffed that its graduates ranked behind five programs for being recommended). And the dynamic carried on below the Top 10. #14 Berkeley Haas placed 13th for being recommended. #18 Dartmouth Tuck also inched up a spot to be #17 for recommendations. HEC Paris ranked 11th overall…and 15th among survey respondents. The only deviation, at least among Top 20 programs, involved IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Bangalore. Both finished below the Top 50, yet managed to rank in the Top 20 for recommendations. 

Yes, survey respondents hailed from a pool that graduated as far back as 2016. Hence, they had up to a year or more to encounter alumni from a range of schools. Still, FT-surveyed alumni acted much business school deans and directors in U.S. News’s survey: they both gave their highest marks to elite programs. Call it what you will — halos, reputations, anchoring bias — but the end result is that the big names profit from it. 

Here’s the funny thing, The Financial Times asked these same graduates to score their satisfaction with their alma maters on a scale of 1-10. Just Stanford GSB produced an average among the five-best. Even here, it ranked behind SDA Bocconi, Penn State Smeal, and Florida Warrington. Extend this to the Top 10 and Northwestern Kellogg and IESE join the fray. Soon after, you’ll find Harvard and Columbia. Still, there remains a gap between how alumni and outsiders view the same MBA programs. That means some programs may be overlooked…and others may be overrated. 

Swimming Against A Strong Current: These Seven Schools Deserve More Attention

Let’s face it. The biggest story of the 2022 Financial Times MBA ranking is that it was an absolute bloodbath, with far more year-over-year downfalls than typical. About three out of every four schools–69 of the 91 schools that participated in last year’s ranking–suffered a ranking decline. Even worse, more than a third–33 of the 91 in last year’s ranking–experienced a double-digit ranking downturn. That is nearly five times the number of schools showing a double-digit ranking improvement.

Those disappointing outcomes were partly the result of the return of seven highly selective U.S. MBA programs, including Stanford, Harvard and Wharton, and partly caused by the typical volatility in the FT’s ranking.

In any case, it should bring renewed attention on the seven schools that were able to swim against the strong current of downturns. It was just seven MBA programs that posted double-digit increases. Beating the odds were Rochester’s Simon Business School (climbing 17 places to rank 69th), Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business (up 19 to rank 37th), Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business (up 15 to rank 54th) and Rutgers Business School (up 17 to finish at 69th).

A trio of European schools also pulled off this magic trick: Imperial College Business School in London was the only top 40 European school to climb, moving up ten spots to rank 34th from 44th. Lancaster University’s business school gained 20 places to rank 76th, while ESSEC Business School in France gained 17 places to finish 64th.

To rise in this chaotic environment is a big feat. All of these schools deserve a second look by applicants who are willing to look beyond the Top 25.


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