10 Biggest Surprises & Insights In The Economist’s 2022 MBA Ranking

The Charles M. Harper Center, which houses the Chicago Booth School of Business in Chicago. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

3) Booth Gets The Boot

What a difference three years make!

Last year, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business declined to participate in The Economist ranking. In 2020, The Economist canceled its full-time MBA ranking altogether. Before that, Booth was ranking royalty. After all, it ruled the decade, finishing 1st in The Economist ranking in 2019, 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2010. And it finished 2nd in 2017 and 2011 to Northwestern Kellogg and Dartmouth Tuck, respectively.  

Booth was consistently the big winner – the golden boy who could do no wrong. Why not? They had stellar faculty and an urban location rich with job opportunities with the top companies. The school’s data-driven programming aligned with the skills sought by employers. And what MBA doesn’t dream of a curriculum that technically only requires one core course? However, Booth suffered quite a surprise when The Economist 2022 ranking was released on Wednesday. The school didn’t return to its perch. In fact, Booth didn’t even crack the Top 5. 

No, Booth ranked 9th – its worst performance since placing 6th in 2004 and 2005.  To add insult to injury, the ranking maintained its 80%-to-20% ratio between quantitative data and qualitative survey responses respectively. In other words, a methodology tweak didn’t cause Booth’s fall from 1st to 9th.

So let’s get into the weeds. That starts with Open New Career Opportunities, a catch-all that includes Diversity of Recruiters, 3-Month Placement, and Career Services rating by alumni. In this dimension, which accounts for 35% weight, Booth plunged from 15th to 43rd between the 2022 and 2019 ranking. Surprisingly, Placement rose from 96% to 97.7%, while Career Services rocketed from 3.94 to 4.35 (on a 5-point scale). However, Booth’s Diversity of Recruiters score plummeted from 92.9 to 57.1, ranking it 59th. On top of that, its “Evenness of Spread” score – 28.8 – ranked below the Top 100. 

Just one problem: What exactly do these terms mean? The Economist defines Diversity of Recruiters (Breadth) as this: “Into how many of the defined 14 industry sectors did at least one job-seeking graduate from the alumni cohort take employment following the MBA.” According to The Economist, Evenness of Spread refers to “How evenly was recruitment distributed across the 14 defined industry sectors.” In other words, Booth was penalized for putting too many graduates in too few fields – and by a crushing weight of 11.55% to boot. 

Beyond this, Booth was a Top 10 program across the board in the catch-all categories: Professional Development and Educational Experience (8th), Salary (8th), and Potential To Network (5th). In fact, Booth actually improved over 2019 in both Salary (11th to 8th) and Potential To Network (9th to 5th). Still, Booth tumbled from being the #1 MBA program for Professional Development and Educational Experience to 8th – a measure that also represents a 35% share of the weight…just like Open New Career Opportunities. Student survey results in areas like Faculty Quality, Culture and Classmates and Programming remained nearly identical between 2022 and 2019. In fact, Booth ranked 2nd for both Faculty Quality and Programme Content. However, alumni did ding Booth on its Facilities as its score slipped from 4.54 to 4.36, good for 50th. At the same time, The Economist’s methodology hammered Booth for its low faculty-to-student ratio (96th) and percentage of faculty with PhDs (50th) and Access to Overseas Study Programs (76th). 

In addition, Booth lagged behind its rivals in several key areas. Notably, it posted the 3rd-worst index among Top 20 programs in Open New Career Opportunities, besting only Yale SOM and Washington Olin. At the same time, it ceded ground to several programs below the Top 10 in Professional Development and Educational Experience, where it ranked behind Yale SOM, Dartmouth Tuck, EMLYON, IMD, and the International University of Monaco. Still, when it comes to Salary and Professional Development and Educational Experience, Booth was still able to produce higher scores than cross-town rival Northwestern Kellogg. That said, you can bet that Booth would be happy to switch spots with #3 Kellogg any day.

Can Booth reclaim its former glory? That’s tough to say. After all, The Economist tended to punish Booth in relatively mundane measures. With The Economist assigning weights across 24 dimensions, Booth has plenty of places to start plotting their comeback. 

4) IESE’s Moment Passes

Call it an anomaly…if you want. Last year, IESE Business School stuck it out when the big names pulled out of The Economist ranking. Sure enough, IESE’s courage was rewarded when they snagged the #1 spot.

It wasn’t the first time. IESE also claimed the #1 spot with The Economist in 2009, 2006, and 2005. That begged the question: Could IESE repeat this summer? If not, just how far would they fall?

Pretty far, it turns out. In 2007, IESE dropped from 1st to 3rd, before returning to the top spot after a three-year hiatus. In 2010, the school tumbled to 5th before spending another plotting their return. This time around, the change was drastic. Forget verbs like “fall” or “slump.” This was a plummet – as in IESE plummeted from 1st to 16th.

What happened? After all, hasn’t IESE ranked in the Top 10 in 6 of the last 8 years? That’s true, but it also came in 17th in 2017 and 15th in 2015. In other words, IESE’s plummet isn’t a historical aberration, painful as it may appear on the surface.  

Still, it requires a little digging. What exactly went wrong? In some ways, you could say everything. In every broad dimension – Open New Career Opportunities, Personal Development and Educational Experience, Salary, and Potential to Network – IESE lost ground in the rankings. In fact, IESE didn’t even rank among the ten-best in any of these dimensions. Last year, the school’s lowest ranking in these dimensions was 6th – and it finished 3rd in Personal Development and Educational Experience. 

Like Chicago Booth, IESE was bedeviled by the Diversity of Recruiters measures in the Open New Career Opportunities – tumbling an entire 20 spots for a measure that makes up 5.7% weight. It also fell double digits in micro measures like inputs (GMAT) and outputs (Post-MBA Pay), as well as ranking 90th or below in ratio of students-to-faculty and ration students-to-alumni. Together, these four micro measures account for 32.4% of ranking’s weight.  Add in a 23-spot freefall in Job Placement, which adds another 11.55% to the mix. Add these percentages together and IESE suffered substantive decreases in micro measures that lumped together amount to nearly 50% of The Economist ranking’s weight. That’s a big hole to climb out from under. 

Alas, The Economist removed 2021 data for IESE. As a result, you can only compare rankings – an analysis that is undercut by 20 Top 50 programs returning in 2022 (including 11 business schools that ranked ahead of IESE this year). Still, IESE actually performs better in 2022 than 2019. That is particularly true in alumni surveys (on a 5-point scale): Career Services (3.96 vs. 3.69), Faculty Quality (4.70 vs. 4.61), Culture and Classmates (4.68 vs. 4.58), Programme Content (4.71 vs. 4.58), and Alumni Effectiveness (4.46 vs. 4.15). In fact, IESE’s Programme Content average ranked higher than any other MBA program in the world! 

Bottom line: IESE showed marked improvement in many areas. Problem is, The Economist’s universe became more competitive with the returns of the M7 (among others). Call it a market correction if you will, but IESE has proven quite resilient and proactive in the past. They’ve ranked #1 in the past for a reason – with great teaching, social responsibility, and global programming being IESE hallmarks. The fundamentals are strong and the community is motivated. Don’t be surprised if IESE makes a big move next year. They’ve already proven to be up to the challenge. 

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