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

7) The U.S. Stages A Noisy Return

What a difference a year can make, especially in a ranking momentarily abandoned by many of the world’s best business schools who then make a triumphant return. A year ago, half of the MBA programs in The Economist’s global MBA ranking were in Europe. This year, just a single European player–HEC Paris Business School–made the Top Ten at No. 7.

U.S. MBA programs dominate the top of the list, taking nine of ten positions. As The Economist put it:  “American MBA programmes seize the top positions in this year’s ranking upon returning from a one-year hiatus. That’s why the full-time MBA ranking 2022 looks strikingly different. Those sitting pretty in 2021 have been firmly shunted down to make way for a new top five. The result is that of the elite positions once again being dominated by U.S. schools. Over two-thirds of the top 50 hail from America. The full-time MBA at Harvard Business School sits in podium position, with the programmes at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in silver and bronze respectively.”

Of course, the dramatic change in the ranking has nothing to do with revamped curriculums or major shifts in the quality of incoming students or faculty. It’s an anomaly, the result of so many of the very best schools deciding to pull out of the ranking last year, using the justification of the pandemic and the disruption it caused. Every M7 business school declined to participate in the ranking. Missing in action were Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, MIT Sloan, Booth and Kellogg.

A slew of other highly prominent business schools walked away, including UC-Berkeley, UCLA Anderson Dartmouth Tuck, UVA Darden, Yale SOM, Duke Fuqua, Cornell Johnson, and USC Marshall. All of those schools had finished in the top 25 in 2019. In fact, 15 of the top 25 schools on The Economist‘s last ranking refused to play. Emory, Rice and Washington University also dropped out.

Their absence not only cleared the way for many of the best European MBA options; the M7 boycott also brought many U.S. schools that agreed to participate in the highest ranks they have ever achieved on The Economist list. Some 20 of the top-ranked 25 schools saw their positions improve by 12 or more places. Overall, 85% of the returning schools last year–60 out of 71–saw their ranks rise by double-digits. Of the 90 ranked MBA programs, 19 business schools were either new to the ranking or have made return trips.

The Economist soft-pedaled the revolt a year ago, noting only that “some well-known schools are missing” in its introduction to the 2021 list. But this year’s ranking shows just how dramatic the impact of the boycott was.

Columbia Business School’s Kravis Hall at night, one of two buildings on its new campus at 130th and Broadway

8) Columbia Lives Up To Its Reputation

It’s easy to bash Columbia Business School. Critics will say it is an underperforming urban Ivy that has been living off the Columbia name. Until recently, the cramped and charmless Uris Hall had become a punchline – a place that could double for a John Hughes high school or an East German administrative center. It was even viewed as the #7 in the M7 – an MBA program ripe to be replaced by Yale SOM or Dartmouth Tuck. 

To many, Columbia Business School had become a spent force – a program artificially elevated by its New York City location. Well, don’t tell that to The Economist. Ranked 15th just three years ago, CBS popped up at #4 in The Economist’s newly-released ranking. For those clamoring that Columbia is the 2nd-best MBA program in Manhattan, here’s a wake-up call: CBS ranked 11 spots higher than NYU Stern. 

Not convinced? Just look at The Financial Times, whose ranking was unveiled in February. CBS performed even better, leaping from 8th to 2nd in the past two years. 

What’s behind CBS’ rise in The Economist. Let’s start by looking at its vertical – comparing it against other programs. Take the Personal Development and Educational Experience category, which accounts for 35% of the total ranking weight and includes student ratings of Faculty Quality, Culture and Classmates, Facilities, and Programme Quality. Here, CBS ranks 9th overall. That may seem expected, but it is actually 4th-best among Top 10 programs, beating out Harvard Business School (29th), Northwestern Kellogg (13th), and Stanford GSB (14th) among others. CBS also bested Harvard and Kellogg in Faculty Quality and Harvard and Wharton for both Education Experience and Student-Faculty Diversity. At the same time, CBS placed 3rd overall in the Pay category – a 20% weight – ranking behind just Harvard and MIT Sloan for base pay and 5th for Post-MBA Pay.  While Columbia finished a pedestrian 15th in the Networking category (10%), it still finished higher than Harvard (19th) above it and MIT Sloan (89th), and Duke Fuqua (62nd) right below it. 

That’s not to say there aren’t serious gaps between CBS and the programs ranked higher. Exhibit A: Opening New Career Opportunities – a catch-all with a 35% weight that includes Diversity of Recruiters, Three Month Job Placement, and Career Services Rating. In these measures, CBS finished 56th, 34th, and 24th – good for 27th overall (or the 13th-best performance among Top 20 programs). By the same token, CBS ranked 34th when students were surveyed about Alumni Effectiveness – the worst score among the Top 10 programs. 

How did CBS move up 11 spots from the last ‘real’ Economist ranking in 2019? Simply put, Columbia improved in 3 of 4 categories: Open New Career Opportunities (34th to 27th), Personal Development and Education Experience (12th to 9th), and Salary (17th to 3rd). What’s more, CBS held onto the 15th spot for Potential To Network. Taking a micro look, CBS enjoyed an impressive improvement in its student survey score (5-point scale) for Career Services (3.85 to 4.13), and school-supplied data for Post-MBA Pay ($130,924 to $146,482). That said, its Alumni Effectiveness score showed a noticeable dip (4.47 to 4.19). 

This year, CBS’ Facilities score inched up from 4.11 to 4.16. You can expect this survey average to rise in the coming years after the school unveiled a new $600 million dollar campus that spans nearly 500,000 square feet in Manhattanville. Last year, the school witnessed its applications surge by 18.6% — another sign of an increasing health program. In addition, CBS is rolling out its Alumni Edge program. This initiative will deepen the connection between the school and its graduates by providing ongoing education in critical areas like analytics. As a result, CBS may see a more engaged alumni base. That’s good for MBA students – and equally good for the school’s prospects in future Economist rankings. 

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