Four years and four wins. Poets&Quants has ranked the world’s best MBA programs for entrepreneurship for the last four years, and in each of those years, one school has placed first: the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.
Once again in our 2023 list, the Olin School comes out on top.
“We’re gratified to see the continued recognition of Olin’s dedication to entrepreneurship and innovation,” says Anjan Thakor, interim dean of Washington Olin. “This focus is part of who we are as a business school and university community. It’s the reason many of our students seek us out and come to WashU.
“The recognition affirms what we already know: For us, entrepreneurship education isn’t a trend. It’s foundational.
“When I hear from students about what they’re learning at Olin, fostering their entrepreneurial spirit is always near or on top of the list. They value the coaching our faculty provides, the opportunities to work with and advise startups, and the exceptional opportunity to network with successful founders.”
MICHIGAN ROSS, ESADE MOVE INTO THE TOP THREE
Following WashU in this year’s P&Q ranking is the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, its highest-ever spot in our ranking. After finishing third in 2021’s ranking, Michigan Ross slipped to seventh last year before surging back to second this year. Following Michigan Ross is Spain’s Esade Business School. Esade has slowly been moving up our rankings the past few years, finishing in seventh in 2021, fourth in 2022, and now in third.
After finishing second the past two years, Babson College slipped a bit this year to fourth. And rounding out the top five is the London Business School, which participated in the ranking for the first time. The past two years, P&Q has had two international business schools finish in the top five of this ranking.
Jumping 11 spots into sixth place is Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey Business School. Rice University’s Jones School of Management slipped four spots from third in 2022 to seventh this year. IE Business School fell three spots from fifth to eighth. Meanwhile, the University of California-San Diego climbed six spots into ninth and its first placement in the top ten. And Harvard Business School rounded out the top ten.
In all, 37 schools were ranked this year, down from 38 last year.
METHODOLOGY REMAINS UNCHANGED COMPARED TO LAST YEAR
After making significant changes to the ranking’s methodology last year, including the addition of six new data points, the methodology remained exactly the same this year. Sixteen data points are weighted from 15% to 2.5%. As in previous years, the two heaviest weighted categories are the average percentage of MBAs launching businesses during B-school or immediately after and the percentage of MBA elective courses that are 100% focused on entrepreneurship and/or innovation.
Some of the other higher-weighted categories include data looking at the number of members of the school’s main entrepreneurship club, incubator or accelerator space available to MBAs, entrepreneurs in residence available to MBAs, and startup award money available to MBAs. This year we added data points into the methodology like the percentage of MBAs joining early-stage startups in their first jobs after B-school, the percentage of MBA faculty actively involved in a startup outside of the school, and the number of mentors available to MBAs.
We use ratios and percentages for all metrics used in the methodology. We do this to get a sense of what resources are like for individual students.
BEHIND WASHU’S DOMINANCE
A few years ago, Olin Business School made entrepreneurship one of its four pillars, along with “values-based and data-driven,” “global,” and “experiential.”
“Few schools make entrepreneurship an actual pillar and focus of the school,” says Doug Villhard, who is the academic director of entrepreneurship and an entrepreneurship professor at WashU. “Olin, I find, is an amazing place to get a world-class MBA education preparing you for any career that also values creative and innovative thinkers. Entrepreneurship can be an occupation — but it’s also a mindset. Not everyone is going to start a company. But everyone can desire a career where they’ll distinguish themselves with strategic thinking. That’s what I most love about our program.”
Interestingly, that broad approach to entrepreneurship shows up in our ranking as Olin only outright one of the 16 methodological categories but placed high enough across many of them to earn the top finish again this year. With the pillar and emphasis on entrepreneurship in place, Olin continues to expand its entrepreneurial resources for students. The school just created an MBA Entrepreneurship Fellowship program, which provides up to five full-ride MBA fellowships per year, including apartments and offices for the fellows.
Villhard says the school has also expanded its Startup Consulting Projects, pairing students with startups on the ground in Israel, Berlin, San Francisco, New York, and St. Louis. WashU also recently launched an accelerator space called the League focused on students interested in ideas in the digital and tech space. “When I started 3.5 years ago the interest at Olin was around a quarter of the class,” Villhard says.
“Now over half the MBA class has an entrepreneurial interest. It’s really fun to have such growth in interest and to have so many students ready to go on day one. The word is out that Olin is ‘all in’ on entrepreneurship.”