How Executives Rank The World’s Best Business Schools

how executives rank MBA programs

If you asked executives to rank the world’s best MBA programs, what would they say? 

The answers come in the form of an actual MBA ranking from CEOWORLD, a magazine aimed at C-suite executives. The CEOWORLD’s “Best Business Schools In The World For 2023” was developed through interviews with roughly 35,000 respondents. Compare that to The Financial Times, whose 2022 Global MBA ranking leans heavily on an alumni survey that reached 7,148 respondents. For another, CEOWORLD is truly independent of business schools. Rather than weighing school-supplied data, the ranking combines publicly-available data with survey responses ranging from academic reputation to recruiter feedback.

This year, the Wharton School ranked #1 with CEOWORLD. That’s pretty credible considering Wharton also topped last year’s U.S. News and Financial Times rankings – not to mention this year’s Poets&Quants ranking. From there, the ranking gets a little rocky. For example, The London Business School holds down the #2 spot. That goes against the grain of both The Financial Times (#8 globally) and Bloomberg Businessweek (#4 in Europe) rankings. Then again, LBS did rank #1 in CEOWORLD’s 2022 ranking, so it is consistent. Even more, CEOWORLD enjoys a special affinity for the United Kingdom. After all, it ranked four British business schools among its Top 14 programs: Oxford Saïd (#5), Cambridge Judge (#11), and Alliance Manchester (#14).


MIT Sloan grabbed the #3 spot, beating out cross-town rival Harvard Business School (#4). By the same token, Columbia Business School topped Stanford Graduate School of Business. These programs ranked 6th and 7th, with INSEAD, UC Berkeley, and Yale SOM rounding out the top 10 respectively. A big surprise: CEOWORLD survey respondents aren’t particularly fond of the Windy City. Chicago Booth – P&Q’s #2 program – placed 12th, making CEOWORLD the only ranking where Booth falls below the Top 10. The same is true of Northwestern Kellogg, which was pegged at 15th by CEOWORLD. Beyond that, it is hard to find any glaring head-scratchers. Dartmouth Tuck and HEC Paris may be a little low at 18th and 21st respectively, but the remaining programs aren’t that far off from their placement in similar rankings like The Financial Times.

How did CEOWORLD produce the ranking? Last year, from September 15 through December 22, the magazine conducted interviews with “35,000 business executives, graduates, global business influencers, industry professionals, business school academics, employers, and recruiters in 156 countries and territories.” According to CEOWORLD, 82% of the responses were collected from survey-takers online, with telephone (10%) and “post or face-to-face” (8%) accounting for the remainder of the survey pool. As part of the survey portion, survey participants rated “institutions on a scale of 1 “marginal” to 100 “outstanding” or “don’t know”.”

Using survey data and publicly-available information, CEOWORLD applied seven metrics to produce its list:

1) Academic Reputation
2) Admission Eligibility
3) Job Placement Rate
4) Recruiter Feedback
5) Specialization
6) Global Reputation and Influence
7) Annual Tuition and Fees


Of course, a ranking is only as good as its methodology and the big flaw starts with transparency.

Take the 100-point scale. How exactly did CEOWORLD define each satisfaction tier to its survey takers? What constituted the 50-60 range or the 80-90 range? After all, one survey taker’s 64 could be another’s 79. The vast stretch invites confusion compared to simpler 1-5 or 1-10 scales which are more concise. The metrics are also problematic.  Together, they represent 100% of a composite – a score that is never given. In other words, a prospective applicant has no idea of the difference between #10 Yale SOM and #24 Georgetown McDonough because the underlying index scores are not shared with readers. In other words, the gap could theoretically be 0.5 of a point or 15 points. That makes a difference in how programs are viewed. At the same time, CEOWORLD doesn’t share the weights that each metric possesses. For example, did each metric carry an equal 14.28% share of the weight – or is a ranking potentially calculated with Recruiting Feedback or Job Placement Rate holding greater sway?

The reader doesn’t know…and that should make them skeptical.

Worse yet, CEOWORLD doesn’t even bother to define what these metrics mean. Take Specialization. Does this mean that CEOWORLD asked respondents to score programs in different academic areas like marketing, finance, general management, and operations? When it comes to Academic Reputation, what questions were asked and how were they phrased? For Admission Eligibility, does this mean CEOWORLD factored in GMAT or GRE scores – and what constituted the best result? With Annual Tuition and Fees, do business schools earn a higher score based on the amount of financial support or the percentage of students receiving it? For recruiters, how do they evaluate the quality of a school? Is it based on the success of school recruits hired into the firm – or the school resources devoted to their industry?


Just how many survey responses enable business schools to qualify for the CEOWORLD ranking?

Indeed, CEOWORLD fails to clarify even the most fundamental questions. Are survey respondents answering questions about their alma maters – or can they venture into programs where they have bosses, employees, or partners? And then there is the ultimate question: Are these surveys exclusive to full-time MBA programs or could there be executive or online responses mixed in together (or even executive education)? Considering the vagueness of the methodology, you almost wonder if bachelor’s degree holders could be included too.

Flawed as it is, CEOWORLD does tap into alumni and employer sentiment – with results that seem mostly credible. Hopefully, it will take the next step – releasing underlying data and outlining exactly what its metrics mean – to bring real guidance to MBA applicants who need it most.

Go to next page to see where CEOWORLD ranks your favorite schools. 

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