B-Schools’ Hatred Of Rankings Burns Brightly — But Are They Ready To Revolt?

Survey: B-Schools' Hatred Of Rankings Still Burns Brightly

In a new survey from Kaplan and Manhattan Prep, many business schools say the MBA rankings have lost prestige and would welcome their demise

When Yale and Harvard announced last November that they would no longer participate in U.S. News’ ranking of law schools, Poets&Quants asked the question, Will business schools be next? To which officials at Yale School of Management and Harvard Business School responded in the negative.

The law school mutiny grew and this month was mirrored by a revolt of top medical schools. The fact is, many B-schools hate rankings too, and would be perfectly happy if they ceased to exist tomorrow — or better yet now, today. That goes less for perennial top-10 schools like Yale SOM and HBS as it does for those in the lower tier, who have more reason to decry the inherently subjective and imperfect process of ranking vastly different MBA programs. Yet consider that when the top schools have had an excuse not to participate, they have leaped at the chance to abstain, as several did during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. (A decision which, of course, benefited the schools that opted to stay in the game.) The temptation to cheat, which more than one school official has succumbed to over the years, is another ugly side effect of the rankings game.

In its annual survey of business school admissions officers, global educational services company Kaplan and its sister company Manhattan Prep, a leading test prep provider, found that while there is no current boycott afoot, admissions teams at many B-schools would shed no tears if they all suddenly ceased to be — something that recently happened to at least one major ranking.


Rankings have been a sore point for B-schools since they were invented by Poets&Quants‘ founder John Byrne when he was executive editor of Businessweek in the late 1980s. And yes, that includes the schools like Yale and Harvard and Stanford that usually do quite well in them. Highly publicized shortcomings among the major rankings (and mysterious absences for others) have only reinforced that longstanding animus.

After Yale, Harvard, Duke and Michigan announced last fall that they would no longer participate in U.S. News‘ law school rankings, Kaplan/Mahnhattan Prep asked the top B-schools for their views on rankings and found that fully a third would welcome their total snd immediate abolition.

Among the admissions officers surveyed at 117 full-time MBA programs across the U.S. between September and December 2022 — including 18 of the top 50 schools as ranked by U.S. News — the test prep companies found that 37% believe that “business school rankings have lost some of their prestige over the last couple of years” while 29% disagree with that point of view; the remaining 34% didn’t express one view or the other. Additionally, 34% of business schools “think it would be a positive development, for both business schools and applicants, for business school rankings to no longer exist,” while 30% disagreed; the remaining 36% didn’t express one view or the other ob that question, either.


In responding to the survey, those who hold negative views of rankings shared their reasons:

  • “We should be focusing on fit, not prestige. What program is going to give the student the most positive experience and highest return on investment. We should be in the business of informing, not competing.”
  • “The methodology is often so terribly flawed. Some are so poorly done and are done so only to make money. Business schools have accepted that somewhat, but many of today’s prospective students seem to have a more critical eye than previous prospects. They tell us the rankings don’t have the influence they once had.”
  • “The criteria used for ranking is skewed to benefit the schools that already have more students and spend a lot of marketing dollars.”
  • “The audience is more aware of the subjectivity of rankings, some schools have chosen not to participate, and some of the rankings have produced questionable results.”

“Over the years, more than a few admissions officers half-jokingly said that ‘The most sleepless night for business school leaders is the night before the U.S. News rankings come out,’ since for some, their job hangs in the balance,” says Stacey Koprince, director of content and curriculum for Manhattan Prep. “Whether there’s widespread rebellion against the rankings the way we’ve seen among top law schools remains to be seen. For prospective students our advice is to look at the rankings when deciding where to apply and enroll, as they serve as a useful aggregate of important stats like post-graduate job numbers and starting salaries, but also strongly consider which schools seem like the best fit for you personally and for your professional goals.”


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.