Ten Biggest Surprises In The Financial Times 2023 MBA Ranking

Financial Times 2023 MBA ranking

For the first time ever, the Financial Times added a carbon footprint metric to its MBA ranking. What this has to do with the quality of an MBA education is anyone’s guess.

7) Ranking MBA Programs By A School’s Carbon Footprint. Seriously?

However admirable and well received by climate change activists, the carbon footprint assigned to a business school has nothing to do with the quality of an MBA experience. It’s just yet another measurement to muck up an already flawed ranking. This new metric is based on the target set by a school to reach net zero carbon emissions and the existence of a publicly available carbon emissions audit report produced within the past three years.

Here’s how the FT explains its new metric: “New emphasis has been given to the environment. Fresh credit is given for schools providing a recent public carbon emissions report complying with international standards, and also for setting near-term zero-emission targets.”

What the FT doesn’t explain is why in the world would a carbon footprint data point be given twice as much emphasis (a 4% weight vs. 2%) than the employment of a school’s graduates three months after completing a program. Whether a business school gets its graduates jobs is far more important than just about any other criteria measured by the FT yet it continues to get short shrift from the newspaper’s editors. In fact, they deem this new likely imprecise metric more important than gender parity (a 4% weight) or international course experience (3%).

Even more puzzling is the number of schools tied at a given rank. There are 12 programs all tied at a rank o 17 and eight programs in sixth place. Eight schools, by the way, are tied for 89th place which is essentially dead last in this ranking. Those schools include Georgetown University, Babson College, Brigham Young University, and the University of Rochester. All of these ties reflect the difficulty of ranking any school on this metric with any degree of accuracy.

So who comes out well on carbon? The University of Virginia: Darden was ranked highest for efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. SDA Bocconi School of Management and IE Business School were tied for second in this category. Business schools based in California did exceptionally well with five of them landing in the top 13 spots. Here are the top 20 schools.

Financial Times 2013 MBA ranking

Is California now the center of the MBA universe?

8) California Dreaming: The Golden State Is The Golden Ticket

Where is the center of the MBA universe?

Some might argue Boston, courtesy of Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan (with added heft from Babson, Boston College, Boston University, and Northeastern). You can make a case for New York City with the Columbia, NYU Stern, and Fordham troika, not to mention Baruch Zicklin. Of course, Chicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg are just 40 minutes away from each other down I-41. 

However, based on the Financial Times 2023 MBA ranking, you may want to give the award to California – the whole state.  There are now six MBA programs from California in the ranking, just as many as there are in all of India: Stanford, UC-Berkeley, UCLA Anderson, USC Marshall, UC-Irvine, and the newest entrant, UC-Davis. Not to mention UC-San Diego, Santa Clara, Pepperdine, the University of San Diego, and more.

Yeah, it is a six-and-a-half-hour drive from LA to San Francisco. Mileage-wise, the drive – or train – from Boston to Philadelphia is shorter. Still, it was the California business schools that thrived in this year’s ranking. Forget the images of a tax-laden, crime-ridden cesspool that could slide into the ocean when “The Big One” hits. California is four seasons with cool breezes, sunshine, and job opportunities galore.

Up north, you’ll find Stanford GSB and UC Berkeley’s Haas School. Historically underrated by The Financial Times, Stanford GSB moved up two spots this year to fourth, tying it with Harvard Business School. The pros of a Stanford GSB MBA according to the FT: the school ranked in the Top 3 in both career progress and alumni network, a 7% share of the methodology weight. The GSB also ranked seventh for academic research (a 10% weight), with 93% of the surveyed alums saying their aims were achieved thanks to the MBA program – good for a 1st place tie. And how is this for improvement: Stanford GSB’s career services ranking rocketed from 50th to 11th in the past 12 months alone!

And, not surprisingly, Stanford kills it on pay. In average weighted salary, defined as what MBAs are making three years after graduation, Stanford tops all business schools at $248,669. Not only is that more than $13,600 better than Harvard Business School; it represents a nearly $30,000 improvement for Stanford GSB in the past year alone.

But the most important metric, though as pointed out earlier not measured by the FT, the GSB really delivers the goods: alumni overall satisfaction. Here, Stanford achieves a near-perfect 9.98 (after scoring a 9.71 last year). Give overall satisfaction a 10% weight and the GSB would undoubtedly rank #1 on the Financial Times ranking.  

Berkeley Haas also made gains in the FT ranking in 2023. Traditionally ranked outside the Top 10, the program leaped from 14th to 7th. However, Berkeley Haas also represents the roller-coaster nature of the Financial Times’ methodology. The school's MBA program ranked low in value for money (74th) and sector diversity (62nd), while posting middling results in alumni networking (35th), career services (39th), and international course experience (49th). Combined, these measures account for an 18% weight. However, the sheer number of measures (21 in all) – and the relatively low weight of most of them with the exception of salary and research data – insures that schools aren’t knocked out by less-than-stellar performance in a few narrow categories. 

Sure enough, Haas bounces back by ranking 4th in weighted pay ($213,321), 14th in research and sixth for carbon footprint, which together makes up 30% of the ranking. Most important, Haas fixed its Achilles Heel in 2023. In the all-important salary increase measure – 16% weight – Haas improved from 110% to 132%, enabling it to compete in the same realm with Stanford, Columbia Business School, and Yale SOM. 

The red flag: Berkeley Haas experienced a dip in overall satisfaction from alumni, going from 9.51 to 9.02.

Down the coast, UCLA Anderson also rode a 12-spot swell in 2023, going from 26th to 14th. This improvement stems from the school scoring Top 10 finishes in three areas: career services (4th), Academic Research (5th), and Carbon Footprint (6th). In fact, UCLA climbed 10 spots in academic research. It also ranked 16th in alumni network.

What’s more, California nearly added a fourth school to FT’s 2023 MBA ranking Top 20. USC Marshall rose four spots to 21st. Ironically, USC Marshall followed its crosstown rival’s blueprint, notching its highest marks in the alumni network, academic research, career services, and carbon footprint.

Four Top 20 programs within 370 miles of each other? To be precise, the I-95 Corridor matches this density with Harvard, MIT, NYU, and Columbia, (and Wharton, technically). Still, it is impressive to see the upswing enjoyed by each of the schools in the California contingent. If The Financial Times adjusts its methodology again next year, maybe the MBA axis will spin to the American West…if it hasn’t already.  

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