Poets&Quants 2023-2024 MBA Ranking: Stanford’s Triumphant Return To The Top

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford Graduate School of Business regains its No. 1 ranking this year for having the best MBA program in the U.S. Photo Credit: Elena Zhukova


Other notable ranking upgrades occurred at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, which climbed 11 places to rank 18th, and Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Management, up a half dozen spots to rank 21st. The full-time MBA program at Rice Business recorded significant gains across all three traditional rankings — U.S. News, the Financial Times, and Businessweek —and scored well on the new LinkedIn metrics and on Princeton Review‘s lists. In fact, Rice rose 11 places in the FT and 10 spots in Businessweek. That is real momentum under Dean Peter Rodriguez who will break ground on a new building in January.

Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business also did exceptionally well. The school’s MBA program gained eight places, despite setbacks in both U.S. News and the Financial Times. The reason: A big seven-place gain in Businessweek‘s ranking and strong showings on the LinkedIn and Princeton Review lists.

No less impressive is the rise of the University of Florida’s Hough Graduate School. For the first time ever, its MBA program cracked the Top 25, soaring 17 places to clinch the 25th spot, also thanks to the addition of the LinkedIn and Princeton Review data which more than offset a drop in U.S. News.


2023-2024 MBA rankingHowever you interpret these changes, there’s little reason to doubt the return of Stanford to the very top of the MBA hierarchy. On nearly every core metric in admissions or career placement, Stanford is damn impressive. Stanford latest class GMAT average matched a school record 738 set two years ago, which outpaces all other M7 schools this year. It achieved that class average while admitting one of the most diverse classes in the school’s history. This year, U.S. minorities were again half the class at 50%, women in the class grew to 46%, just shy of the school record, and Black (11%) and Hispanic (12%) students were again in double-digit percentages. And this year’s graduating class of MBAs at Stanford report mean and median total compensation is way up. Average total comp came to an astounding $277,268 this year — almost $20K more than last year.

Much of Stanford’s ranking success can be attributed not to its superb faculty or the excellent quality of education but again to the career choices of graduates. The school routinely brings in more students with work experience in private equity and venture capital and typically funnels a higher percentage of its graduates into PE and VC jobs which typically reward MBAs the highest first-year total pay packages. Nearly a third of Stanford’s most recent MBA graduates accepted jobs in those two fields. The median starting PE salary for the 18% of Stanford grads who went into that industry was an eye-popping $215,000, with median sign-on bonuses of $27,500 and median anticipated first-year performance bonuses of $160,000. Numbers like these push up overall medians that boost Stanford in rankings which heavily weigh starting pay. Yet, PE jobs normally go to only MBA graduates who have had previous experience in private equity. Stanford’s admission policies clearly favor those candidates because its MBA program routinely admits the highest percentage of students with PE backgrounds. Nearly one in five of the school’s newest MBA cohort comes from PE, VC or investment management experience.

Still, in the head-to-head battle between Stanford and Harvard at the top, the West Coast school comes out ahead of its East Coast rival on nearly every metric. For every one of the available seats in this year’s MBA class at Stanford, the school received 14.4 applicants, far more than Harvard’s 8.3 candidates per seat. The latest cohort beats Harvard again on average class grade point average (3.77 vs. 3.73), average class GMAT (738 vs. an estimated 735), average class GRE score (328 vs. 326), and the percentage of women enrolled in the class (46% vs. 45%). Look under the hood of the Financial Times’ ranking metrics and you’ll find the same trend over a wide variety of measures. Stanford’s alumni network is ranked third vs. Harvard’s 26th; Stanford gets a 9.98 score on MBA student satisfaction vs. Harvard’s 9.69; Stanford also beats HBS on the FT’s career progress metric, ranking second vs. HBS’ fourth, and on aims achieved as judged by alumni, 93% at Stanford vs. 91% at Harvard.


Stanford’s leadership under Dean Jon Levin, named Poets&Quants‘ Dean of the Year in 2021, is among the very best in the world. Meantime, Harvard Business School Dean Srikant Datar, under criticism from faculty for his handling of a disciplinary proceeding against superstar Professor Francesca Gino, is defending himself against a $25 million lawsuit from Gino who is alleging defamation, breach of contract, and gender discrimination. In an extraordinary and unprecedented event, seven tenured professors at HBS, remaining anonymous out of fear of retaliation,  say the way he managed the Gino case has rocked their confidence in the school’s leadership. In his only meeting with Professor Gino, he immediately told her she wasn’t allowed to speak, according to her lawsuit. If he is successful in stripping Gino of tenure, it would be the first time in the university’s history that tenure was forcibly taken away from a faculty member.

The business school also has been swept up in the donor backlash over the university’s statements on the terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas. “I’m so p—ed at Harvard right now that I don’t want to have anything to do with it,” wrote investor Whitney Tilson to the business school’s fundraising office as he declined a meeting ahead of his 30th year reunion. Tilson, founder and CEO of Empire Financial Research, not only earned his MBA from Harvard with high distinction, graduating as a Baker Scholar; he also spent five years working with HBS’ most famous professor, Michael E. Porter, before launching his investment career. The business school has since postponed sending out some solicitation letters signed by alumni until next year to allow the graduates to postpone a decision about whether they want to put their names on the requests for donations, according to a recent report,

Many universities are obviously in similar positions. After the presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania testified before Congress last week, outrage spread over their refusal to say that students who call for the genocide of Jews do not violate their codes of conduct on bullying or harassment. Harvard MBA alum and hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, who has called on major donors to stop giving their money to Harvard, demanded that all three presidents resign their positions. “Throughout the hearing, the three behaved like hostile witnesses, exhibiting a profound disdain for the Congress with their smiles and smirks, and their outright refusal to answer basic questions with a yes or no answer,” wrote Ackman, founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management. “They must all resign in disgrace.”


As is often the case in MBA rankings, there were some big moves, up and down the list. The single biggest ranking increase was gained by Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim Business School. Its full-time MBA program surged 36 places this year to rank in the Top 50, placing 47th, a massive improvement over its rank of 83rd a year ago. In all, 13 MBA programs advanced in double-digits, with large gains made by the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey (up 26 places to rank 69th), and North Carolina AT’s Deese College of Business and Economics, up 19 spots to rank 79th.


Another 14 MBA programs experienced double-digit falls in the ranking (see table below). This year, a half a dozen business schools fell 20 or more places. After Wharton's collapse, Penn State University's Smeal College of Business, Pepperdine University's Graziadio Business School and the University of Connecticut's School of Business did the biggest swan dives. Smeal plummeted 26 places to rank 59th, while Graziadio and Connecticut both lost 24 places to respectively rank 89th and 99th.

For savvy candidates, of course, these schools may well represent an opportunity to make the equivalent of a bet on an undervalued stock. For candidates who think of themselves as value investors, these schools provide students with an MBA education that is among the best in the world. They also give their graduates higher income potential at more affordable prices with lower student debt after graduation. That is no small feat.


Ultimately, of course, our fixation with rankings obscures the most basic truths about these controversial lists. They reward exclusivity at the expense of inclusivity. They allow schools to premium price education and charge outsized tuition rates. And they lead candidates to believe that the luster of the business school they attend, based largely on a ranking, will not only define their place in the world but also determine their professional success and happiness. That Top Ten program, they think, would bestow some kind of magic on their resumes.

Yet, there are many outstanding MBA programs that  allow a graduate to gain the skills and tools necessary to access a successful, fulfilling and meaningful professional career. In fact, many of the less selective programs ranked 50 to 100 and above might well be a better fit than the schools that crowd the top of this or any other ranking. As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni rightly points out, "where you go is not who you'll be." So as you consume this or any other ranking, do so with a very big grain of salt.

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