Parsing The Rankings: A quick glance at Darden’s rankings will reveal just how scattered and silly the whole business school rankings game has become. The Economist puts UVA’s Darden School at number three in the world, behind only Chicago and Dartmouth Tuck. Rival British publication, The Financial Times, has Darden at a rank of 32nd in the world. Both results lack any credibility, largely due to the severely flawed methodologies followed by those two lists.
Just as troubling, however, is Darden’s 10-place fall in last year’s newly revamped Bloomberg Businessweek ranking. The school plunged to 20th place in 2014 from 10th in 2012 in what had been a biennial ranking (BW changed to an annual ranking effective this year). Of course, nothing of substance changed about the Darden program in the two years between the two rankings. What did change was Businessweek‘s methodology. The magazine overhauled its system of ranking schools and the changes severely biased its results. Among the alternations, BW for the first time allowed alumni recruiters to rank the schools they graduated from. Not surprisingly, schools that had more recruiters who returned to their old campus simply did better in the ranking than those that didn’t. It all led to truly wacky results, even allowing Duke University’s Fuqua School to finish in first place.
We would throw all those results out and look more closely at U.S. News, which ranks schools on a variety of measures, such as GMAT, GPA, acceptance rates, starting pay and employment, that more truly judge the quality of an MBA program. Over the past five years, Darden has done well by U.S. News, moving to 10th in 2015 from 13th in 2011. Of course, the school’s best showing comes from U.S. News and you can’t completely discount the noise from the other surveys.
Forbes, which ranks schools solely on the basis of their MBA program’s return on investment, put Darden 15th best in the U.S. P&Q, which is a composite look at the five most influential rankings, has Darden at 13th. In effect, the high Economist ranking and the low FT showing–both clearly statistical or methodological anomalies–cancel each other out. We think that 13th is a relatively fair assessment of this world class MBA experience which boasts the best and most consistent teaching quality of any program.
Payscale Estimate of Total Pay over a 20-Year Career: $2,705,000
Darden’s Class of 2015 was among the most highly compensated MBAs in the world. The average starting salary and bonus was $136,474, up 14.4$ from $119,278 five years earlier. The 2015 pay numbers make Darden MBAs the 11th highest paid graduates out of U.S. business schools, with Chicago Booth and Duke Fuqua just ahead of the school’s graduates and Northwestern Kellogg, NYU Stern just below the Darden numbers. In the pay sweepstakes, UVA is behind only two other public university business schools: UC-Berkeley, whose MBAs got $140,935, and Michigan Ross, whose grads took home $140,497 to start in 2015. The highest paid MBAs of the years were at Harvard where the average base and bonus was $144,750.
And when it came to employment, Darden did even better. Some 94% of the Class of 2015 had jobs three months after graduation. That was seventh best among the top 25 U.S. MBA programs, with Wharton, Emory, and Dartmouth Tuck just slightly higher.