Business School Rankings Are Not To Be Accepted At Face Value

Business school rankings are scores calculated using different formulas, based on various factors of varying importance. The most influential rankings are the ones published in the Financial Times, Business Week, US News and World Report, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and Forbes. Since they are all using different methods to calculate business school rankings, the rankings are different in each publication. Most, but not all, release their ranking methodology.

Since ranking on these lists is the matter of prestige for business schools, it has not been unheard of for a school to provide misleading data to the researchers. There are rumors floating around about rankings being rigged in order to include a certain school, or push it higher up the list.

It can be said that the business school rankings are biased by their nature, because the criteria they use for ranking a school is chosen at the publisher’s discretion. The criteria may include the following: how much the graduates earn on average, employment rates, peer assessment scores (by other business school deans), recruiter assessment scores (by recruiters hiring the graduates), the ratio of students to faculty, access to professors, student satisfaction, student participation, candidate acceptance rates, undergraduate GMAT and GRE scores, diversity, research output.

Since each publication employs its own standards, there are no two rankings that are the same (or even alike!). Besides, what is really being ranked here are business schools – and not the MBA programs themselves. Therefore, you should not rely on the rankings only to choose where you should get your MBA degree.

The Business Week ranking, launched in 1988, was the first major MBA ranking. It asks graduating seniors to complete a survey on different aspects of their studying at a certain school. The results are then merged with the results from the previous two years to form a ranking. Before the Business Week survey, the programs were ranked based on the opinions of business school deans and faculty.

The most important factor for Forbes is the return on investment for the student, so it looks at the cost of the MBA program and its graduates’ average salaries. The Financial Times takes into account several factors when calculating its rankings: career progress, diversity, research output etc. The most important factor is, however, graduates’ salary adjusted to the cost of living. While the Financial Times indeed takes into account the widest number of factors, keep in mind that the data uses estimates based off rather small sample sizes.

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