Out with the old, in with the new. Let’s take a look at Bloomberg’s 2015 top 20 U.S. MBA programs:
• There wasn’t a single overlap between this year’s rankings and last year’s. And there was some very significant shuffling around. These dramatic ups and downs, explains John A. Byrne, rankings expert from Poets & Quants, are due in part to the massive methodology changes Bloomberg implemented this year, including diminishing the influence of surveys for the latest graduating class, adding the opinions of alumni from 2007, 2008, and 2009, and adding starting salary and employment data. You can read more about these changes in Byrne’s article or here on the Bloomberg site – definitely keep this information in mind when comparing this year’s rankings with past years’.
• New to the top 20 this year are slots 19 and 20, Rice Jones and Washington Forster, respectively.
• Leaving the top 20 this year are Indiana Kelley, which fell from 16th place in 2014 to 28th this year, and Maryland Smith which dropped from 17th place last year to 33rd place this year.
• MIT Sloan made a nice comeback this year, jumping 10 spots from 14th to 4th.
• Duke and Harvard swapped spots this year, from first to eighth and eighth to first, respectively. Fun fact: This is the first time in BW MBA ranking history (which dates back to 1988) that Harvard wins the blue ribbon. (See the P&Q article for more surprising facts.)
Top 20 International MBA Programs
There are significant changes here too:
• It’s immediately apparent that Asia is missing from this list (as compared to the 2015 Economist rankings where Asia is well represented). Last year CEIBS and HKUST were in the top 20 (17th and 18th place), and this year they’re no longer present.
• Unlike in the Economist rankings, Canada is well represented with three schools in the top 20.
• Also missing from the top 20 this year: Concordia University (20th last year).
• Newcomers to the list: St. Gallen (not ranked last year), Manchester (jumped from 26th to 19th), and Imperial College London (jumped a few sports from 23rd to 20th).
• IMD took the place of ESMT in the top five. And ESMT dropped 12 slots from 3rd place to 15th.
Reaction to the Bloomberg Rankings
Yes, it’s really impossible to draw any conclusions about trends from the rankings gyrations because Bloomberg’s methodology has changed so much and repeatedly in the last three years, you would be comparing apples and oranges. In addition, I noticed a few inconsistencies that surprised me and call into question the validity of the assumption underlying Bloomberg’s ranking methodology.
Bloomberg Business proudly proclaims “Our annual ranking of full-time MBA programs now focuses on what most people hope to get after business school: a satisfying, well-paying job.”
That makes sense. A “satisfying, well-paying job” is a critical, if not the critical, motivation for earning the MBA.
However if the Bloomberg rankings really reflected the relative success of MBA programs in achieving that goal, I would expect more congruence between the various elements that make up the ranking. I also question if the elements that make up the ranking really reflect whether graduates get that super-duper job.
Here are a few elements that don’t make a lot of sense to me:
1. The rankings give the largest weight (35%) to an Employer Survey. The survey ask recruiters to “assess how well MBA programs prepare graduates for the jobs they want.” Sounds good. But does the other data support the survey? Frequently not. If recruiters think schools are doing well in career preparation, shouldn’t hiring be high? Conversely if recruiters think schools are not preparing their MBAs well, shouldn’t salaries and job placement be lower? That congruence is absent. Are recruiters perhaps influenced by other, irrelevant factors when responding? I don’t know, but something doesn’t add up.
2. Three elements of the survey methodology – job placement, the alumni survey, which asks about job satisfaction and salary for the classes of 2007-09, and starting salary – all directly relate to the stated mission of this ranking. The “student survey” polled members of the classes of 2014 and 2015. I would expect that high job placement (for the class of 2014 only) and salary would be mirrored in alumni satisfaction, influence the student survey, and vice versa. Again the results are anomalous.
• Harvard, which is #1 overall, was #4 among recruiters, #2 for the alumni survey, #2 in salary rank, but only #35 for job placement. Huh? Pittsburgh’s Katz school is in 3rd position on that survey, 32 spots above Haahvad.
• #2 Booth placed #1 for job placement, a respectable #6 for salary rank, but a dismal #29 for alumni rank. The fact that recruiters ranked it #1, pulled Booth up overall. In this case, the recruiter ranking and the job placement ranking make sense, but why are alumni (from the classes of 2007, 2008, and 2009) so unhappy with Booth? The Great Recession can’t be the reason because graduates of all schools in those years had to deal with the recession.
• Kellogg snagged the #3 spot overall, but it too relied on the recruiter survey, where it was #2, to give it height. It was #11 in the alumni survey, an excellent #5 for salary and #6 for the student survey, and a dismal #34 for job placement. If recruiters were so happy with Kellogg, why was job placement relatively poor? If getting a job is driving MBA-dom, why are the students really pretty happy?
I could go on, but this would become very boring very fast. The results don’t make a lot of sense. I can’t recommend that you rely on them to evaluate the relative quality of these programs or even the ability of the programs to get you that high paying, satisfying job.
When comparing schools, look at the employment reports for the areas that you are most interested in. See if the companies you would like to work for recruit and hire at your target programs. And of course look at the program itself – the courses, professors, extracurricular options, and approach to MBA education.
While you certainly can’t survey thousands of recruiters and students, you can talk to people you respect, network, and gain insight so that you can intelligently choose the programs that support your goals and are likely to accept you.
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.