The world of business school rankings is large and varied. There are many choices to choose from, including many big names like Bloomberg Businessweek, US News & World Report, Financial Times, Forbes, The Princeton Review, The Economist, Eduniversal, and Quacquarelli Symonds. These organizations provide news, business and educational information, business school rankings, MBA rankings, and even online MBA rankings. Online MBA programs only have a few prestigious rankings, thus it is important to review the other rankings and see how they give insight into business schools and their online MBA programs.
Rankings can be a helpful tool for prospective student to help narrow down their college application list. But it is important to understand the How and the Why behind each ranking. There can be many discrepancies between different “Top MBA” or “Top Online MBA” rankings, because each ranking has their own particular perspective when quantifying and qualifying programs. They look at different data and use different methodologies emphasizing different aspects of programs and schools based on their subjective view of what makes a program “the best.” But if you know how a ranking is made, and why they used the data they did, then it can help students decide if they should use a particular ranking in their decision-making process.
Let’s look at The Economist.
The Economist was established in 1843 as the Bankers’ Gazette and Railway Monitor, a newspaper covering political, literary, and general news, and still stands today as a current affairs publications. The paper and online site covers international news, politics, business, finance, science and technology. The Economists sees its news at the “extreme centre,” and believes in free trade, free markets, and plain language.
The Full-Time MBA Ranking
The Economist published their new Full-time MBA ranking in October. This ranking examines 100 full-time MBA programs. The ranking is configured to assess the issues that surveyed students from the past five years have expressed as most important, and weighted these issues based on importance. Also, with the Economist being a world-wide publisher, they incorporate diversity as a theme among multiple factors. But, while this ranking includes programs from around the world, it is dominated by US schools. Seven of the top 10 programs hail from the US, with the other three from Spain, France, and Australia. This year’s ranking lists the University of Chicago in the number one spot, for the sixth time out of the past seven years. They are followed by Northwestern University and the University of Virginia as number two and three respectively.
The Economist gives good insight into their ranking methodology. This ranking positions each school with 50% of data collected from 2016, 30% from 2015, and 20% from 2015. They explain this methodology this way: “Memory has been built into the rankings…to provide a rounded picture of the school over a period of time.” The data from 2016 was collected in the spring using two surveys, one from the school and one from current students and recent graduates of the MBA program. The data from the ranking methodology are listed in the graph below in order from highest percentage to lowest.
|Percentage of the 2016 data||Percentage of the 2016 ranking|
|Post-MBA salary, excluding bonuses||15||7.5|
|Diversity of recruiters||10.5||5.25|
|Student assessment of career service||10.5||5.25|
|Salary change from pre-MBA to post-MBA, excluding bonuses||5||2.5|
|Spread of regions from which students hailed||4.375||2.1875|
|Ratio of MBA alumni to current full-time MBA students||3.333||1.6665|
|Number of overseas alumni chapters||3.333||1.6665|
|Student rating of alumni network||3.333||1.6665|
|Ratio of faculty:students||2.9155||1.45775|
|Percentage of full-time faculty with a PhD||2.9155||1.45775|
|Faculty rating by students||2.9155||1.45775|
|Average number of years of work experience||2.625||1.3125|
|Student rating of programme and range of electives||2.1875||1.09375|
|Range of and access to overseas study programmes||2.1875||1.09375|
|Number of language courses available||2.1875||1.09375|
|Student assessment of facilities and other services||2.1875||1.09375|
|Average salary of students before entering class||1.75||0.875|
|Student rating of culture and classmates||1.75||0.875|
The Economist explains their ranking in the following way, “Rankings are little more than an indication of the MBA market at a particular moment. They reflect the prevailing conditions such as salaries, jobs available and the situation at a school at the time the survey was carried out. Results of rankings can be volatile, so they should be treated with caution.”
By looking at the ranking percentages, the top five data points make up half of the data for 2016. Meaning, half of the 2016 data, a quarter of the full ranking data, is tied to salary, salary change, diversity of recruiters, placement success, and students’ assessment of career services.
Pros and Cons of the Ranking
The world of MBAs is vast, especially when looking at programs from all over the world. While a list of 100 is still only a small percentage of the programs available, it is a much better selection that some other MBA rankings available. This size of ranking gives students lots of choices and data to explore.
The Economist values ROI. With many data points looking at a student’s ability to find a job and the increase in salary after a program, this ranking can highlight a possible return on investment of a particular MBA program. While ROI is not the sole motivating factor for an MBA student, is is definitely a popular one.
This ranking has been described as volatile, because the list has shown many schools jump up and down over the past few years. Poets & Quants contends that “wild swings in a ranking tell you less about the quality of a school’s MBA program than it signals about the methodology of the ranking itself. After all, schools rarely if ever change much year over year.” They further say that “when there are unexplainable changes in a ranking, it’s more often a sign that the methodology is severely flawed and lacks statistical validation.” The Economist speaks to the large jumps in ranking and volatility with this explanation: Much of this ranking is tied to salary, therefore the volatility is directly attributed to the uncertain job market and not the ranking methodology. Another thing to consider is that this ranking does not allow for any tied ranking spots. The ranking does not divulge any scores attached to the ranking. Thus, it is possible some schools might be so close in scoring that a minor flux could easily give a great change in ranking. Either way, the wild swings does give way to doubt that this ranking has a clear pulse on the long term value of a school’s MBA.
Another thing to note is that a students’ overall view of the value of a program and the electives only counts for 1.09% of the ranking. That comes in as the 17th most important factor on a list of 22. This is half as much as the average GMAT of the students in a program, five times less important as the career services offered, and seven times less important as the most important factor…salary. This speaks to a program that is a means to an end. While it does value ROI, which is important, a high salary is not the only important factor to MBA students and not the only thing that an MBA program has to offer.
Notable Online MBA programs in the ranking
Even though this ranking features full-time MBA programs, it is notable because high rankings within a business school can directly affect a school’s brand, and thus an MBA brand within. This ranking can specifically give insight into the potential financial ROI of an online MBA program. The top schools in the Economist’s ranking that offer an online/distance MBA are:
Show me the money: This ranking places a lot of emphasis on a student’s financial return on investment. This isn’t a bad thing, but students need to be clear to view this ranking with this lens. If an ROI criterion is high on your list of non-negotiables in a program, then be sure to put this ranking in your list of tools to use when narrowing down your list of schools of which to apply. If financial ROI is not on the top of your list, then make sure you find other rankings that more fall in line with your priorities and values.
Change: Because this ranking is highly influenced by the job market, it is susceptible to change on a year-to-year basis. Remember that a full-time MBA program will take, on average, two years to complete. Even with the past data as a contributor to this ranking’s scoring, it would be a good idea to look at the past few years of this ranking to see how your potential schools fared.
In the end, take this ranking, and every other ranking, and use it as a diving board. Check out our online MBA rankings. Dive into the very large, and growing, pool of available online MBA programs. Use these rankings as a tool in your quest to find your next step in your education and career.
Stay tuned for more ranking reviews, and happy hunting.
Other reviewed rankings: