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Demystifying the Mysterious World of Business School Rankings

DemystifyingMBAIG_finalWITH_LOGOIt’s not every day that MBA rankings end up trending on Facebook, and yet yesterday that’s exactly what happened. When Bloomberg BusinessWeek released its biennial ranking of full-time MBA programs, the results shocked many and created quite a buzz. According to Bloomberg BW’s most recent calculations, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business has stolen the number one spot, knocking Harvard Business School out of the top five for the first time in history.

Just how did Bloomberg BW decide which programs rose to the top and which fell from grace? As it turns out, the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University just a few weeks ago released an infographic that provides a clear and concise overview showcasing the rankings methodologies employed by five major publications: Bloomberg BW, along with U.S. News & World Report, the Financial Times, the Economist and Forbes.

Whitman’s “Demystifying Online MBA and Full-Time MBA Rankings” infographic lives up to its title, unpacking the criteria each publication considers and the weight accorded to each component. For its rankings, Bloomberg BW bases 45 percent of the score on how recruiters rate MBA hires from the school. Another 45 percent is determined by how graduating MBAs judge their program, and the remaining 10 percent is based on faculty productivity, as measured by a tally of research published in leading journals.

U.S. News & World Report, for its part, considers five main factors to arrive at its ranking, with each carrying different weight in the overall calculation. Student engagement accounts for 33 percent of the overall score, followed by admissions selectivity and peer reputation at 20 percent each. Student services/technology and faculty credentials/training round out the score, weighted at 13.5 percent each. The Whitman infographic goes into even greater detail, helping explain the criteria that make up each of the five pieces of the ranking methodology pie.

The Financial Times places huge emphasis on peer reputation: 57 percent the overall score a school receives comes from this measure. Faculty credentials and training are next, making up 24 percent of the score. Student services and technology account for the final 19 percent.

The Economist weights new career opportunities and educational experience equally, at 35 percent each. The remainder of that publication’s methodology pie goes toward increase in salary pre- to post-MBA (20 percent) and networking potential/alumni network value (10 percent).

At Forbes, meanwhile, the rankings are all about ROI. It measures schools based on the five-year MBA gain reported by student surveys as compared to the opportunity costs and educational expenses of each given program.

As always, those of us at Clear Admit encourage prospective applicants to use rankings as just one of many data points to determine which MBA program might best meet their individual needs and goals. Obviously, prospective applicants should be basing their decision on where to go to business school on what they consider most important. Having a clearer understanding of the methodologies used should help determine which, if any, of the various business school rankings will most closely align with your own goals and expectations.

View Whitman’s complete business school ranking infographic.