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Chicago Booth Remains Atop Economist Ranking Amid Drastic Fluctuations by Other Schools

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The University of Chicago Booth School of Business claimed bragging rights for the fifth year in a row as it was once again crowned the top full-time MBA program in the world by the Economistwhich published its annual global ranking of MBA programs yesterday. Other schools, though, took wild rides up and down the ranks—a trend that has caused many industry insiders to question the validity of the British publication’s “Which MBA?” list.

As in previous years, the methodology the Economist uses to suss out how the various schools compare is a complex combination of two surveys and a system of weighted averages. The first survey, accounting for roughly 80 percent of the ranking, is a quantitative one completed by the schools themselves on matters such as graduates’ salaries, average GMAT scores and number of registered alumni. The second survey, accounting for 20 percent of the ranking, is qualitative in nature and completed by schools’ current MBA students and recent alumni, assessing things such as the quality of faculty, facilities and career services departments. Together, the two surveys assess 22 different criteria grouped into four main categories, each weighted based on the importance given them by the students themselves. Those categories and respective weightings are as follow: the degree to which a program is considered to open new career opportunities (35 percent); the personal development/educational experience of students (35 percent); the increase in salary upon graduation (20 percent), and the potential to network afforded by the school (10 percent).

This year, Chicago Booth topped all other schools in terms of personal development/educational experience and claimed second-highest honors for opening new career opportunities. These exceptionally strong showings in the two most heavily weighted categories have helped the Midwestern school cinch the title six out of the past seven years.

Stanford GSB Cracks the Top 10!?#!
Following Booth this year were six U.S. schools. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management shot up seven spots from last year to come in at number two, knocking the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business down to number three. Harvard Business School hung out at number four for a second year. Stanford Graduate School of Business, which inexplicably failed to crack the top 10 in 2015, shot up 13 spots to number five. Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business slipped three spots to number six. And UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business dropped six spots to number seven. Rounding out the top 10 were Spain’s IESE Business School at eight (a 14-spot jump), HEC Paris at nine (down five from last year), and the University of Queensland Business School in Australia, up a spectacular 16 spots year over year.

Disappearing from this year’s top 10 rankings were INSEAD in France, which dropped from eighth to 13th; the UCLA Anderson School of Management, which fell from ninth to 14th, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which slipped from 10th to 12th.

This year as in the past, the wild movement of several schools—as well as the relatively poor performances of schools widely considered among the very best in the world—causes many in graduate management education to scratch their heads. “Honestly, the Economist ranking is one of the more bizarre rankings of MBA programs in the industry,” says Clear Admit’s Alex Brown. “While Chicago Booth and Kellogg are terrific programs—and will be pleased to top the rankings—most insiders would place these programs somewhere behind Harvard and Stanford,” he continues. “And there are even more crazy placings of programs—like Wharton at 12th, MIT Sloan at 17th and LBS at 25th—which really does a disservice to the integrity of these rankings.”

The role that student satisfaction plays in the Economist‘s calculus could provide at least a partial explanation of the wild rankings, Brown suggests. “When you survey students, you have to factor in that they also have a stake in the outcome of the survey; it creates significant bias,” he says.

Toward a Tiered Ranking System?
Indeed, in his recent book, Becoming a Clear Admit, Brown advocates an alternative to the Economist‘s ranking and others in the marketplace. “I have paid a lot of attention to how schools rank over the years and am convinced there is an order of schools that is fairly stable year over year,” he says. “I also believe that some schools are similar enough it terms of overall quality that they should be ranked similarly,” he adds. Brown considers Chicago Booth, Kellogg, Columbia Business School (ranked 11th this year by the Economist) and MIT Sloan to be Tier 2 schools, beneath a top tier comprised of schools like Stanford, Harvard and Wharton.
As always, those of us at Clear Admit encourage applicants to use rankings as just one of many criteria in determining which MBA program may be the best fit for your individual background, needs and goals.
For more of Brown’s thoughts on a tiered ranking system, click here. To view the complete 2016 Economist ranking, click here.
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