MBA Rankings for the best business schools

Written by Sameer Kamat

For many MBA applicants, the search for their top bschools starts with the MBA rankings list. We have our own business school rankings based on a popularity index.

However, there are several challenges.

1. There are too many of these MBA ranking lists floating around
2. The methodology of how bschools are ranked isn’t entirely clear
3. The definition of ‘best’ isn’t universal. Different MBA rankings show different heroes
4. Bschool ranks aren’t sancto sanct. They change frequently.

Despite these drawbacks, whenever there’s news of a new MBA rankings list being release, there’s a mad rush of applicants to check out which ones have won the battle for that year. Alumni (new graduates especially), driven by ego or curiosity (or both) also make a beeline to these sites to see if their alma mater is still on the pedestal it was one when they graduated.

Who has the best MBA Rankings?

We aren’t going to regurgitate the numerous existing bschool lists here. Instead we’ll list down the most influential and the most tracked MBA rankings list and give you a little bit of what actually drives these rankings. Understand how various leading publications approach the rankings game and then check out the actual list of the best bschools on the parent sites.

US News MBA rankings

One of the oldest bschool ranking lists, US News takes it the extra distance and also publishes speciality rankings. So apart from the general list of the best MBA programs, you also get the best finance MBA programs, the best entrepreneurship / marketing /logistics / information systems programs.

US News MBA Ranking methodology

Quality of the program (40%) [Peer assessment score (25%), recruiter assessment (15%)
Placement success (35%) [Average MBA salary (14%), employment rate on graduation (7%) & after 3 months (14%)
Student selectivity (25%) [Average GMAT (16.25%), Average undergrad GPA (7.5%), Acceptance rate (1.25%)]

Specialty rankings work very differently. If you thought the list that you so religiously followed was a result of painstaking scientific process, here’s how US News explains the speciality ranking methodology. The inputs entirely comes from subjective views of the deans of the MBA programs surveyed. They are asked to nominate 10 program in each specialty category and schools are ranked based on the votes. Life’s simple, naa?

Businessweek MBA rankings

Another old and well-respected MBA ranking. However this list has been perceived to be US-focussed as American programs get the limelight, whereas the rest of the international MBA programs play second-fiddle.

Businessweek MBA Ranking Methodology

Student survey (30%), recruiter survey (20%), Average starting MBA salaries (10%), MBA feeder school (10%), academic quality (30%)

Interestingly, for the student and recruiter data, Businessweek (BW) assigns a 50% weight to the survey results for the current ranking year and 25% each to the last 2 rankings. As BW comes out with rankings once in 2 years, this means that data that goes back 5-6 years has an influence on the latest ranking.

Financial Times MBA rankings

The FT rankings bring a European flavour to the business school ratings game. Compared to the earlier two (US News and Businessweek), Financial times makes the mix a little more international.

FT MBA Ranking Methodology

Weighted salary (20), Salary increase (20), Value for money (3), Career progress (3), Aims achieved (3), Placement success (2), Employed at three months (2), Alumni recommend (2), Women faculty (2), Women students (2), Women board (1), International faculty (4), International students (4), International board (2), International mobility (6), International experience (2), Languages (2), Faculty with doctorates (5), FT doctoral rank (5), FT research rank (10)

Just like Businessweek, Financial Times also gives 50% to the current year data and 25% to the past 2 years’ data. This is an annual ranking, so the data influencing the ranking can be 2-3 years old.

Economist MBA Rankings

This one manages to ruffle a lot of feathers each year. That’s because it brings up names which the traditional management education fraternity might not overwhelmingly support. For instance, IESE finds a place above Stanford.

Economist MBA Rankings Methodology

Career opportunities (35%), personal development/education quality (35%), Salary increase (20%), Networking potential (10%)

Poets & Quants MBA Rankings

This one’s interesting as John Byron (founder of P&Q), who pioneered MBA rankings at Businessweek, creates a ranking-of-rankings list.

Poets & Quants MBA Ranking Methodology

Instead of creating a completely independent list (and duplicating what John did at BW), Poets & Quants looks at the other existing rankings and assigns them different weights.


The respective ranking sites provide further details on how they gather, process and present data. If you have the patience to study these methodologies, you’ll realise that most of the information gathered is quantifiable data and the rest is intangible data that’s been quantified so that the weighted average score can be derived. That’s the only way to compare bschools that are as different as chalk and cheese.

Now that you know what actually happens behind the scenes, we hope you will look at this annual (biannual in some cases) event objectively and not get carried away like the others by what you see. Who knows? Even if all these MBA rankings were to agree upon (say) Harvard as the top school, there may be reasons why you’d think Harvard is not the best bschool in the world.


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Sameer Kamat

About Sameer Kamat

Founder of MBA Crystal Ball | Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter @mba_cb | Facebook


2 Comments

  1. Shriavi88   |  Saturday, 02 November 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Hi Sameer, I understand your concern regarding different websites claming different mba colleges to be the best one. But we have to understand that they differ based on different criteria they have picked to judge the b schools. :)

    For example I choose 3 most popular criteria to rank the mba colleges on my blog TopBSchoolsinIndia.com

    Similar is the case with other websites. The seeker has to decide based on what criteria he has to choose the B School.

  2. Jagannath Panigrahi   |  Thursday, 15 May 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks Sameer for this post. Knowing this basis for coming up with the ranks will help me know about the b-schools better.

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