A 8 minute read

Almost every student aspiring for a graduate management education has come across business school rankings. And to cater to the ever-increasing number of business school applicants, several business publication release ranking data every year or once every 2 years. However, you may wonder, what do these business school rankings mean? How much importance should you give to rankings while deciding your target business schools? We answer these questions and more in this article.

business school rankings 2018 | b school ranking methodology

Some of the other most commonly asked questions about business school rankings we will cover are:

  1. How are business school rankings calculated?
  2. How to use Business School Rankings to identify your target business schools?
  3. What are some of the most famous business school rankings?
  4. What are some of the top business schools according to these rankings?

Let’s get started.

What do business school rankings signify?

Business school rankings weigh different factors such as employment rates, student satisfaction, selectivity and program reputation to rank business schools.

These rankings help students in their school selection process by providing an independent assessment of the academic quality of graduate business schools and their programs. However, these rankings over time have been used by business schools to establish their popularity and brand value. Which helps them attract the best students and makes thousands of students apply and compete for limited seats.

Your natural next question would be how much do business school rankings matter? And how to separate the noise from the actual valuable signals? To answer these, we need to understand how these rankings are calculated and whether they measure the criteria that you value in the business school experience.

How are business school rankings calculated?b school ranking methodology 2018

Business publications use different criteria and methodology to calculate business school rankings. The methods used by these business publications assign a varying amount of importance to key areas of the business school experience. The factors used to determine business school rankings are:

  1. Network
  2. Accreditation
  3. Return on Investment
  4. Entrepreneurship and Alumni Outcomes
  5. Learning
  6. Diversity


1) Networking: It is one of the central tenets of a good business school education and one of the biggest benefits students expect from attending business schools. Thus, networking as a factor of business school rankings aims to measure the quality of networks being built by classmates, students’ interactions with alumni, the success of the career services office, etc. The primary way this is measured is through surveys of students, alumni’s and recruiters.

Business School Rankings - Accreditation2) Accreditation: Educational accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services and operations of educational institutions or programs are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met. If standards are met, accredited status is granted by the appropriate agency. In some business school rankings, accreditation serves as an entry criterion to be considered in the rankings. The most popular business school accreditations are:

AACSB: Association of Advance Collegiate Schools of Business

AMBA: Association of MBAs

EQUIS by EFMD: European Foundation for Management Development Quality Improvement System

3) Return on Investment: Also referred to as value for money by some business school rankings. Rankings use different data points to calculate the return on investment, while some focus just on starting salaries and bonuses post MBA others also consider the cost of going to school (tuition + cost of living), foregone wages and increases in both pre-MBA and Post-MBA salaries. The period over which this return on investment is calculated also varies. While the QS Global MBA Rankings calculates investment over a 10-year period, the Financial Times Global MBA 2018 rankings calculate return on investment over a 3-year period.

4) Entrepreneurship and alumni outcomes: Traditionally business schools were looked at as a good starting point on the journey to your dream job. However, a growing trend reflects business school graduates interested in setting up their own ventures post-graduation. Thus, in assessing favorable alumni outcomes i.e. if a business school can deliver on its promise of gainful employment after graduation in their fields of specialty or training, entrepreneurship has become central to students overall training. Rankings systems use surveys of alumni and students as well as recruiters to arrive at a quantitative measure.

5) Learning: This aims to measure the quality, depth, and range of instruction provided at the business school. Quantitative factors measured include the number of faculty/instructors, class size. Qualitative factors try to measure the focus of the curriculum and its application to real-world business situations, the degree of emphasis on innovation, problem-solving and strategic thinking.

6) Diversity: This is a qualitative measure of the business school environment. Business publications look at female students and faculty members, the percentage of international faculty overall at the business school, and the international mix of students in the MBA program to measure diversity business school rankings,

Thus, due to a large number of factors that are considered in the process of ranking business school, it is important to identify the criteria which matter the most to you. That is the only way to identify if a certain business school ranking methodology aligns with your learning and post-MBA career goals.

How to use business school rankings to identify your target business schools?

business school rankings to identify target business schoolsNow that you know the different criteria that are evaluated to determine business school rankings let us look at how you should use them. Arriving at a list of your target business schools solely based on rankings would be doing yourself a disservice.

It is important to remember that there are no perfect measurement systems to determine the best business schools. The methodology behind every ranking has inherent flaws, for e.g. in measuring alumni and recruiter outcomes, rankings use surveys taken by alumni and recruiters as a method to arrive at a number. However, MBA recruiting by major employers at most business schools is done by alumni of the business school. Thus, there is bound to be some bias attached to the survey responses that are received.

Some business publications use unaudited data supplied by business schools. And some business schools may have plenty of reasons to present the information in the best possible light to get a better ranking.

On the other hand, some rankings only measure the return on investment graduates have achieved after 5 years in the market. Thus, it does not measure the quality of the MBA experience or the actual education you receive at all. Thus, if you value return on investment higher than all other criteria the Forbes Business School rankings is the one you should refer to.

Thus, while business school rankings do reflect in some way or other the ground reality of the quality of business school experience, it is but one factor among many to weigh in your decision of which business school is the best fit for you.

Read this article to understand the factors you should consider in evaluating business school fit.

Since each ranking uses different factors to arrive at their rankings, below we present a brief overview of the methodologies used by each. A detailed description wherever available has been linked as well. Some of the Top Business School rankings are:

  1. U.S News & World Report Best Business Schools
  2. Financial Times Global MBA Rankings
  3. QS World University Global MBA Rankings
  4. Economist Full-Time MBA Rankings
  5. Bloomberg Businessweek Best Business Schools Rankings

US News & World Report Best Business Schools (2018): Published yearly, U.S News & World report ranks business schools using a vast amount of data. The methodology employed takes into account its own survey of business school deans and MBA directors (25%), corporate recruiters (15%), starting salaries and bonuses (14%), employment rates at and shortly after graduation (14% to 7%), student GMATs (about 16%), undergrad GPAs (about 8%), and the percentage of applicants who are accepted to a school (a little over 1%).

Financial Times Global MBA Rankings: This 2018 ranking is the 20th year the Financial Times has ranked the best MBA schools. The winner: Stanford (GSB). The ranking is based on data collected from business schools and from alums three years after graduation. This survey includes responses from 8,300 alums of the Class of 2014 those most of the results are combined with two previous class surveys. The ranking also includes a research component, weighted at 10%, counting papers written by the faculty of each school in 40 academic journals during the past three years.

QS World University Global MBA Rankings 2018: Uses data collected through 3 different surveys of employers, recruiters, and alumni. With the greatest weightage being assigned to Employability and Return on investment.

Economist Full-Time MBA Rankings: This is probably the most flawed, if not downright silly, of all the MBA rankings cranked out by a major media brand. With the publication of its 2018 list, the magazine is now up to its seventeenth annual ranking of full-time MBA programs. The ranking is based 20% on student and alumni surveys and 80% on data provided by the schools. There are some incredibly peculiar results in this ranking, which raise significant credibility issues. For e.g. pretty much no one in business education would agree that IESE is better than Dartmouth or MIT (Sloan).

Bloomberg Businessweek MBA: The granddaddy of the MBA rankings, BusinessWeek’s Best-B Schools list made its debut in 1988 with what was then a radical approach to judging the quality of a school: pure customer satisfaction. It was the first to systematically survey recent MBA grads and ask them about their satisfaction levels with their educational experience and the first to ask corporate recruiters their opinions of the MBAs they interview and hire. However, in 2018 they have completely revamped their ranking methodology. And because of this, one cannot compare the latest rankings with their last years’ findings.


Business School Rankings - Research and Methodology

The top 25 business schools according to US News & World Report ranking is presented below. The corresponding rankings according to other business publications are also listed.

Top 25 Business Schools according to different business school rankings (2018)

Following are the top 25 business schools according to the popular business publications are:

Business School Country US NEWS Ranking 2018 FT Global MBA Rankings 2018 Forbes Business School Rankings QS MBA World Rankings 2018 Economist Full Time MBA Rankings (2018) Bloomberg Best US B-Schools rankings
Harvard Business School US 1 5 3 1 3 3
University of Chicago: Booth US 2 6 7 12 1 5
University of Pennsylvania: Wharton US 3 3 1 6 4 2
Stanford Graduate School of Business US 4 1 2 4 5 1
MIT: Sloan US 5 9 8 7 16 4
Northwestern University: Kellogg US 6 12 4 14 2 8
University of California at Berkeley: Haas US 7 10 9 11 11 6
University of Michigan: Ross US 8 26 12 15 7 18
Columbia Business School US 9 7 6 8 10 7
Dartmouth College: Tuck US 10 16 5 44 12 19
Duke University: Fuqua US 11 19 14 23 15 15
Yale School of Management US 12 15 13 18 14 11
University of Virginia: Darden US 13 32 11 46 9 9
Cornell University: Johnson US 14 17 10 36 20 10
INSEAD France/Singapore/Dubai 15 2 N/A 2 19 N/A
UCLA: Anderson US 16 25 15 13 8 17
Carnegie Mellon: Tepper US 17 40 18 35 33 12
The University of Texas at Austin: McCombs US 18 44 17 30 25 22
University of North Carolina: Kenan-Flagler US 19 37 16 51 30 23
Emory University: Goizueta US 20 47 23 53 29 24
University of Southern California: Marshall US 21 59 33 37 28 13
University of Washington: Foster US 22 48 30 64 22 16
Rice University: Jones US 23 45 32 77 41 26
Washington University: Olin US 24 50 35 82 37 32
Georgetown University: McDonough US 25 30 36 61 48 20


Key Takeaways:

Following are the key takeaways from this article:

  • Business school rankings can serve as a valuable resource of information to understand the strengths and value of a graduate management program at ranked business schools.
  • The underlying data points used to calculate these rankings are a far more valuable resource that the actual number rank of B-schools.
  • It is important to understand the different methods used to compute these rankings and account for the inherent bias and error in them while selecting your target business schools.
  • And to arrive at a target list of business schools that you would apply to, your research should align with your professional goals, personality, study habits, and personal preferences.

We hope you find this article useful, you can write to us at acethegmat@e-gmat.com with your questions and our strategy experts would be happy to help you out. Good Luck!

Payal Tandon
Co-founder, e-GMAT
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