A Quarter Century of The BusinessWeek MBA Ranking 1988 – 2014

BusinessWeek MBA Rankings Cover 1990

The news that Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has claimed the #1 spot in the Business Week MBA Ranking in 2014 will send shockwaves through the industry, and hopefully inspire other business schools to dream big. Established in 1969, Fuqua is one of the youngest leading business schools, and until this year the highest it ever ranked in Business Week was in 2000.

Yale SOM is another big winner this year, climbing to #6 from the number 21 position two years ago – again the highest it has ever placed, and further evidence that school dean Ted Snyder will deliver on the goal of securing a regular place in the top 10 for Yale. Columbia Business School will no doubt be pleased with #5, surprisingly the first time the school has ever made the top 5 since.

If anything the first quarter century of BusinessWeek rankings saw very little change among the top schools. As the historic table accompanying this article illustrates, until Duke grabbed the crown in 2014 only three business schools had ever held the #1 position – Kellogg (5 times), Chicago (4 times) and Wharton (4 times). And while 18 business schools have made the top 10 since 1988, only 3 had featured in the top 5 every year since the BusinessWeek ranking began – Wharton, Kellogg and Harvard.

Such enduring success said a lot not only about the reputation of these schools, but also the quality of experience delivered over time, as reflected in the satisfaction levels of the student survey.

But 2014 rings in the changes, notably for Harvard which tumbled 6 places to #8. This is not only it’s lowest ranking in BusinessWeek, but it’s lowest position this year among the five major media rankings. Much of this is due to the student survey, with BusinessWeek citing the role played by ‘the perception that the school caters to elites while neglecting women and minorities.’ It seems that even the mighty HBS might need to take a look in the mirror.

Given the investment in time and money that an MBA represents, a strong showing in the BusinessWeek ranking and others provides comfort to the alumni who see the brand value of their degree rise. And UCLA Anderson, UNC Kenan-Flagler and Maryland Smith will all be hopeful that applicant numbers to their MBA programs will rise in the next two years on the back of these results. Indeed the admissions teams at Duke and Yale may need to start hiring very soon!

Elsewhere there will be disappointment, as Cornell and Darden slip out of the top 10, but such is the nature of rankings. Beyond the learning lessons from opinions shared by recruiters and students, they can always point to their success in Forbes and The Economist.

Which underlines the flaws and limitations inherent in any business school rankings. Each ranking uses a different methodology and weights the use of different data to produce their league tables, so it is important for candidates to understand what is being measured.

As the BusinessWeek staff acknowledge in a note to prospective students, “Don’t let rankings alone make your school decision for you. Our rankings and school profiles offer a thorough picture of the current landscape of full-time MBA programs, but deciding where to go to school is a personal decision. A school that is right for one student may be wrong for another.”

Well said.

2014Institution'12'10'08'06'04'02'00'98'96'94'92'90'88Best RankWorst Rank
1Duke - Fuqua6689119571111121310113
2UPenn - Wharton334235111142415
3Chicago - Booth111122103832411111
4Stanford GSB45664411974759411
5Columbia Bus Sch1397108776689814514
6Yale SOM212124192214192022NRNRNR196NR
7Northwestern - Kellogg543311223211117
8Harvard Bus Sch222453354533228
9Michigan - Ross875568642657629
10Carnegie Mellon - Tepper1115191615191414171417913919
11UCLA Anderson1817141214161212129161016918
12UNC Kenan-Flagler1716171716181519191810128819
13Cornell - Johnson713111371188181514165518
14MIT Sloan9109796415910131115415
15Dartmouth - Tuck12141211101016101013663316
16Indiana - Kelley151915181820202115781512720
18Emory - Goizueta22222323202228NRNRNRNRNRNR18NR
19UC Berkeley - Haas148108171318161319181917819
20Virginia - Darden10111615121291151211147520
21USC Marshall2826252127172425NRNRNRNRNR17NR
22NYU Stern161813141315131314161517181322
23UT Austin - McCombs19252120192117182017NR18NR17NR
24Georgetown - McDonough3033NRNRNR3026NRNRNRNRNRNR24NR

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