The Truth About MBA Rankings

In 1988 BusinessWeek started ranking MBA programs, this changed the whole ballgame. In the rankings, student satisfaction played a key role and by the time the leading business schools understood this importance, the quality of teaching improved drastically.

Until then, quality teaching had not always received the attention of business schools it deserved. Promotion decisions and faculty hiring were often based on the number of scientific papers faculty members submitted in research journals, their so-called research productivity.

New or young faculty members were advised to concentrate on their research and not to spend too much time on teaching. Understandably the quality of the teaching at some of the best business schools was inadequate. The publication of rankings pressured the schools to really improve their teaching.

People also realize that not only ranking matter, highly experienced manager shouldn’t worry about low GMAT score, there are plenty business schools with no GMAT online MBA programs included in the top rankings.


Since 1988 more magazines started publishing MBA rankings and it is clear that these publications use different criteria to establish their ranking:

  • BusinessWeek was the first to publish rankings and they use the opinion of graduating students (45%) and business recruiters (45%). Faculty research counts for 10%.
  • U.S. News uses seven criteria to establish their rankings. These include, among others, starting salaries, GMAT scores, school dean surveys, recruiter surveys and undergraduate GPAs.
  • Forbes takes a different approach for their rankings. Forbes considers an MBA degree as an investment and looks at the financial gain in the first five years post-MBA compared to their pre-MBA pay.
  • The Economist as well as The Financial Times are European publications and use a mix of factors, like U.S.News, and they concentrate on global rankings of MBA programs.

In order to promote the popularity of these magazines/websites, the rankings will fluctuate with a new survey. In the United States, there are almost one thousand schools that present MBA programs, and every business school that shows up in any top-50 of all these rankings actually can be considered a top-notch school.

As different publications use different criteria, there may be some confusion in the ranks, and people may question which published ranking is correct. The table below shows the recent top-5 business schools from these publications.


Business Week: Chicago, Harvard, Wharton, Northwestern, Stanford
U.S. News: Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, MIT, Northwestern
Forbes: Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Wharton, Columbia
Economist: Dartmouth, Chicago, IMD, Virginia, Harvard
Financial Times: London, Wharton, Harvard, INSEAD, Stanford
It may be clear that all of these publications must use different criteria.


1. Harvard University Graduate School of  Business
117 Western Avenue, Allston, MA 02134, Phone: +1 617-495-6155

2. Columbia Business School
3022 Broadway, New York, NY 10027, Phone: +1 212 854-5553

3. University of Chicago Booth School of Business
5807 S Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, Phone: +1 773-702-7743

4. Dartmouth Tuck School of Business
100 Tuck Hall, Hanover, NH 03755, Phone: +1 603-646-3162

5. Yale School of Management
135 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511, Phone: +1  203-432-5932

6. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania 
Vance Hall, Suite 111, 3733 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, Phone: +1 215-898-6183

7. Stanford Graduate School of Business
655 Knight Way, Stanford, CA 94305, Phone: +1 650-723-2146

8. Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina
300 Kenan Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, Phone: +1 919-962-5327

9. Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management
2169 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208, Phone: +1 847-467-7000

10. University of Virginia Darden School of Business
Darden Boulevard, Charlottesville, VA 22903, Phone: +1 434-924-3900


1. Insead Business School
Boulevard de Constance, 77300 Fontainebleau, France, Phone: +33 1 60 72 40 00

2. IMD Business School
Chemin de Bellerive 23, 1003 Lausanne, Switzerland, Phone: +41 21 618 01 11

3. Cambridge Judge Business School
Trumpington St, Cambridge, CB2 1AG, UK, Phone: +44 1223 339700

4. Oxford Said Business School
Executive Education Centre, Egrove Park, Oxford OX1 5NY, UK, Phone: +44 1865 422800

5. London Business School (LBS)
26 Sussex Pl, London NW1 4SA, UK, Phone: +44 20 7000 7000

6. York University Schulich School of Business
4700 Keele St. Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada, Phone: 1 416-736-5060 (from North America), +1 416-736-5059

7. SDA Bocconi School of Management
Via Bocconi, 8, 20136 Milano, Italy, Phone: +39 02 5836 6605

8. IESE Business School
Avinguda de Pearson, 21, 08034 Barcelona, Spain Phone: +34 932 53 42 00

9. University of Sydney Australian Graduate School of Management
Botany Street, Randwick, Australia, Phone: +61 2 9931 9400

10. Queen’s School of Business
Goodes Hall, Room 338, 143 Union Street, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6, Phone: +1 613-533-2302