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Wall Street Journal Releases Ranking Of World's Best Business Schools—But Nobody Really Likes It

Stanford tops the new MBA ranking by WSJ and Times Higher Education. But with big-name schools pulling out, there are question marks over its credibility

Fri Dec 7 2018

The Wall Street Journal has just released its long-awaited MBA ranking that faced criticism for its complicated methodology and the fact that many of the world’s top business schools pulled out.

The ranking, a joint effort with Times Higher Education of the UK, does not include many of the most well-known schools, including Wharton, Harvard, Columbia and London Business School, which are all ranked in the top-10 of the Financial Times’ ranking, because they declined to participate.

The best schools with two-year MBAs, according to the WSJ/THE list are Stanford, Cornell, Vanderbilt, Chicago Booth, Duke Fuqua, Virginia Darden, Yale SOM, Carnegie Mellon, Purdue, CEIBS, and Michigan Ross, in that order.

The ranking placed prestigious schools far below their place in the other main rankings, raising questions about its reliability as a benchmark of quality for MBA applicants. UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, long a top-10 school in league tables produced by the FT, Bloomberg et al, was ranked 16th, behind the University of Pittsburg, which placed 82nd in the FT’s 2018 list.

The WSJ/THE ranking is likely to be among the most...

use those at the top of the table are separated by the finest of margins. Stanford, at number one, is only 1.8 points above the number two school, Cornell, which is only 0.2 points above Vanderbilt, the third best school on the list.

Business school administrators contacted by BusinessBecause expressed concern about “rankings fatigue”.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the director of a top MBA program that declined to participate in the WSJ/THE ranking said: “I think generally that we feel somewhat overwhelmed, there’s a lot of rankings in the world and among people within the industry who work in the space, no one is thinking there needs to be more.

“It involves the alumni and making asks of individuals who are busy people. And with this ranking there was a lot of uncertainty as to what the metrics would be, they didn’t know which alumni class would be surveyed originally. Things kept moving and changing.

“In theory, the ranking is fine, but it’s more a question of seeing how it plays out in year one and then making a decision [on whether to participate].”

The WSJ/THE methodology is based on 20 different metrics and on surveys of business schools and 23,000 of their alumni from the graduating classes of 2012, 2013, and 2015. The scores achieved are placed into four main categories—resources, engagement, environment, and outcomes, which is the most important as it makes up 38% of the overall ranking.

Outcomes refers to careers, largely based on the salary increase achieved by the alumni. Resources focuses on faculty qualifications and career support effectiveness. Engagement measures the academics, including the use of research in teaching and how relevant that is to the real business world. Environment pertains to things like diversity of students and faculty.

Overall, 114 business schools from 24 countries participated in the WSJ’s rankings, which also rated one-year MBA programs, master’s in management courses, and master’s in finance degrees.

The two-year MBAs ranking, usually the flagship for media outlets, is dominated by US schools, which first created the courses and is where most of them are still based. Of the 54 two-year MBAs ranked, 44 are in the US and US schools occupy the top-nine places.

THE wrote in its analysis that the success of these schools was down to the strength of their resources, their international focus, the salary boost they offer students and the strengthen of their alumni networks.

Shanghai’s China Europe International Business School flies the flag for the non-US schools who made the grade in the two-year MBA ranking. It is placed joint 10th with Michigan Ross, capping a successful year in which CEIBS also broke into the top-10 of the FT’s ranking.

This highlights how the business education market is shaping up globally, with data from GMAC showing a surge in applications to Asian schools and a fall in demand for those in the US. There are many reasons for that trend, but it is generally agreed in the business education market that Chinese schools’ teaching quality is on a par with those in the US, and success in rankings only solidifies that notion.

Application figures also show rising demand for courses in Europe, which are shorter, so students pay fewer fees and forgo less in lost salary than they would on a two-year course. They are also generally more diverse institutions.

In the WSJ/THE ranking, Europe and Asia dominate the one-year MBA market. The top-five schools are, in order, the University of Hong Kong, the Indian School of Business, IIM Calcutta, SP Jain School of Global Management, and Switzerland’s IMD.

The increasing demand for shorter courses has also driven the popularity of the master’s in management (MiM), which was established in Europe but has enjoyed growth in the US in recent years. They are aimed at fresh college graduates with little or no work experience.

According to the WSJ/THE ranking, the best MiMs are at the US’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, HHL Leipzig and WHU Beisheim in Germany, Eada Business School in Spain and the UK’s Imperial College, in order.

MiF courses have also been growing strongly. The WSJ and THE ranked rated the best as being at Vanderbilt University and Washington University in the US, Eada and ESIC Business and Marketing School in Spain, and Imperial College, accordingly. Cranfield School of Management in the UK placed in the top 10 for its MiF and one-year MBA program.

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Carnegie Mellon: Tepper




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CMU is one of the top class universities in Pittsburgh. It is a multi-diverse university with high regard for academic integrity, excellence, and innovation. It consists of different programs and departments that work together to achieve a common goal. I enjoy the convenience of moving from one building to the other. The faculty and staff are super friendly. It is relatively easy to make connections with other students, especially where collaboratory research is necessary. I would definitely recommend CMU to anyone looking for a muti-diverse academic experience.




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I've been genuinely impressed with the fusion of creativity and innovation at CMU. The professors are a mixed bag-- some are great and life-changing, but I had a couple (mostly gen eds in freshman year) that were really frustrating. The workload can be intense, and it's no joke. Campus was very lively; clubs, events, etc. – there's something for everyone. Pittsburgh in general has some areas that are great, and others that disappoint-- Oakland is a very nice university town area. Overall, CMU is a hotbed of innovation and learning, but the pace and location do come into play.




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