If you’re applying for business school, there’s a good chance you’ll take a look at business school rankings.
Over the course of the year, publications like the Financial Times, the Economist, and Forbes release their rankings of business schools and their programs. It can be a great way to make decisions depending on what you’re looking for in a school, and can help narrow down your choices between the top schools.
In 2021, business school rankings are coming under fresh scrutiny. Recent FT and Economist rankings have seen the omission of several top business schools, including Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton.
In this BusinessBecause Guide, we tell you everything you need to know about business school rankings—what they measure, how to use them, and how they might be changing.
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What do business school rankings measure?
Rankings measure a variety of different aspects of a course, with different methodology depending on the rankings.
Jobs data often plays a prominent role in rankings, measuring post-graduate salaries, salary increase, or employment rates. The Financial Times also measure things like international mobility—how many students go and work abroad after graduation.
Other rankings measure faculty and research. QS measures criteria for thought leadership, such as academic reputation.
Why do business school rankings matter?
Students clearly use rankings as a way of distinguishing different schools from one another. Reputation is everything for business school applicants.
“From the outside, it’s hard to understand what you will actually get if you take part in a certain program,” explains Christian Linder, program director of the MBA in international management at ESCP Business School. “So students look [to rankings] for clues or information about the quality of a program.”
This prompts schools to perform well in these areas.
“If business school rankings matter to students, then they matter to schools,” insists John Colley, associate dean of post-experience master’s programs at Warwick Business School.
Watch the full video to hear what John and Christian believe is the future of rankings, and how schools need to respond to changing demands of students.
This article was originally published in March 2020, and updated in February 2021.