Over the course of 12 separate rankings in the past 24 years, BusinessWeek has ranked Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management first more often than any other business school. In five of the 12 times, including the first three consecutive biennial surveys from 1988 to 1992, Kellogg reigned supreme under legendary Dean Donald Jacobs. And the school made a stunning comeback in 2002 and 2004 under Dean Dipak Jain, who now leads Europe’s best business school, INSEAD.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School is the next big winner with four first-place finishes. The current number one school, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, has won this accolade three times.
Harvard Business School and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, widely considered the two top schools in the world, have never finished first in the BusinessWeek survey. Harvard’s best showing has been second place on three different occasions, while HBS was third in four separate surveys. Stanford has never done better than fourth place, which it has achieved three times. In 2000, Stanford fell to its lowest rank in the BusinessWeek survey: a shocking 11th place finish.
How is it possible that the two business schools generally regarded by most observers as having the best full-time MBA programs have never captured the BusinessWeek crown? Chalk it up to methodology. BusinessWeek largely ranks schools based on two surveys that it does every other year. One surveys goes to the latest graduating class of MBAs and is essentially a customer satisfaction survey. The second survey goes to the most important and influential corporate recruiters who hire the most MBAs.
Harvard graduates may simply have higher expectations than others. Because many of the scores are bunched closely together, that could easily be the reason why Harvard has never been number one.
The recruiter survey, meantime, could be biased against smaller schools that attract fewer corporate recruiters. This might very well be Stanford’s problem in the BusinessWeek survey. And the recruiters who go to Stanford often come away with fewer MBAs than they would like to hire because a large percentage of the class would prefer to work for smaller startups in Silicon Valley that are not traditional mainstream hirers of MBAs in the survey sample or are more likely to start their own companies at graduation.
In any case, the table that follows provides a historical look at BusinessWeek’s rankings through the years.
BusinessWeek’s Historical MBA Rankings 1988 — 2010
Source: BusinessWeek rankings
Notes: BusinessWeek began ranking the top U.S. full-time MBA programs every other year beginning in 1988 when it gave numerical ranks to 20 schools. Over the years, the magazine has expanded its lists, to a Top 25 in 1996, a Top 30 in 2000, and a Top 57 in 2010. In several years, BusinessWeek named second tier (2T) and third tier (3T) schools without a numerical ranking. There is some missing data for second tier schools in the year 2006.