The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business reclaimed the top ranking on Oct. 4 in The Economist’s 2012 list of the world’s best business schools. Chicago, which placed second last year, pushed aside Dartmouth College’s Tuck School, which topped the ranking in 2011.
It is the third time that The Economist has ranked Chicago first in the 11 years of ranking the best full-time MBA programs. Booth was at the top of the list in 2010 and in 2007.
The University of Virginia’s Darden School came in second, followed by No. 3 Tuck, No. 4 Harvard, and No. 5 Columbia Business School.
The Economist said that Booth moved into first largely on the basis of its ability to open new career opportunities for its graduates. “In this regard, Chicago has few peers,” the magazine claimed. “Its graduates find employment in the widest range of industries; its students gushed about its careers service when marking it for The Economist.”
Chicago Booth MBAs saw increases of 63% above pre-MBA salaries
According to The Economist, the average salary of new graduates at Chicago was $113,217—well below the $127,189 achieved by MBA graduates at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business or the $121,785 achieved by MBAs at Harvard Business School. But Booth MBAs reported a 63% increase on their pre-MBA salaries versus a 56% premium for Stanford grads and a 44% increase for Harvard MBAs.
It was a non-U.S. school, however, that scored the biggest gains over pre-MBA pay in the top 25. According to The Economist, graduates of the University of York’s Schulich School, ranked 16th overall, reported the highest pay increases—a whopping 165% over what their graduates earned before getting the MBA degree. IESE of Spain, ranked ninth overall, also scored high, reporting an increase of 153%.
Common to many MBA rankings, compensation and placement loom large in The Economist’s methodology, accounting for 38% of the ranking’s weight. Alumni opinion is another key ingredient, representing nearly a quarter of the final results. Along with The Financial Times, The Economist is the only other major ranking organization that purports to measure the quality of full-time MBA programs all over the world.
Every school in the top 25 was either in the North America or Europe
This year, North America and Europe accounts for all the schools in the top 25. The highest-placed school from outside those regions is the University of Queensland, at 27th. The highest placed Asian school is the University of Hong Kong, which ranks 41st.
While all rankings are somewhat controversial, The Economist’s is especially so—largely because year after year it tends to be filled with many counter intuitive results. Despite Schulich’s impressive 165% returns over pre-MBA pay this year, for example, the school surprisingly plunged seven places in The Economist’s ranking to ninth from 16th a year earlier. The Economist does not explain why schools go up or down in any given year and also does not publish the underlying index numbers to allow users to see how close one school is versus another.
Over the 11 years that The Economist has published its rankings, Harvard, Stanford and Wharton—widely regarded as the top three business schools in the world—have never been ranked first by the magazine. In fact, Harvard has been rated as low as 13th by The Economist, Stanford as low as eighth, and Wharton as low as 21st.
Kellogg ranks 25th on the 2012 list
Indeed, many of the best U.S. schools commonly are ranked below European institutions that most business school observers believe are not nearly as good. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management was ranked 20th this year behind No. 16 York, No. 14 HEC Paris, No. 12 London, No. 10 IMD and and No. 9 IESE. The No. 25 University of Bath’s School of Management also is ranked higher than No. 26 Yale’s School of Management or No. 29 Duke University’s Fuqua School.
Immediately, there was some controversy over the data The Economist used to rank business schools. A spokesperson for the Tuck school, for example, believes there was “an obvious error in Tuck’s rank for faculty quality. The rank shown (>100) is simply not possible given the data we submitted (and the facts). This rank is then part of the rank for Professional Development and Educational Experience and ultimately the overall rank.”
The Economist ranking is based on an initial selection of 135 leading business schools around the world. All 135 schools were invited to take part in a two-stage survey, which requires input from schools and students/alumni. Of these, The Economist said it was unable to rank 17 schools, either because the failed to respond to the survey or did not provide enough data to be ranked. A total of 15,550 students and graduates participated. The global top 100 schools were gleaned from the remaining 118.