Many students applying to the US for Master�s degrees and MBA programmes say that they will apply only to the �top� schools. The general perception is that attending a school lower down the rankings will not be a good investment in terms of time or money. All such students are making the assumption that published rankings are a valid guide to quality of education and potential career benefits of attending a particular university. But what do rankings actually measure? Are they reliable? And which rankings are the best?
All systems of ranking base their conclusions on responses to surveys of students and alumni, and data provided directly from the schools. Most also use the concept of �peer review� in which deans of schools and programme heads are asked to rate the other schools (but not themselves) on a scale of 1-5. The questionnaires seek to establish first the quality of the educational experience, and second, the potential benefits of the course to a student�s career. To get information on the educational quality the most usual parameters are faculty quality, ratio of students to staff, quality of students (generally assessed by GMAT or GRE score on entry), diversity of students, and student ratings of course content and facilities. The potential benefits of a course are assessed in terms of salary increases, potential to network (extent of alumni network), and number and type of recruiters visiting the school.
One of the problems with rankings is that the methodologies can vary from year to year and it is not always easy to see how the final rankings have been arrived at. It is not usually transparently obvious how many schools have been considered or how many opinions have been solicited (or how many have actually replied). Even apparently objective statistics can be misleading: For example, average salaries upon graduation can be difficult to interpret because the figure quoted may be an average covering many types of job in very different geographic regions.
In using the rankings students had better employ the caveat emptor policy: let the buyer beware. No matter how high a school stands in the current ranking, it may not be the best place for a particular student. Personal preferences, detailed analysis of the costs, location, and course content need to be factored in. The �best schools� will no doubt still come out on top no matter what criteria are used, but after the top ten or so institutions, the rank may have little useful to add to our knowledge of the type of education a student is likely to receive. As a potential student, you had better be prepared for conducting extensive research into each of the schools on your short-list: There is no one source that is going to tell you which school is �best�.
Current rankings of MBA schools are inlcuded below. Refer to the websites to compare the criteria on which the rankings are made.
|Rank||US News, 2012 (*US schools only)||Financial Times, 2012||Economist Intelligence Unit, 2011|
|1||Harvard Business School||Stanford University GSB||Dartmouth College: Tuck|
|2||Stanford University GSB||Harvard Business School||University of Chicago: Booth|
|3||University of Pennsylvania: Wharton||University of Pennsylvania: Wharton||IMD|
|4||MIT Sloan School of Management||London Business School||University of Virginia: Darden|
|5||Northwestern University: Kellogg||Columbia Business School||Harvard Business School|
|6||University of Chicago: Booth||INSEAD||University of California at Berkeley: Haas|
|7||University of California at Berkeley: Haas||MIT Sloan School of Management||Columbia Business School|
|8||Columbia Business School||IE Business School||Stanford University GSB|
|9||Dartmouth College: Tuck||IESE Business School||York Univeristy: Schulich|
|10||Yale University||Hong Kong UST Business School||IESE Business School|
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