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MBA Rankings


MBA rankings For postgraduate students seeking a UK or European business school at which to study an MBA, it can be difficult to know how best to select a suitable one, but with savvy use of the plentiful information on offer it can be a straightforward and rewarding process. Since the predecessor to the MBA, the MSc in Commerce, was introduced in 1900 and the first MBA established in 1908, the number of MBA courses has proliferated, and hence a number of rankings systems have been developed to assist in assessing their quality.

MBA rankings are undertaken by various publications around the world, and many will assess the MBA courses offered internationally, not just those local to the publisher. Well-reputed British publications providing MBA rankings include the Financial Times and The Economist, whilst in the US the Wall Street Journal, Business Week and Forbes are leading providers. Methodology utilised in the rankings varies between publications, however, most base a proportion of scores on core criteria such as salary statistics and student demographics. Additional criteria used by publishers may include GMAT scores, employment statistics and data relating to members of the school or faculty.

How is the information obtained?

Information used in the rankings programs is generally obtained through surveys of school representatives, students, alumni and recruiters, although there are publishers who use entirely different ranking methodologies, such as Quacquarelli Symonds, whose scores result from an average of points periodically assigned to MBA graduates by their employers over a two-year period. MBA rankings can provide essential particulars that should be considered when choosing a business school, but it is imperative that they are used with caution and in combination with other data.

Pros and Cons of MBA rankings

Whilst MBA rankings are clearly an essential tool for prospective students, as with other ‘league tables’ there are pros and cons to using such information to select a school. MBA rankings can provide at-a-glance data covering important factors like the career progress of alumni, making it quick and easy to compare business schools. However, criticisms of MBA rankings include the possibility of bias, exclusion of some schools, lack of assessment of different MBA courses offered within the same school and contradictions between different publishers’ rankings of the same school. Critics also highlight flaws in statistical methodology, for instance those that rely on subjective interviews.

With the issue of potential bias, it is easy to understand how this could lessen the accuracy of rankings, but others may be harder to assess. Rankings that exclude certain schools means that the results will not be providing a fair comparison between all available MBA courses, and may mean that excellent schools are excluded from prospective students’ selection processes. Similarly, where publishers focus on schools themselves rather than the MBA courses offered, data might not correctly represent those schools that provide more than one MBA course.

How should you interpret MBA rankings?

So, with such a minefield of conflicting and potentially erroneous information, what is the best way of interpreting MBA rankings in order to obtain the most accurate and relevant statistics? Due to the way that MBA rankings are drawn up by independent publishers, it will always be difficult to verify their objectivity, therefore it should first be established how a particular publisher compiles their rankings. Check which demographics have contributed to which criteria but also investigate how the contributions are weighted. For example, the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking might seem to have an emphasis on information obtained from school representatives because schools contribute to 11 criteria while alumni contribute to eight, however, schools’ answers are only weighted at 31% with those of the alumni being weighted at 59%.

A few publications offer the functionality of being able to filter their rankings according to individual criteria, enabling the viewing of data according to salary alone, GMAT scores alone and so on. This means that prospective students can assess schools based on the most important criteria to them, although limitations in the methodologies used still impair accuracy. There are also publications that summarise and compare the rankings of numerous publishers - another useful tool to help decipher the mass of available information. Ultimately though, with these tools mainly having been implemented only by US publishers, prospective students in the UK and Europe may have to undertake their own research and comparisons in order to best address their personal interests and requirements.

How should you use MBA rankings effectively?

There are clearly both advantages and disadvantages to using MBA rankings as a basis for selecting a business school, so they should be referenced with due caution and should be utilised in conjunction with additional research. Websites and prospectuses of shortlisted schools are another source of vital information, whilst forums can reveal practical aspects of student life. Where possible, communicating with students or alumni directly will enable prospective students to make specific enquiries regarding the school or course structure. By diligently researching and extracting personally relevant data, prospective students will be able to make an informed choice of business school, and in selecting a school suited to their individual requirements will have vastly increased the likelihood of an enjoyable, productive and satisfying MBA experience.


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