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MBA Program Rankings

Understanding MBA Ranking Factors

Media rankings are conducted by the editorial staff of various newspapers and magazines and involve a combination of data collected from student alumni surveys, recruiter surveys, dean and director surveys, and schools. These data are then weighted to determine a system for ranking universities and programs. The methodology used to calculate top-ranked schools has caused some controversy in the business education community for many reasons, and should be considered carefully.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are rankings determined?

Media rankings are conducted by the editorial staff of newspapers and magazines. Although the methodology may vary depending on the publication, they generally involve some combination of data collected from student/alumni surveys, recruiter surveys, dean/director surveys, and data supplied by schools. The data collected from these surveys are weighted to determine an ordinal ranking of programs.

Is it important to attend a highly ranked business school?

What is most important is to select programs that fit best with your goals, regardless of the rank attributed to a program by any publication. If you are using rankings as part of your evaluation criteria, be sure you review a ranking system that measures factors that are important to your decision.

What is the relationship between AACSB Accreditation and rankings?

The relationship depends on the particular media ranking and other factors, including geography. In the United States, programs usually must be delivered by an AACSB-accredited institution in order to be included in rankings. Abroad, many ranking systems require that schools are AACSB accredited or accredited by another locally held accreditation body. It is important to note AACSB Accreditation reviews include all the business and management programs of an institution, not just MBA programs (which are typically the focus of media rankings). Evaluating a school (or program) based on accreditation is a more complete approach in that it examines the mission, strategy, students, faculty, staff, curriculum, and educational outcomes through a comprehensive peer review process. This methodology is in contrast to the media rankings, which focus primarily on collecting opinions about programs.

What does it mean if a program drops in the rankings?

It’s important to understand the methodology to know why a program's rank drops. Media organizations generally do not publish the raw data used to tabulate ranks but will sometimes interpret the information to offer explanations for changes. Any significant change in the rank of program should be viewed carefully, since the quality of an institution (or program) typically does not change that drastically over a short period of time. Simply put: a drop in media rankings does not imply a program has diminished in quality.