Yale School of Management’s full-time MBA program soared eight places to rank above Kellogg, Columbia, Booth, MIT and Berkeley in the third annual MBA ranking published by Fortune magazine.
But if you’re in New Haven and excited about that prospect, you have to remember that the Fortune list is among the absolute worst MBA rankings on the planet based on Poets&Quants own analysis of the magazine’s methodology. Only four of the 81 MBA programs ranked by Fortune ended up with a stable numerical ranking this year, though Fortune doesn’t even bother to inform readers of a school’s previous ranking. Yale’s MBA program is clearly one of the best in the world. But there has never been a ranking–not U.S. News, Bloomberg Businessweek, or The Financial Times–that have put it above several of the M7 giants in graduate management education.
For the third consecutive time, Harvard Business School topped the list, followed by No. 2 Stanford, and No. 3 Wharton. After No. 4 Yale, the Top Ten was rounded out by No. 5 Kellogg, No. 6 Columbia, No. 7 Chicago Booth, No. 8 MIT Sloan, No. 9 New York University’s Stern School of Business, and No. 10 the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
There were plenty of ups and downs, year over year. Six schools dropped in double-digits, including Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, down 14 places; Howard University, down 13 spots, and Washington University’s Olin Business School. down a dozen positions. Another set of schools with excellent MBA programs that didn’t appear on last year’s Fortune ranking nor its debut list in 2021 popped up this year, including Michigan Ross, the University of Southern California (ranked 18th), Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business (19th), Emory’s Goizueta Business School (20th), and Wisconsin Business School (33rd). Anyone who knows anything about business education, of course, would be aghast at the lack of those MBA programs on any ranking. After all, most of those schools are commonly ranked in the Top 25 in U.S. News’ and other rival rankings. The addition of those schools had a cascading impact on the ranking, helping to cause 28 schools in the Top 50 to suffer year-over-year declines.
A RANKING COBBLED TOGETHER LARGELY FROM LAST YEAR’S BASE SALARY STATS
The bizarre results in Fortune‘s list is a consequence of a hastily assembled and sloppy methodology that adds little to no value to prospective applicants, students, or alumni. Some 65% of the ranking is merely based on median and mean starting salaries for graduates as well as a school’s placement rate. All these metrics are a year old, even though schools will begin to report fresh data for the Class of 2023 over the next couple of months. Fortune fails to disclose how much weight it places on any one of these three metrics. In any case, a ranking so dependent on salary can just as easily be put together by anyone with a spreadsheet who is willing to collect that data from business school webpages. That kind of weight is nearly double the importance assigned to pay and placement by U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek. No less crucial, Fortune makes no adjustments to the pay stats, not by industry choice or geography.
Fortune‘s editors then mindlessly toss in two entirely irrelevant metrics into the mix. A so-called “brand survey” supplemented by interviews of “thousands of business professionals and hiring managers” accounted for 25% of the ranking. The professionals had to know “at least two of the schools” for their votes to count, making this “brand survey” little more than a popularity contest with no adjustment when a respondent simply names his or her own alma mater. The remaining 10% weight reflected the number of each school’s MBA alumni who are C-suite executives at Fortune 1000 companies, a metric that favors old-school notions of size and largely ignores the most dynamic part of the economy as well as the largest employers of MBAs, the consulting industry. Even worse, Fortune merely counts MBA degrees and not whether they were earned full-time, part-time or in an executive program, even though the magazine contends this is a ranking of full-time programs.
Why would Fortune bother to put out such nonsense? It has an affiliate marketing deal with 2U, an online program manager, for online MBA programs. Ads for those offerings are annoyingly interspersed within the full-time MBA rankings because Fortune gets a commission on the leads it delivers to 2U. There are six such ads among the listing of the Top 25 full-time MBA programs alone. Put simply: The full-time MBA ranking is therefore a clickbait scheme to get Google search traffic to 2U online MBA programs. Helping a school reach prospective students, of course, is the goal of all content-based educational websites, including Poets&Quants. But most content providers hold themselves to higher standards and a mission to provide valuable information to help readers make informed decisions.
YALE’S SURPRISE SHOWING: BEST EVER MBA RANK
Nonetheless, Yale’s strong showing is a big surprise, especially because Fortune puts so much weight on starting pay. After all, median salaries at eight other business schools exceeded Yale’s median and mean salaries for MBA graduates last year (see MBA Salaries & Bonuses At The Top 30 Business Schools). So Yale had to outperform the likes of Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, MIT Sloan, Columbia, and Dartmouth Tuck on Fortune‘s brand and Fortune 1000 C-Suite calculations.
It would be easy to speculate that Yale got the edge due to the brand score, which is based on interviews done nearly two and one-half years ago in March of 2021.with 2,500 “professionals” by Ipsos, a market research firm. A footnote may explain part of the story: “This metric looks at business school brands, not just their full-time MBA program…Ipsos deployed a survey methodology similar to the one it would use if a consumer brands company asked it to evaluate the company’s brand strength. The final score produced is a business school’s Attitudinal Equity (AE) measurement. That tells us, according to Ipsos, ‘how much a group of people want to recruit from the university. It is the university’s share of mind.'” As one of the world’s greatest universities, it stands to reason that a good many business professionals and hiring managers have heard of Yale University.
For entertainment value, here’s the 2023 Fortune ranking of U.S. MBA programs.
TOP 25 U.S. MBA PROGRAMS ACCORDING TO FORTUNE
Source: Fortune MBA ranking, Poets&Quants analysis