Ten Biggest Surprises in Businessweek’s 2021 MBA Rankings


If you shake your head at the results of the new Bloomberg Business Week MBA Ranking 2021-2022, you are not alone. Skepticism or outright laughter is certainly justified. There will be some, to whom the success of their school grants itself new bragging rights, who party, of course. And there will be others who will poop the poor by showing their school received.

Yet, as counterintuitive as some of the results or how well journalists and editors create these click-bait projects, you have to hand it over. Business week. contrary to Fortunerecent embarrassing efforts to rank business schools, Business week puts to work.

Its editors surveyed 6,640 students, 12,462 alumni, 853 employers and more than 100 business schools to establish its ranking of 119 MBA programs worldwide. Of course, the pay and placement data is a year old. And yes, the admission data is also from 2020 and does not reflect this year’s entry classes. But this is a serious and substantial undertaking and it produces a treasure trove of data for applicants and school administrators to ponder.

What Business week often has trouble explaining the why of the results. Little to no comment is made on the massive amount of data collected by the magazine, especially the critical comments on the ranking itself. We hope to add that perspective and insight into this annual review of the Closely Watched List (here’s the latest for Business week). The ten biggest surprises of this year? Let’s start with the biggest of all: ninth place for Wharton.

1) Revenge of the COVID Cohort: Why Wharton Dived

Wharton in ninth place? You’re kidding.

The Wharton School has fallen three places this year to place ninth, its worst performance since Businessweek began ranking MBA programs in 1988. Wharton, who has won four BW ranking honors, had never been ranked lower than sixth in the past. Just three years ago, in 2018, Wharton’s MBA program ranked second behind Stanford. But it then dropped four places in 2019 to place sixth, and this year the school’s full-time MBA actually shares ninth place with the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

There are two ways of looking at this result. In Philadelphia, the inevitable opinion is that it’s just a stupid anomaly, a bizarre result of an increasingly less credible MBA ranking. But if you are not in the direction of the school, and therefore not invested in the outcome, your interpretation of this poor performance by Wharton is Business weekway to put the school in the penalty area. In other words, the ranking methodology worked perfectly.

How? ‘Or’ What? The students who responded to the magazine’s survey represent the COVID cohort. Like all students around the world, their education has been disrupted by a pandemic that has moved their expensive courses online and virtually wiped out important social interaction from an MBA program. But unlike many other schools, especially Stanford, Wharton made a mess in handling the abrupt transition forced by the outbreak of the virus.

A bit of history: During the summer of 2020, as most MBA programs announced their intention to become hybrid, with a varying mix of in-person and online instruction, Wharton at one point became the only M7 MBA program to take a blended approach. . On July 31, he announced that everything would go live. Even before the change, a survey conducted by students at Wharton found that 78% of MBAs said they were not excited about the upcoming semester, and 94% of students felt that their overall experience was worth MBA had declined by at least 40%. When asked to rate their expectations for the fall semester on a scale of 1 (would prefer to delay) to 10 (very excited), 78% of students rated it as 5 or less.

The responses, while very critical, were submitted to the school with a respectfully written petition signed at the time by 539 members of the 2021 class, or just under 70% of second-year MBAs. In this survey and an attached letter, the MBAs advocated a more collaborative approach to resolving their frustrations with administration. “We hope Penn and Wharton realize their responsibility to their students and are ready to work together to make up for our losses. The global pandemic presents a challenging operating environment for everyone, but it also offers us an unprecedented opportunity to inspire leadership and set new standards of excellence. We have come here as part of a larger journey to become future leaders who operate with integrity even and most importantly under the most difficult circumstances – putting ethics ahead of profit and forgoing short-term gains for the sake of it. long-term growth. Now is a great time for Wharton to lead in practice and set an example for others.

Their conclusion: “The MBA class of 2021 has joined Wharton with high expectations; however, the experience quickly turns into a trapped disappointment. We are willing and ready to engage in a thoughtful and proactive manner. We will continue to defend the best interests of our community which is so important to us. “

Students interviewed by Business week for this ranking, these are the same students who were angry and frustrated with the way the school handled the pandemic.

Yet there is another important point that must be made. Students and alumni know that their answers to Businessweek’s survey questions determine the rank and therefore the reputation of their school and their degree. Corporate recruiters, almost all of whom hold an MBA from the schools from which they recruit new talent, also have a bias. Businessweek concedes this fact, noting that recruiters on average rated their own schools about 9% higher than other schools. This is an inherent problem with polling people who have an interest in the outcome of their responses.

The predictable encouragement from students, alumni and recruiters leads to a large clustering of results, which means that the differences in scores between schools on these surveys are so small that they are statistically insignificant. The only exception to the grouping rule is when students who are not satisfied with their experience express their frustration through the survey. A few disgruntled respondents are enough to make up for the cheerleaders and hurt the school, precisely because the results for the entire sample are so closely clustered.

This is the reason why Wharton received its worst ranking from Businessweek this year. While Wharton’s absolute rank in Business weekS’s “learning index” wasn’t much different from last time around (he placed 75th from 70th), his actual score on this index was devastating. Wharton only managed to score 17.9 on this index, up from 59.4 in 2019 and 61.3 in 2018.

Compare these scores with Stanford whose leadership team worked closely with the student body, giving their MBA students a real voice on how to make tough decisions about the impact of the pandemic on their educational experience. Stanford improved its overall learning ranking to seven from 29th place and, more importantly, got a score of 74.8, an improvement from 73.2 two years ago.

In 2018, Wharton placed second behind Stanford in the overall standings when his learning index was 61.3. With a learning score that fell from 71% in three student surveys to just 17.9, the school inevitably crashed into its ninth-place tie. In this sense, Wharton’s ranking is less representative of the quality of the school’s MBA experience, its exceptional students and its exceptional faculty; rather, it’s a momentary snapshot of a class disappointed with how the school handled its way through the pandemic.

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