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The Yale School of Management maintained its position in the Financial Times’ annual ranking of 100 full-time global MBA programs released this January, placing 15th globally and ninth in the U.S. – the same as last year.

This ranking places the SOM at the head of The Financial Times’ “tier two” of full-time MBA providers, which consists of schools ranked 15th to 44th. The school’s position in the latest reports by other major organizations that rank MBA programs is similar: In 2017, the SOM placed 16th, 13th and ninth among major U.S. business schools in rankings compiled by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes and the U.S. News & World Report, respectively. An October 2017 report in The Economist ranked the SOM 11th among full-time global MBA programs.

“We’ve done pretty well over the past five years,” Assistant Dean of Faculty and Curriculum at the SOM Gabriel Rossi said. “In 2012, [there was] a wider overall spread [across the various rankings] that was less favorable. If you look at 2017, we’re more closely packed-in with higher rankings on average.”

The SOM has placed 10th among American business schools for the past three years, according to Poets & Quants’ composite list, which gives different weights to the five rankings mentioned above and combines them.

Over the eight years of the Poets & Quants ranking, the SOM is the only business school to have cracked the top 10 from a previously lower ranking, nudging out Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 2015 for 10th place. According to Jeanine Morgillo, assistant director of communications at the SOM, no other school has moved up the rankings so dramatically in the past few years.

Morgillo also noted that the Bloomberg BusinessWeek rankings have been particularly unstable due to multiple staffing changes over the past few years — a trend that is not reflected in other ranking organizations. From 2013 to 2014, the SOM rose sharply from 21st to sixth place in the Bloomberg BusinessWeek rankings, but subsequently fell to 11th and then 14th place over the next two years.

“Some of [the movement] has to do with structural, programmatic changes, such as creating more international opportunities for students,” Rossi said. “And some of the things have to do with staffing changes at the surveys themselves, which created major changes in their methodologies.”

Different organizations vary considerably in the methodologies they employ to evaluate business schools and MBA programs.

According to a recent rankings update from the SOM Dean’s Office, the Financial Times bases its rankings on alumni career progression, “idea generation” and school and program diversity, whereas Bloomberg relies heavily on the responses of graduating students, recruiters and alumni. The Economist’s rankings are based on the opening of new career opportunities, personal development and educational experiences, among other factors. The U.S. News & World Report uses statistical indicators including “inputs” such as GPA, GMAT/GRE scores and acceptance rate and “outputs” such as the salaries students command after graduation and the time it takes them to find jobs. And Forbes compares earnings in the first five years after business school to the cost of acquiring an MBA degree.

According to Rossi, the ranking organizations are relatively transparent about the information they collect and the criteria they apply. However, he noted that to his knowledge, none of the rankings made the data submitted by all of the surveyed schools publicly available. He also added that on occasion, he disagreed with particular facets of certain ranking methodologies.

“The Economist, for instance, uses pre-MBA salary as some kind of indicator of the quality of students, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Rossi said. “If you take a student who’s coming out of the armed services, their salary is not going to be very competitive with the salary of someone who is coming out of a financial service. But in my mind that ought to be no indicator of their potential to become leaders in business and society or the quality of their academics.”

Rossi also pointed out that other methodological decisions, such as the time gap between the collection, analysis and reporting of information, the use of average salaries instead of median salaries — which are less prone to being skewed by extremes — and the fact that most rankings do not reflect the distribution of interests and goals that various institutions may satisfy, can misrepresent the realities of the business education market.

However, Rossi stressed that overall, he is very supportive of the surveys and rankings because they both help educate potential applicants and also allow schools to aggregate information about their performance and identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Still, SOM students interviewed by the News said that they prioritized factors that could not necessarily be reflected in rankings.

“Rankings had a small role to play in selecting business schools to apply to,” said Aashna Gupta SOM ’19. “I was looking for a cultural fit and understanding the school and its community better.”

Gupta added that she found the SOM unique for a variety of reasons, including its integration with the larger university, its core curriculum, the use of raw case methodology rather than traditional business cases and the school’s mission to educate leaders for business and society.

Mark Bosse SOM ’19 concurred, saying that rankings did not matter to him very much when he was applying because he was focused on finding a good cultural fit, a tight-knit alumni network and resources to help him enter the finance sector.

“On the culture front, I think the school continues to attract a diverse student body with a certain X-factor,” Bosse said. “That’s hard to capture in rankings and difficult to compare one-to-one with other schools.”

In the Poets & Quants cumulative ranking, U.S. News & World, Forbes, the Financial Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and The Economist are given weights of 35, 25, 15, 15 and 10 percent respectively.

Saumya Malhotra | saumya.malhotra@yale.edu