Financial Times Global Rankings — What they Mean to You

The Financial Times‘ Global Rankings came out last Monday, and everyone is a winner.  That’s what I always say about rankings, because there are always ways to slice and dice the data so that a school can claim they are highly ranked according to someone.

I, for one, am glad that there are a number of rankings (USNews, BloombergBusinessWeek,FT, Economist, WSJ, Forbes, and an aggregated version by Poets & Quants) – although the FT and the Economist really do dominate the global rankings – and I am glad that they all emphasize something different. That’s because the business school experience is different for everyone, and it’s very hard for a rank to represent just how good a school is for you.

HBS Wins Overall – Sort Of
But like Oscars, rankings are a part of life in the admissions industry, and there are definitely some quirks.  For example, although Harvard Business School ranks #1 in the survey overall, it is only #17 for “aims achieved.”  It’s also ranked #77 for “value” and #43 for “international mobility.”  This tells me that I probably need to dig a lot deeper to understand the methodology, something most of my clients will never do. All they know is that Harvard Business School is on top of the charts, and that’s a good thing.

Good News for Columbia
Columbia Business School administrators should be cheering by the fifth-place overall ranking especially after applications for last year’s entering class declined 19%.

The ranking also puts CBS as fourth in the United States, just behind HBS, Stanford GSB, and Penn.  One of the boosts in Columbia’s methodology seems to be its 92% employment figure, that is, percentage of students who have accepted a job offer within three months of graduation. Of the US business schools, this ranks higher than Harvard and Stanford’s 89%, but lower than Emory’s 96%, or UC Berkeley’s and Tuck’s 93%.  Given the high exposure of Columbia students to the financial industry, that’s not bad.   In the mystifying category of “aims achieved,”  the score came in #24, vs.  #4 for Yale and #13 for Carnegie Mellon Tepper.  Tepper, by the way also had a 90% employment-after-three-months figure.

International Mobility
Here’s an interesting ranking for those who want to go to business school to “see the world.”  If you want to do so, don’t stay in the US, because the highest ranked US school in the list is Wharton, coming in at #40 for “international mobility.”  I know that’s one that begs for methodology, but other name schools in the US that followed Penn were Harvard, Berkeley Haas, our friend Columbia and MIT Sloan.

Ranking By Alumni
The FT also lets alumni have their say on their schools in certain categories.  For example, the top US schools for economics in this survey are Booth, MIT, Yale, and Tepper (again!)

For general management UVA Darden bests HBS, followed by Tuck, Stanford, Ross and Kellogg.  Here’s good marketing for you, alumni of Indiana University’s Kelley School ranked their alma mater #2 for marketing, after Kellogg, (of course) and before Duke. And here’s a fun one, showing you that Wharton is not just a finance school, alumni ranked Penn below the following schools for “Top for Finance” : Chicago Booth, NYU Stern, and Univeristy of Rochester’s Simon School.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read
I admit, I have cherry picked some of the points to make in this blog post. Mostly because it is fun, but rankings are really hard to figure, and they really don’t matter as much as what is the right school for you.  Rankings only tell a small part of the story .

Also, rankings can be misleading. Because I came from finance, I used to get a lot of questions about the best school for finance – and maintain that you need to do a whole lot of your own research and networking to figure out your right path.   So visit schools, talk to students and professors, and see what’s happening beyond just what pundits like me write on the internet. Spring is around the corner –the best time for campus visits — so take advantage of the time you have now to see if those rankings really tell the whole story.

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