4 Things You Need to Know about MBA Rankings

There’s a great deal of information about business schools in the digital sphere. That means you’re one search query away from a pipeline of information and advice — much of it conflicting. So where can you turn for advice about choosing a business school knowing that even the most well intentioned co-workers, friends and family can have biased opinions?

That conundrum is one reason media rankings are so popular. In the search for an objective third party, many prospective students rely on publications such as Bloomberg Businessweek, Financial Times, Forbes, Poets & Quants, The Economist, The Princeton Review, or U.S. News & World Report.

But even in these publications, “experts” often disagree. Results vary widely depending on the publication or even the year. That’s why one of the most common questions I’m often asked is about our rankings and what they mean.

Here are four things you need to know about MBA rankings.

  1. Each media ranking is based on a different methodology.

Comparing one ranking to another is like comparing apples to oranges. They’re all different. Some rankings place more weight on corporate recruiter surveys. Others factor test scores of admitted students. The variance in criteria among rankings is what leads to different results.

U.S. News & World Report, which ranked the University of South Carolina MBA #1 for international business in 2017, calculates its specialty ranking of the best business schools according to ratings by business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs. It considers the opinions of industry leaders who are deeply immersed in the business school sector on a daily basis and have an extensive purview of best practices. They attend numerous conferences around the world to share knowledge about exceptional programs with cutting-edge curriculum or subject matter expertise. In other words, they know which business schools excel in international business, and rank programs accordingly.

  1. Media rankings are multidimensional.

Many prospective students focus on the total ranking of a particular program, but it’s equally important to look at individual components. For example, the Financial Times considers 20 different criteria in their overall ranking.

In their 2017 ranking, the University of South Carolina MBA program is ranked in the top 40 in the U.S. (#77 in the world). With respect to the individual criteria, we’re ranked:

·       No. 1 in the world for international course experience

·       No. 2 in the world for percentage of female MBA students

·       No. 2 in the U.S. for international mobility for MBA graduates

Dig deeply into cumulative rankings for metrics that are meaningful to you. That single overall number is sometimes strongly influenced by factors that may be inconsequential to you.

The Financial Times calculates 20 percent of their ranking on the increase in alumni salaries, but only 3 percent on alumni aims achieved — the extent to which alumni fulfilled their stated goals or reasons for doing an MBA.

You may be considering an MBA because you want to work at a startup or in social entrepreneurship like Kate Williams, 2015 MBA. Before attending the Moore School, Kate was a microfinance consultant and business project manager in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua. Today, she’s an impact manager at Fair Trade USA in Oakland, California. Alums like Kate achieve their stated goals yet their chosen career path is “worth” less in the Financial Times ranking.

  1. You need to take a long-term view of rankings.

We’ve proud to be ranked in U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 3 graduate international business programs for 28 consecutive years, but it’s important to note that media rankings fluctuate year to year for trivial reasons. For example, an editor may modify the ranking’s methodology or expand the number of schools included. Changes like these can realign programs from previous rankings.

A school can even inadvertently omit a data point the survey as one top business school did. They dropped nine points in a major ranking last year. Rankings can be unpredictable so it’s critical to take a long-term view.

  1. Some schools don’t even get ranked or drop out of rankings for good reason.

Schools may not be eligible to participate in some rankings based on the longevity of their program or class size, among other reasons. If your targeted MBA program is small by design, the advantages of that small, tight cohort and network may not be as apparent if you’re evaluating purely by ranking.

Often, schools simply choose not to participate in rakings. It takes a lot of internal resources to manage and submit surveys required by ranking organizations. While larger business schools may have a staff person dedicated to coordinating and managing rankings year-round, smaller schools invest those resources into services that benefit students such as scholarships or strengthening employer relations in major cities.

You may have noticed that the Moore School isn’t included in the Bloomberg Businessweek ranking.

Marcelo Frias, managing director of Full-Time MBA Programs, explains why. “Bloomberg Businessweek calculates its’ ranking, in part, based on a minimum amount of survey responses from alumni. That’s always going to be easier to achieve for programs with hundreds of students,” he says. “Our intentionally small class size impacts our ability to meet these thresholds. As a result, our high level of alumni satisfaction doesn’t get reflected in this ranking. Instead, we communicate it through stories on our website and social media channels, and are always happy to connect prospective students to chat directly with alums.”

Suffice to say that there’s a lot more to rankings than meets the eye. Look into our rankings and then talk to us. In fact, you can email me or call me at 803-777-0262. I’m happy to any questions you many have about rankings or, even better, discuss how our placements can impact your career aspirations and plans.

Jennifer Ninh
Managing Director, Full-time MBA Programs