After considering a request to postpone its MBA ranking due to the pandemic, U.S. News & World Report has decided to move ahead with its annual list that would come out in March of next year.
For the past six months, ever since the Graduate Management Admission Council asked ranking organizations to take a pause this year due to COVID, U.S. News has declined to say whether it would agree to skip its ranking. Now, U.S. News‘ chief data strategist confirmed that it plans to publish what most regard as the most influential MBA ranking in the world.
“U.S. News is proceeding with data collection for Best Grad MBA,” rankings chief Bob Morse tells Poets&Quants.
U.S. NEWS DECISION FOLLOWS DISCLOSURE BY THE ECONOMIST THAT IS WILL PUBLISH AN MBA RANKING
Only this week, The Economist disclosed that it, too, would publish a ranking this year in defiance of the request by GMAC and two business school accreditation agencies. But seven of the top so-called M7 business schools–Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Columbia, Chicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg–have declined to cooperate with its list.
Whether those schools will refuse to comply with U.S. News‘ request for data–much of it publicly disclosed by the schools anyway–is anyone’s guess. But U.S. News would clearly have more leverage because its ranking is the most read and watched list of U.S. MBA programs. Earlier this year, in fact, Harvard Business School surveyed its MBA students to see which rankings mattered most to them. U.S. News came out on top. Some 74% of the responding HBS students said they consulted the U.S. News list while applying to business school, while 46% said the publication’s rankings influenced their school choices.
The finding confirmed earlier surveys that have shown that at least in the United States, the U.S. News ranking is the most read. A 2017 survey of MBA applicants and students by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) found U.S. News to be the most trusted ranking among Americans. The magazine’s lists were cited by nearly 80% of respondents as an influence on where they applied. Poets&Quants’ rankings drew over 60% of respondents as well. Overseas, nearly 70% of applicants listed the Financial Times as an influence, with U.S. & World Report and The Economist both named by slightly more than 40% of applicants.
Source: 2017 AIGAC survey
HARVARD BELL TO ITS LOWEST U.S. NEWS RANKING EVER EARLIER THIS YEAR
Embarrassingly, Harvard MBAs preference for the U.S. News ranking was disclosed by its marketing and communications office a month before the new ranking from U.S. News saw Harvard fall to its lowest ranking ever in U.S. News, sixth place behind Stanford and Wharton, both tied for first, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, both tied for third place, and MIT’s Sloan School of Management in fifth place.
Harvard’s decline, in the final year of Nitin Nohria’s deanship, was the largest of any top 25 MBA program this year. The school’s lackluster performance was the result of a drop in the majority of the key metrics U.S. News employs to rank business schools. HBS fell in five of the eight metrics, including employment rates at graduation and three months later. After two straight years of application declines, Harvard’s acceptance rate rose to 11.5%, up from 10.4% a year earlier. The average class GMAT fell three points to 728 from 731.
When the leaders of the Graduate Management Admission Council and two accreditation agencies—AACSB and EFMD—asked for rankings to be put on hold in April of this year, many schools had already extended their application cycles and were deeply worried about the composition of their incoming classes this fall. They also expressed concern over the employment outcomes of this year’s graduating classes.
COVID COULD ‘SKEW RESULTS IN A WAY THAT CALLS THE VIABILITY OF RANKINGS INTO QUESTION’
“The current crisis will have unknown impacts on key metrics that rankings institutions rely on to create their respective products,” according to the letter signed by GMAC CEO Sangeet Chowfla, AACSB President Tom Robinson, and EFMD President Eric Cornuel. “Graduating students, recent alumni, and companies that recruit business school graduates are all dealing with their own challenges—a fact that on its own stands to skew results in a way that calls the viability of rankings surveys into question.”
Critics of a pause argued that it would cover up which schools failed to successfully manage through the health crisis, itself a barometer of the strength of a business school’s senior leadership team.
Within two weeks, Bloomberg Businessweek agreed to the request, putting its MBA ranking on hold for the year. U.S. News said it would review its ranking. “The team at U.S. News most definitely understands that these are very challenging times because of the significant and unprecedented disruptions caused by COVID 19,” said Morse. “We’re currently reviewing our strategies for the next U.S. News Best Business Schools rankings and fall 2020 data collection.”
That review apparently led to this week’s decision, just after The Economist disclosed it was going ahead with an MBA ranking.
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