This year’s Poets & Quants ranking of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. proves that the best business schools tend to stay put. There is not a single difference between the top eight MBA programs in our new 2013 composite ranking and the top eight in 2012. What’s more, all top 10 schools remained firmly in the top 10 this year.
The steadiest institution is still Harvard Business School, which took the very first spot for the fourth year in a row. Despite less-than-flattering publicity generated by a New York Times’ front page story on gender inequality at Harvard, an MBA from the school remains the quintessential credential in business.
“No rival beats Harvard in the formidable resources it brings to the game: the outsized number of superstar professors, the diversity of its course offerings, the stellar quality of its students, the size and scope of its campus, and the career achievements of its alumni spread all over the world,” said John A. Byrne, editor-in-chief of Poets & Quants.com.
This year’s entering class at Harvard, moreover, is one of the most impressive ever. Drawing from an applicant pool that was up 3.9% last year to 9,315 hopefuls, Harvard welcomed just 941 incoming MBA students, with the highest percentage of women ever at 41% of the class. The median GMAT score was a hefty 720, while the average undergraduate grade point average for the newest crop of MBA students was an impressive 3.67.
The underlying index scores in the composite ranking are especially close. The scores of No. 1 Harvard, No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 Chicago, and No. 4 University of Pennsylvania are fractions away from each other; a mere 0.35 separates No. 1 Harvard and its perennial West Coast rival No. 2 Stanford.
The immovable top eight differ in many ways—size, region, culture, and so on. But the schools do have one feature in common: They’re all private, pricey, highly prestigious institutions with powerful global brands.
This is the fourth year that Poets & Quants has published rankings of the world’s best MBA programs. Unlike other rankings, the Poets & Quants composite list combines the latest five most influential business school rankings in the world: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist, The Financial Times, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report.
Instead of merely averaging the five, each ranking is separately weighted to account for Poets & Quants view of their authority and credibility. (The BusinessWeek, Forbes and U.S. News lists are given a weight of 25% each, while the FT is given a 15% weight and The Economist is given a 10% weight).
Combining the five most influential rankings doesn’t eliminate the flaws in each system, but it does significantly diminish them. When an anomaly pops on one list due to either faulty survey technique or biased methodology, bringing all the data together tends to suppress it. So the composite index tones down the noise in each of these five surveys to get more directly at the real signal that is being sent.
This year’s top 20 in the U.S. did change—but not much. UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Duke University’s Fuqua School switched places this year: Fuqua took the ninth spot, and Haas landed in tenth place. Meanwhile, the University of Michigan’s Ross School and the University of Virginia’s Darden School also pulled a switch. The Midwestern titan rose to No. 12, while Darden slipped to No. 13. In the middle of all the swapping, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management remained stable at No. 11.
Though its Northern Californian cousin slipped a little, UCLA climbed from No. 17 to No. 14. It even bumped NYU’s Stern School out of the No. 14 spot, sending it down to No. 15. Meanwhile, Ivy League Yale School of Management finished 17th, down from 15th last year. U.S. News and the Financial Times actually placed Yale above UCLA, but the other rankings—in particular, the return-on-investment focused Forbes list—favored the Los Angeles school.
Though the Poets & Quants ranking is only a few years old, a recent survey by an association of admissions consultants found that more MBA applicants consulted the Poets & Quants ranking last year than other lists by The Economist and Forbes.