Since 1988, BusinessWeek's biennial MBA rankings have given a voice to a business school's customers -- MBA students and the companies that recruit them. In an online countdown on Oct. 10, BusinessWeek staff editor Jennifer Merritt and BusinessWeek Online reporter Brian Hindo revealed the 2002 MBA rankings. BW Online's Jack Dierdorff hosted the chat and fielded questions from a live audience. An edited transcript follows. For more on the new rankings -- plus admissions info, articles, Q&As, and much more about management education -- check www.businessweek.com/bschools.
THE TOP 10 NON-U.S. PROGRAMS
Hindo: The No. 10 school outside the U.S. is York University. The school has benefited from an alliance with Northwestern University's Kellogg School, and it opens a $63 million building next fall.
Merritt: No. 9 is HEC-Paris. It's a first-time entry. The French school has nearly 70% of its students opting to take their MBA in English. The school has worked hard to break its regional mold.
Hindo: The No. 8 non-U.S. program is IESE from Barcelona, Spain. This is something of a surprise, but IESE's graduates failed to distinguish themselves from other European rivals. But it's not all bad news for IESE. On Oct. 6, the school's founder was canonized by Pope John Paul II.
Merritt: The No. 7 program is the Netherlands' Rotterdam School of Management. The school creates a set of shared values on day one -- a good thing, considering that few of its MBA students are from the Netherlands. The school also just launched ONE-MBA, a global, five-school partnership that offers a full MBA degree.
Hindo: The No. 6 school is Western Ontario's Ivey School of Business. This school's grads got top marks for general management skills among non-U.S. schools from corporate recruiters. Recruiters also praised Ivey grads' ability to work in teams.
Merritt: No. 5 is the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Business. Recruiters rate it the most improved non-U.S. school, and the school's students praise the integrative thinking approach the B-school embraces.
Hindo: In another relative surprise, London Business School slips two spots from No. 2 to No. 4. LBS placed tops in our student survey. They love the international makeup of the student body and the things that new Dean Laura D'Andrea Tyson is doing. But an unresponsive career-services office irked corporate recruiters.
Merritt: The No. 3 school is Lausanne, Switzerland's IMD. It scores big with a new curriculum designed around leadership. Recruiters rave about their more-experienced graduates.
Hindo: The No. 2 school is Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. This school placed first among all non-U.S. schools with corporate recruiters, who loved the way the program turns engineers and scientists into well-rounded managers. It'll be interesting to see if Queen's can repeat in 2004 as Corporate Canada's darling. Former B-school Dean Margot Northey -- who many credit with improving the school's program dramatically -- stepped down abruptly in February.
Merritt: And the No. 1 school in our second biennial Non-U.S. ranking is -- once again -- INSEAD. The French school boasts a student body that's incredibly diverse -- 74 nationalities are represented in the MBA program -- and recruiters love grads' mobility, saying they can send an INSEAD grad anywhere in the world and not worry.
Q: Jennifer, how about refreshing us on the method BW uses to compile the biennial rankings?
Merritt:BusinessWeek turns to the consumers of the MBA -- students, recruiters, and the practitioners. We surveyed students in the Class of 2002 at 88 B-schools around the world, and we surveyed hundreds of companies that hire those grads. We also took a measure of a school's intellectual capital. Then we put it all together. Recruiter surveys count for 45% of the total score; intellectual capital counts for 10%; and the student poll, combined with polls from 2000 and 1998, count for 45%. Our methodology hasn't changed this year, but we did add five new journals [BW calculates a school's intellectual capital score by tallying academic journal entries in 18 publications] -- for a total of 18.
Q: Student and recruiter opinions are easy to understand, but what's "intellectual capital"?
Merritt:Intellectual capital is meant to capture the impact a school's faculty members have on the marketplace of ideas. It counts research as a measure of that impact.
Q: Any Asian schools considered for international rankings? Any plans of expanding the number of ranks for international schools?
Merritt:We intend to include Asian schools in the future, hopefully in 2004. Some schools were eligible for inclusion this year, but not enough to make a well-rounded assessment. We may expand the number ranked in the future.
Q: What would make a school eligible?
Merritt:There are a number of requirements, including accreditation, size of the student body, age of the program, and a few other requirements.
Q: Generally speaking, how difficult are international schools to get into?
Hindo:The top international schools are just about as tough to get into as the top U.S. schools, and most of them -- especially the top European ones -- will require some experience working abroad.
Merritt: For Canadian schools, it's a bit easier, though not much. International schools look for the same things that U.S. schools do -- work experience, career progression, unique skills that will add to the student body, etc.
Q: Matter of fact, I was wondering if it's significant that four of the top 10 are Canadian.
Merritt:Canadian schools have gone a long way toward competing with their peer schools. They've deregulated, added to their faculties, and reshaped their programs to bring in a stronger management focus. And recruiters are starting to take notice.
Q: Why aren't more U.K. schools considered in the ranking, such as Cranfield, Cambridge (Judge), Oxford (Said) -- or German schools, for that matter?
Hindo:Some of the schools from those countries are unaccredited or fail to meet some of the criteria Jennifer talked about earlier. But we did include Oxford and Cambridge in the survey this year. Both will fall into our second tier. The main reason for both schools' placement is that they're very new, relatively speaking, and they just haven't made it onto enough recruiters' radar screens. Cranfield is the other English school we surveyed and it, too, placed in the second tier of non-U.S. schools.
Q: Why do you rank U.S. and international schools separately? Why not one worldwide ranking?
Merritt:We feel that most international programs are different in many respects from U.S. MBA programs. For example, many are one-year programs, vs. the U.S. two-year model. They also have different teaching models. To keep an even playing field -- and not to give credence to the idea that U.S. ideals are dominant -- we keep them separate.
Q: How can you tell whether a school that doesn't appear in the top 10 has improved or not since the last ranking?
Hindo:Take a look at our second tier of non-U.S. schools. If the school shows up there, you know it's doing well. Also look closely at the school's profile at www.businessweek.com/bschools. You should be able to glean some important information about the school's progress by considering the program's changes from last year and the student comments.
THE TOP 30 U.S. PROGRAMS
Hindo: The No. 30 school in the U.S. is Georgetown University. It drops from 2000 largely because of a dreadful career-services effort than rankled students and recruiters. Only half of its students had jobs at graduation.
Merritt: No. 29 is a newcomer to the Top 30 MBA programs -- Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. The school was praised by recruiters and students alike for its focus on ethical management.
Hindo: Vanderbilt University's Owen School slips from No. 22 in 2000 to No. 28. Recruiters had mixed reactions to the Owen school in a tough market; many ditched the school, resulting in a 53% placement rate at graduation.
Merritt: No. 27 is University of Rochester's Simon School. The school slips six places, as recruiters were less in tune with grads' technical nature. Students praised the curriculum, but were frustrated by the school's lack of career-placement pizzazz.
Hindo: Purdue's Krannert school comes in at No. 26. Solid showings in both student satisfaction and intellectual capital offset a dip in the recruiters' survey.
Merritt: No. 25 is University of Maryland's Smith School, up two spots from its showing in 2000. The school has expanded programs, and students were more satisfied this year. But recruiters who didn't know the school well failed to hang on in a tough MBA job market.
Hindo: At No. 24 is Washington University in St. Louis. The Olin School slides down one spot as it gains ground with recruiters but loses ground with students.
Merritt: No. 23 is Michigan State University's Broad School, up an impressive six spots from 2000. The school revamped its curriculum, winning praise from students, and recruiters have caught on, too, making the school No. 17 in the corporate poll.
Hindo: Another big mover -- Emory University's Goizueta School places No. 22, up from No. 28 last time. Student satisfaction soared after a curriculum revamp -- and recruiters noticed, too.
Merritt: No. 21 is the University of Texas-Austin's McCombs School, which slipped four spots this year after a year of tough changes and a shuffle in its famed entrepreneurship faculty, not to mention a cratering technology market. But a new dean committed to bringing change should bring improvements.
Hindo: Indiana University's Kelley School remains a steady No. 20, thanks in a big way to a responsive administration. Students appreciated the way the admin answered their complaints about cramped facilities and outdated technology.
Merritt: No. 19 is Carnegie Mellon, down five spots from its 2000 rank. Grads gave it middle of the road marks in many subjects, like teaching, and integration of coursework, but the school still shines in technology, grads say, and recruiters rank it No. 18.
Hindo: No. 18 UNC-Chapel Hill is slowly inching up in the eyes of recruiters and students praise the career-services office, which placed 100% of them in summer internships this year. But competition was stiff as other school picked up the pace.
Merritt: No. 17 is University of Southern California's Marshall School, up an astounding seven spots. Recruiters love its grads, say they're improving. Students were pleased with the school's academics.
Hindo: The 16th-ranked school is UCLA's Anderson School, which graduates rated seventh in the student poll. It's L.A. location was a big help in networking with West Coast firms -- but many weren't hiring. Only 60% of grads were placed at graduation.
Merritt: No. 15 is NYU's Stern School, down two spots. Grads hope that a new dean will beef up subject areas outside of already-strong finance. Recruiters gave the school high marks.
Hindo: Up five spots this year is Yale, which lands at No. 14. Yale scored big with students and in intellectual capital. It also scored points with corporate recruiters with its focus on business and social responsibility.
Merritt: No. 13 is UC Berkeley's Haas School, up five spots, as well. The school comes in at No. 3 on the intellectual-capital poll and ranks near the top with students when it comes to linking them with nontraditional recruiters. Grads also like the depth of classes.
Hindo: No. 12 is the University of Virginia's Darden School, which was once again lauded by graduates for its excellent teaching faculty. But the school felt the hiring pinch from consulting-firm cutbacks.
Merritt: No. 11 is Cornell University's Johnson School. It's down three spots, but the school is still going strong with the career office going out of its way to help grads find jobs. But students say the school could do a better job of focusing on ethics, and recruiters weren't eager to make the trip to the school this year.
Hindo: The general-management focus at Dartmouth's Tuck School propelled it to No. 10. Students gave it great all-around marks, and recruiters enjoyed the well-rounded recruits that Dartmouth produces.
Merritt: No. 9 is Duke University's Fuqua School. It's down four spots from 2000, but recruiters say its grads are the most improved and students still praise the school's efforts, but say core classes need some work.
Hindo: At No. 8, the University of Michigan slides two spots from No. 6 in 2000. The student score continues to slide, but corporate recruiters still can't get enough of Michigan grads.
Merritt: No. 7 is Columbia University Business School Dean Meyer Feldberg helped keep ties to Wall Street strong and also fostered new industry relationships. And recruiters continue to rank Columbia grads among the best of all.
Hindo: No. 6, down two spots from No. 4, is MIT's Sloan School, which celebrates its 50th birthday this weekend. Students appreciated the intellectual firepower of the faculty but said faculty were often unavailable. Recruiters like MIT grads' tech savvy and excellent analytical skills.
Merritt: No. 5 is the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, which took a plunge from the No. 1 spot it had held since 1994. Souring student satisfaction -- the placement office had no director starting in March -- and waning interest from recruiters pushed the school to its lowest rank ever. More than this, students said the school let them down, not seeking out alternate recruiting strategies just when they were most needed. Recruiters for the first time since 1994 did not give the school a No. 1 vote, pushing it to No. 3 in the corporate poll.
Hindo: Stanford, on the other hand, moves in the right direction, up from No. 11 to No. 4. The school made a real turnaround with recruiters, who say the arrogant attitude many perceived in the late '90s boom has disappeared. The school also topped all comers in intellectual capital. The dean, Bob Joss, deserves a lot of credit. He tried to refocus students away from the calling-card aspect of the MBA and onto the rigorous general management education offered at the B-school.
Merritt: No. 3 this year is Harvard Business School, which took the No. 1 spot with recruiters, but lost some ground with students, keeping the school from gaining ground overall. Still, Dean Kim Clark says he's addressing the few shortcomings. Recruiters prize their Harvard MBAs as the best grads overall.
Hindo: The biggest mover of all is the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business, which improves on a disappointing 10th in 2000 with a No. 2 finish in 2002. The students say the addition of new Dean Ted Snyder caused immediate, palpable change in terms of campus atmosphere and faculty accessibility. The school lost some of its "loner intellectual" stereotype as students pulled together behind Snyder.
Merritt: And finally...the No. 1 school for 2002 -- Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. The pioneer in management education has resumed its No. 1 spot. New Dean Dipak Jain saw the tough MBA job market and began a series of around-the-world recruiting trips. Deans took unemployed students under their wing and helped them strategize. The school had the highest placement rate of all schools -- 91% within 90 days of graduation. Students were the most satisfied of any school, and because the school kept in contact with a broad swath of recruiters it wasn't overly-dependent on industries that slashed hiring, such as consulting and banking. Recruiters remain pleased with the caliber of Kellogg grads.
Q: Isn't it a bit biased to rely so heavily on recruiters in the rankings? Doesn't that automatically work against schools not located in major urban centers?
Merritt:Actually, we survey a very broad swath of recruiters from all over the country -- all over the world, in fact. And plenty of small schools do well with recruiters, if they've proven their relationships and turned out quality grads over time. Also the recruiter ranking counts for only 45% of the total rank. And after all, grads expect they'll get a job after their massive investment in the MBA.
Q: Can you talk about some of the next 20 schools that almost made the top 30?
Merritt:A few of them are University of Washington, Southern Methodist University, Boston College, Case Western, and others. These schools show strongly and you may see some of them in the Top 30 in a few years, as they continue to strengthen their programs and their relationships with recruiters. As they turn out more impressive grads they should inch their way out of the runner-up list -- if the competition isn't careful.
Q: What schools dropped out of the top 30?
Hindo:The only school that dropped out of the top 30 was Georgia Tech's DuPree School. It wasn't that the school had any fatal flaws that dropped it from the Top 30. It's just that competition was as fierce as ever.
Q: Why is BusinessWeek's ranking so different from that of the Wall Street Journal if both of you rely on recruiters?
Merritt:We allow one survey per company and do not use the contacts provided by the schools. We rate business schools overall. Other than that, you'll have to examine each survey's methodology and decide for yourself.
Q: How does the ranking account for differences in size, since schools like Dartmouth are much smaller and could have a negative bias towards the overall numbers when compared with the large schools?
Merritt:This year, a number of small schools made the Top 15. The only bias is in regard to quality of grads. We have found over the years that school size has little impact on a recruiter's choices -- they'll keep hiring if the graduates are well-qualified, no matter the school size.
Q: Can you tell us more about the actual questions you ask of recruiters and students?
Merritt:Sure. We ask students to judge their school in a variety of areas. We focus on academics, teaching, strength of subject areas, career placement, and more on the student side. On the recruiter side, we ask which schools graduates are the best overall and we also ask questions about which schools' grads are most improved, which schools' grads are strongest in individual subject areas, and also which schools' placement offices are least and most effective. This year we also asked which schools' grads demonstrated the strongest business ethics.
Q: Can you tell us the most common shortcoming of a school that didn't make it into the top 30?
Merritt:For most, it was a poor showing with recruiters who may recruit at those schools, but don't rank them in their top 20. But also these schools fall short in one or more areas with students. They're still searching for the right formula.
Q: What impact, if any, does a global economic recession have on both the international and U.S. rankings?
Hindo:The global downturn probably didn't have as much effect on non-U.S. schools as it did on U.S. schools. Grads from non-U.S. schools started the recruiting season before Europe's economy really took a dive. Plus, the September 11 attacks had a much more adverse effect on U.S. recruiting, both financially and logistically. Still, schools that relied heavily on consulting firms and investment banks -- like LBS -- had a tougher time than schools with a more diverse group of recruiters -- like, say, IMD.
Merritt: At U.S. schools, there was an impact, but perhaps not the kind you may be thinking of. Recruiters and students alike were far more focused on value -- the depth and value of their education on grads' part and the depth of skills of grads' on the recruiter side of the equation. It's interesting to note that this 2002 ranking looks quite similar to the 1992 ranking, when we were facing a similar economic situation. Companies looked toward their old faithfuls, and much like investors who tried out high fliers during the boom but are returning to value, recruiters did the same.
Students also looked at their schools and their MBA experience with a more critical eye. They want value from the new skills they're learning, and from the ideas they're sorting through. They rewarded schools that went out of their way to help them maneuver through a tough job market -- even if they didn't find employment. And they were less happy if their school did little or nothing to respond to a changed environment.
Q: Rumor has it that the rankings at the very top were extremely tight, particularly between Kellogg and Chicago -- what was the key differentiation?
Merritt:This is just a rumor.... Kellogg has long been a pioneer in management education. It has the whole package -- strong academics, a culture of care that extends to every part of the school, teaching, placement, student body, etc. And it continues to turn out grads who can handle whatever new employers throw at them. All the schools, though offer a strong general management education.