Concerning BW's B-School Survey

Harvard and Wharton won't provide access to students for our 2004 report, but more than 100 other schools continue to cooperate

You may have heard that Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School have decided not to assist BusinessWeek in contacting students for our 2004 MBA ranking, to be published in an issue this fall. Rest assured, the BusinessWeek B-schools team will conduct our survey -- including the student survey -- and produce our biennial ranking, using reporting where necessary. Already, virtually all the other schools -- more than 100 -- are cooperating.

Since 1988, our ranking has measured customer satisfaction among current-year MBA students/graduates and the recruiters who hire them. It's the only ranking in which students play a significant role. We ask them to analyze the quality of their school's education and curriculum, professors and teaching, career guidance, and more.

BusinessWeek has worked closely with the schools, which have provided a myriad of information about their programs. In all previous years, schools have passed along student e-mail addresses, and in turn, BusinessWeek sends private passwords to each student and a link to our online survey. We have always promised confidentiality and privacy -- and we have kept that promise, never sharing student information with third parties and never using the information for any purpose other than the survey.

On Apr. 6, Harvard and Wharton did inform BusinessWeek that they would not be providing access to the Class of 2004, citing privacy concerns and policies against providing e-mail information to commercial enterprises, among other reasons. Harvard was ranked No. 3 on our list in 2002 and 2000 overall (and No. 14 and No. 4 in student satisfaction in 2002 and 2000, respectively). The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School ranked No. 5 on our list in 2002 and No. 1 in 2000 (and No. 12 and No. 3 in student satisfaction in 2002 and 2000, respectively).

Says Wharton Dean Patrick Harker in a letter to students, alums, faculty, and staff: "We believe the external rankings fall far short of supplying the type of objective comparative material from which prospective students or recruiters can make the most informed choices." He adds that "the plethora of rankings yields little useful data for the schools in shaping their strategic agenda."

That may be the position of a few schools, but we believe prospective MBAs, current students, and alumni have a strong need for the independent information gleaned from our surveys -- including crucial details about the student experience from those who have just completed the degree. Imagine the schools' line of reasoning applied to the corporate world. It would essentially preclude independent analysts, the media, and other outside parties from assessing the performance of corporations.

Just as investors today are clamoring for more transparency on the part of companies, so should students expect a similar degree of openness and cooperation from the very schools that nurture new business leaders. It's particularly troubling that the information filter comes from institutions whose key precepts include the free flow of information and ideas.

BusinessWeek believes that the rich and detailed data gathered by our surveys helps prospective students decide which MBA programs are right for them. With the cost of an MBA program reaching more than $30,000 per year in tuition alone -- plus lost wages -- the decision about which program to attend has become increasingly complex.

That's why we have built up our coverage of business schools and management education over the last decade through regular stories and analysis in the magazine and online; through chats and forums for prospective students, current MBAs, and alums; and through BusinessWeek's Guide to the Best Business Schools, a book that profiles the curriculum, character, and experience at our Top 50 schools and Top 10 international schools. The first-hand perspective provided by the MBA student surveys and MBA recruiter surveys are two other important tools we'll continue to offer you.

If you're a member of the full-time MBA Class of 2004 at Wharton or Harvard and would like to contact BusinessWeek about participating in the 2004 student survey, please write to us at

Jennifer Merritt

B-Schools Editor

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