Behind the Rankings

Since BusinessWeek began its biennial ranking of MBA programs in 1988, we have strived to capture the essence of a top-tier program. Over the years, we have added schools to our survey, included companies from around the world in our corporate recruiter poll, and mixed in a measure of a school's intellectual capital.

Through it all, we have adhered to the guiding premise that customer satisfaction is the key to a stellar offering. With that in mind, we begin our research with the consumers of the MBA. This year we sent a 46-question MBA survey to every graduate--16,906 students--at 88 schools in North America, Europe, and Latin America. We received 11,518 responses--a 68% response rate. The online questionnaire asked grads about everything from the quality of teaching to the efficacy of career placement offices. Instead of yes-or-no questions, we encouraged respondents to answer more critically, offering a scale of 1-10 for each question.

The Class of 2002 graduate responses account for half of a school's student satisfaction score. The other half comes from the responses of 6,020 graduates from the 1998 poll and 10,039 from the 2000 poll. These two groups carry a weight of 25% each. Including six years' worth of data ensures that short-term improvements or problems don't sway the results. After the student satisfaction poll is tallied, it receives a 45% weighting in the overall ranking.

We also sent our online survey to corporate recruiters, who hire thousands of MBAs. It was a tough year. Some companies declined to answer this year's survey because of mergers or an MBA hiring freeze. Still, of the 420 companies surveyed, 219 answered, for a healthy response rate of 52%. Except in rare cases, our rule is one survey per company, so no company gets two votes.

As in past years, recruiters were asked to rate their top 20 schools according to the quality of a B-school's graduates and their company's experience with MBAs past and present. Each school's total score was then divided by the number of responding companies that recruited from that school. Because there tend to be greater differences among schools in the corporate survey, recruiter opinion can have a greater impact on the overall ranking. The recruiter poll accounted for 45% of a school's ranking score.

Finally, we calculated each school's intellectual capital rating by tallying academic journal entries from 18 publications, from the Harvard Business Review to the Journal Of Business Ethics. We also searched The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek, adding points if a professor's book was reviewed there. The tallies were adjusted for faculty size, with the final intellectual capital score accounting for 10% of each ranking.

To help analyze the data and ensure that the results were not skewed by students or administrators looking to game the outcome, we again called on statisticians David M. Rindskopf and Alan L. Gross, professors of educational psychology at the City University of New York-Graduate Center. They tested the responses a variety of ways to verify credibility. We're happy to report that the data were unsullied.

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