2024 FT Global MBA rankings: The bigger they are the further they fall....

20 February 2024

So the FT MBA ranking came out last week and.......ok, I'm going to say it. It’s crazy.

Harvard, ranked 1st as recently as 2020, is 11th and Stanford, which ranked 1st in 2019 and 2018 and has been out of the top 5 only twice since rankings started in 1999 is 23rd. Last year the programs were ranked joint 4th.

I know I'm a little behind the curve on this as it’s a week since the list was published but it’s worth saying again. The Stanford GSB MBA – probably the most selective and prestigious MBA programme in the world is only the third best in California according to the FT.

A year-ago I wrote a piece for this newsletter outlining some of the changes the FT were making to the MBA ranking methodology and it’s clear they’ve had an effect, to say the least.

The headline was that the FT was moving some focus away from salary (down from 40% to 32% of a school’s overall score) towards a few other things, notably a ‘carbon footprint rank’. And if you look at this you can see that Stanford did particularly badly, coming in at 61st, Harvard were better at 17th. SDA Bocconi came top for carbon footprint, and were 3rd overall – the school’s best ever result – although it’s worth noting that Italy’s leading school has been on a consistent upward trajectory in recent years.

Several schools come in above Stanford and Harvard overall, but do worse in both carbon and salary data. Wharton could only finish 56th in the carbon footprint league, but finished first overall. Chicago Booth , 3rd as recently as 2021, pipped Harvard to 10th spot in the overall list, despite a lower salary score and a rank of 86th for carbon footprint.

Another new element though was the introduction of criteria measuring ‘time devoted to ESG and Net Zero teaching’. If you consider that Stanford came in 96th for this, with Harvard barely any better at 90th, then perhaps the picture starts to become a little clearer. Put together, the two new CSR criteria are worth 7% of the overall score.

But that can’t be the whole story – there are 21 criteria to the FT ranking after all. A little extra analysis shows that Stanford came second from bottom in the diversity of their class (really!?) and the other thing to note is that the school didn’t post a score for the percentage of international faculty, which is worth 3% of the total.

Value for money is the other notable area where the big US schools struggle – worth 5%, there is no getting away from the fact that in a tight MBA jobs market, the most expensive schools struggle to justify course fees and other costs that are often multiples of some of the competition. In this criteria Stanford rank 78th, Harvard 93rd, and Wharton 95th.

Despite all of the above, it’s surely hard to justify such wild year-on year swings. It’ll be very interesting to see how (or if) this affects applications to Harvard and Stanford in the coming year, and whether we see similar results next year or not. Watch this space!

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