RIP WhichMBA? But will it be missed?

28 July 2022

Ian Hawkings crunches the events that culminated with The Economist dropping its MBA rankings.

So the news last week was that The Economist was stopping its business school rankings and winding up the WhichMBA? brand entirely.

I have to say that this didn’t come as a huge surprise.

The truth is The Economist had been struggling with its WhichMBA? output for some considerable time. When I worked in PR, the editorial side was seen as a bit of a soft target. Pretty much anything we pitched was picked up – and, while that was great for us, it shouldn’t really be the case for a publication with otherwise extremely high editorial standards.

And then we come to the rankings. The Economist brand demanded respect and that people pay attention to the results – and they do; through our various market insight reports, we could see that potential students and employers valued the Economist’s lists highly. But this was a double-edged sword - as far back as I can remember, there have been questions asked about the methodology and results (2009 was a vintage example...).

Year-on-year, this can’t have been good for The Economist’s brand.

It all came to a head in 2020, when the Economist decided not to publish an MBA ranking – and then 2021 when all of the M7 group of leading global business schools, and a number of others, decided to boycott it. Nail in the coffin, I feel.

Ultimately, I think it’s a bit of a shame that it’s come to this. The Economist’s business school rankings should have provided a good counterfoil to the FT’s - whose lists now only vie with QS on a global scale, and perhaps US News & World Report in the US for the title of ‘most influential’.
One fewer set of rankings to worry about though, hey?

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