The Best U.S. Business Schools of 2016 – The Ranking Of MBA Rankings

November 23, 2016 | by Matt Symonds

The business school rankings of 2016 agree about one thing – Harvard Business School is the #1 school in the US. There is also general consensus that Stanford GSB is close behind. But does the sum of the five major media rankings this year suggest an underlying shift among the top 10, and even challenge the dominance of the fabled M7?

For the past five years I have produced a Ranking of MBA Rankings for my Forbes business school column. Though far from scientific, and with no attempt to weight any one ranking greater than the others, the idea is to look at the annual snapshot of media methodologies that can produce such volatile results from one year to the next. 2016 has been another controversially vintage year, concluding with the Bloomberg BusinessWeek ranking that published last week. As with every business school ranking, Poets & Quants editor-in-chief John A. Byrne has produced an insightful and detailed analysis of the Business Week results.

In terms of headlines, Duke Fuqua came in at #3, and Dartmouth Tuck jumped 9 places to #5 – their best result since BusinessWeek first published a business school ranking in 1988. Such strong results were largely driven by the strong reputation of these schools with recruiters, but that also explain how Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business leaped 11 places to #8?

Rice otherwise had a mixed year, climbing 8 places in US News and dropping 10 places in the FT. So how much should we read into their BusinessWeek success? Is it really credible to rate them above such heavyweights as Columbia, Kellogg, and UC Berkeley Haas? Business school rankings are an ongoing source of controversy, with the inherent shortcomings of each methodology. And given the very personal decision about the right fit for you, rankings alone should not determine where to go to school.

By combining twelve months of results into a Fortuna Ranking of U.S. MBA Rankings (see full results below) we at least remove some of the volatility of an individual result, and 2016 does challenge the established order beyond Harvard and Stanford. For starters, Wharton does not make the top 4 for the first time since I consolidated the results of all five rankings in 2011. This drop is largely due to The Economist, which has a reputation for generating some of the more incredulous results (though don’t tell that to Chicago Booth).

Of greater interest is the very real challenge to the legendary M7, an informal group of schools that have become household names in business education – Harvard, Stanford GSB, Chicago Booth, Kellogg, Wharton, Columbia, and MIT Sloan. From many years Dartmouth Tuck and UC Berkeley Haas have stood shoulder to shoulder with this group, and the 2016 Ranking of MBA Rankings confirms this, placing them joint #6 with Columbia, and edging out MIT Sloan. Is it time to draw up a couple of extra chairs for the next M-meeting?

Another coveted goal is to make the top 10, and Duke Fuqua, Yale SOM, and Darden have all achieved this in the last three years. This year it is Duke’s turn again, buoyed by the result in BusinessWeek. Champagne may flow in Durham, North Carolina but expect New Haven and Charlottesville to resume battle again next year.

I’ve included below the results for the top 25 in the Fortuna Ranking of MBA Rankings 2016, with a nod to Notre Dame Mendoza whose consistency across five rankings has been rewarded with a place in the top 25.

Look out for the International Ranking for 2016 as soon as Business Week publishes the final results of the year.

Written by  Matt Symonds, Director, Fortuna Admssions

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