2015 is the first time that all five of the major MBA media rankings have published a league table in the same calendar year. And the annual Ranking of the MBA Rankings compiled by MBA50 (see table below), which combines the results of all the rankings of the last 12 months by regions of the world, shows that once again the top places are held by seven business schools, the legendary M7.
The M7 refers to an informal group of US schools that have become household names in business education – Harvard, Stanford GSB, Chicago Booth, Wharton, Kellogg, Columbia and MIT Sloan. Interpret the M as you wish – Magnificent, Magic, Monumental, or given their dominance of the top 7 places perhaps Motionless or even Mafia could apply.
The M may have initially referred to a Meeting of the 7 Deans, in true Godfather style. Over the years these meetings have extended to private sessions that take place among the vice deans, admissions directors, career management directors, and communications directors to share information and best practice.
The irony of course is that the case studies that fill the MBA programs at each school reflect the companies that have disrupted an industry and in the process achieved record growth, or those that have failed to adapt to changing market conditions and financially imploded. In 2000, the S&P was dominated by GE, Exxon Mobil, Pfizer, Citigroup, Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, AIG, Merck and Intel. Fifteen years later only Microsoft, Exxon Mobil and GE still make the top 10 by index weight, with Apple dominating a list that also includes Amazon and Facebook. Perhaps the next case study can look at how the M7 schools have maintained their lofty position.
Among the seven schools however, the 2015 Ranking of the MBA Rankings is far from static. Though Stanford GSB might be the school of the year in terms of MBA applicant numbers and selectivity, it is Harvard Business School that has returned to the #1 spot on the back of the school’s top placement in the FT and BusinessWeek. Stanford meanwhile falls to #3 based on a relatively poor result in the volatile Economist ranking. But with GSB students registering a record-breaking median base pay of $160,287 in 2015, you can expect Stanford to be challenging HBS at the top of the table next year.
Chicago Booth maintains the #2 position, with Wharton narrowly maintaining it’s place at #4 ahead of Kellogg, whose consistent results across the board were led by strong showings in Forbes and BusinessWeek. It will be interesting to see how Kellogg’s decision to shrink the size of its two-year MBA program in favour of a larger one-year MBA program intake will impact the rankings.
Columbia and MIT Sloan complete the top 7 places, but only just. The combined rankings performance at UC Berkeley Haas is only fractionally behind the two east coast schools. Indeed Haas is one of only five US business schools to make the top 10 in each of the five major media rankings. Hot on their heels is Dartmouth’s Tuck, with Yale SOM making the top 10 for the first time in 2015. Under the guidance of Dean Ted Snyder, one of the youngest top business schools (Yale SOM was founded in 1976) is enjoying the sort of admissions selectivity and career placement success to live up to the brand of Yale University.
So will we soon be talking about a Terrific or Tremendous T10? Or a Fabulous F15, that includes the likes of Duke Fuqua, UVA Darden, Michigan Ross, UCLA Anderson, Cornell Johnson and NYU Stern.
Should we even care? Business school rankings are a limited and typically flawed measure of the MBA experience that share little insight on the personality of an institution, and whether it is the right fit for you. The reality is that graduates of the world’s leading business schools have the potential to enjoy a transformative experience that opens up exciting new opportunities. Think of it as M1.