Business school rankings are, by their very nature, more than a little arbitrary. That, combined with the actual reason they exist—to sell magazines and guides and online access thereto—and their susceptibility to manipulation explains the volatility within them far better than any actual changes to the actual quality of the education offered at each program relative to all the rest, however much we might enjoy each year’s small changes and the entirely unnecessary agony and Schadenfreude they bring.

Still, as the rankers insist, there is some rigor in constructing the lists. There are extensive surveys and further collections of data troves that are parsed, analyzed and combined to answer whatever each ranker believes are the key questions: How many graduates get jobs quickly? How much does the M.B.A. cost? How much do graduates make? What do you get when you divide the former by the latter? How many faculty members have a more impressive degree than the one you’re going there to get? What are you classmates’ GMAT scores? How diverse is the student body? The faculty and staff? Do they offer classes in corporate social responsibility?

Now, let’s say you’ve looked at the intolerable hellscape that is our pestilent world and decided that business school is right move for you. After all, global finance seems to be the one industry to have emerge unscathed—or better!—from the pandemic, and perhaps you are an optimist and believe that, come fall, things will be back to normal and you’ll be able to participate in B-school’s only really value proposition: networking. Well, then you should know that there’s a new and extremely important metric affecting the rankings this year: Most of the good schools decided to take themselves off of them.

Harvard Business School, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Columbia Business School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, among others, opted to skip the most recent rankings by the Economist and the Financial Times….

With some major programs missing, other schools moved up the lists. Insead in France topped the FT’s list of best M.B.A. programs, published earlier this month, up from fourth place…. Gabriel Rossi, assistant dean of faculty and curriculum at the Yale School of Management, ranked No. 4 on the FT’s current list after finishing 14th a year ago, said the program sat out the Economist’s rankings because the school lacked the capacity to gather data during spring of 2020 when the publication wanted to start its data collection. “There were so many things going on,” he said….

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s business school jumped 27 spots this year to No. 19 in the Economist’s ranking, which could put the program on the radar of prospective students, said Assistant Dean Blair Sanford.

Yes, and if those prospective students are dumb enough not to notice why a school which just three years ago was planning to get rid of M.B.A.s altogether made that jump, they’re perfect for it.

What’s the Best Business School? For This Year’s M.B.A. Rankings, It’s Not Who You Think. [WSJ]

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