The Economist Full-time MBA Ranking Methodology – The Good, Bad and the Ugly

The Economist MBA Ranking MethodologyBusiness School rankings are biased. The preference that publications give for one ranking factor over the other is often based on these biases. MBA Aspirants should evaluate each ranking based on the methodology, and that is why we have started this series about the ranking methodology adopted by different Business School ranking publications.

The release of The Economist MBA ranking was faced with several backlashes from experts around the world for its unpredictability citing that The Economist ranking was the most unstable ranking with the big three – Harvard, Stanford and Wharton losing their positions. That in itself is not an argument to disregard a ranking.

Let us look at the various factors that The Economist Full-time MBA
takes into consideration before finalizing the list.

The four factors with their order of preference that The Economist team evaluates before creating the Full-time MBA ranking are opening new career opportunities (35%); personal development/educational experience (35%); increasing salary (20%); and the potential to network (10%).

Before we go into each factors and review whether the factors and their order of preference matches with that of what an MBA aspirant value, let us look at the 2010 ranking methodology that the team had adopted.

Number of Schools

In 2010, the Economist invited 130 leading Business Schools that offer a Full-time MBA program to a two-part survey that required the participation of schools, students, and alumni. The Economist didn’t include 15 schools because it did not respond to the survey or failed to provide enough data for evaluating the school. So the 2010 top 100 ranking was based on response from 115 schools.

Regional Ranking

The Economist also features regional ranking divided into North America, Europe and Asia & Australia. Full-time MBA programs not featured in the top 100 ranking are listed in regional rankings.

Data Collection and Validation

Data were collected from web based questionnaires and in the 2011 survey, a total of 18,712 students participated from 115 Business Schools with an average of 160+ participants from each school.

The data were then validated based on historical data, published sources, and from peer schools. There have been several cases of misrepresenting facts, and this is one of the most important part in any data validation. The Economist team also checks the questionnaire for misrepresentation or multiple entries.

50-30-20 Rule

The weighted average of the previous year’s data is also considered for this year’s ranking although the percentage decreases with year. For 2013 data, the class of 2011(2-Year Program) or 2012 (1-Year Program) is given the highest priority (50%), followed by 1-year earlier data (30%), and 2-year earlier data (20%). This means that if a school performed well in the latest survey but did moderately in the previous 2-years, the net result would be above average. To top the ranking, the schools have to consistently maintain the quality and to drop drastically in ranking (10 positions and above), the schools have to perform consistently bad in a 3-year period.


• The 50-30-20 Rule makes sure that consistency is required to maintain positions in The Economist MBA ranking


•  Policies on penalty for data misrepresentation are not clear. This might encourage Business Schools to inflate their data.


• Although over 18000 participants in a survey is a good indicator, the percentage of students, alumni, and school representatives who responded to the survey is much more important. Unfortunately, this data is missing.

Reference: The Economist MBA Ranking