The power of a wide, accessible network at a business school is undisputed. As for which programs have the most powerful networks, large and urban options such as Columbia Business School and Harvard Business School tend to come to mind first. Some results from The Economist’s most recent MBA ranking, however, suggest that these instincts might be skewed. As part of the publication’s annual survey, it asks MBA students to rate the utility of their school’s greater network, and the 2014 results reveal some rather surprising data. Although the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame placed 45th overall in The Economist’s ranking, it is third with respect to “usefulness of the alumni network.” Similarly, the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California stands at 64th overall but is sixth based on the strength of its graduate community.
In addition, the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University and the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are rated sixth and seventh, respectively, on the basis of their alumni networks, though both appear much lower in the overall MBA survey (at 23rd and 35th). The only non-U.S. program to be included in the top ten for its network is the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland, which ranked 21st in the comprehensive survey in 2014.
Interestingly, the majority of the programs that ranked among the top ten in this area are relatively small in student population—seven have enrollments of fewer than 1,000 students. Small class size can help encourage a close-knit community, allowing students to forge connections that last far beyond graduation. The size of the surrounding community may also contribute to creating a dynamic network. Attending a school in a smaller, quieter town likely bolsters school spirit because of the comparative lack of activities outside campus.
Notably, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College received the survey’s highest rating with respect to its alumni network, and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business stands at fourth.