The past year has been turbulent and unusual in many ways, and the MBA application season is no exception. In April 2020, the Graduate Management Admission Council and two accreditation agencies sent a joint letter to ranking institutions asking them to halt or postpone their work until further notice because of the unpredictability of the global situation. Consequently, Bloomberg Businessweek chose not to release a ranking at its usual time in the fall, and U.S. News & World Report chose to instead focus its January 2021 ranking on online MBA programs.
After careful consideration, The Economist decided to put together a 2021 full-time ranking with the schools that chose to partake. However, the so-called “M7” schools—which include the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Harvard Business School—are absent from the list, as they declined to participate. “Although some well-known schools are missing, we have ranked 90 schools on their full-time courses, using responses to quantitative and qualitative questions from thousands of current and former MBA students,” The Economist states on its site.
Given the absence of some schools, this year’s list looks notably different from previous rankings. The Economist awarded the top spot to IESE Business School, which is based in Barcelona, after ranking the school tenth last year. The rest of the top ten is split fairly evenly between schools in the United States and Europe—HEC Paris stands in second place, one spot higher than last year, and Michigan Ross is now third after ranking ninth the previous year. Some of the most dramatic changes in ranking involved such schools as the Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology, which is fifth this year compared to 23rd in 2020; the French institution EDHEC Business School, which saw a change of 25 spots from last year and is now in seventh place; the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, which at ninth place is ranked 22 spots higher than last year; and Switzerland’s IMD Business school, which was ranked 35th in 2020 and is tenth this year.
We at mbaMission always remind applicants to take all business school rankings with a grain of salt—and this year perhaps especially so. Although these lists can be interesting to read, they definitely should not serve as a deciding factor when evaluating MBA programs. Have fun with them! The application process can feel daunting, and rankings should not add to your stress.