Top Business Schools

What’s the best business school in the world? 

BusinessWeek says it’s University of Chicago. U.S. News says it’s Harvard. The Economist says it’s Spain’s IESE.  Unfortunately, most of them are wrong.

 Just jump right to the list >

The best business school in the world, according to our proprietary ranking, is Harvard Business School. By a long shot.

Already, many of you are bristling. There are so many other great MBA programs! Lots of business-school grads do very well — or better — than the self-anointed wunderkinds from HBS! And all those arrogant HBS people think they should all be CEO at 27!

Maybe so. But the value of a business school is not just about the quality of the professors. Or the “education.” Or the campus facilities.  Or any of the other things business schools love to brag about and most business school rankings focus on. 

These factors are obviously important.  But lots of schools have them.  And they’re hard to tell apart.  At the highest levels, moreover, there’s only one thing that really differentiates one business school from another: The amount the school will help your future career. 

Beyond the curriculum, that breaks down to:

  • the value of the school’s brand (how others perceive the quality of the school), and
  • the network of contacts you build while you’re there

These two things — a credential that will cause future employers, executives, investors, and journalists to be impressed by you and a high-power social network — will help your career more than any particular accounting course or case study.  And they’re part of what you’re buying when you elect to spend two years and up to ~$100,000 as a customer of a particular business school.

So, given this, how do you determine the proper ranking of the world’s top full-time MBA programs?  You ask the folks who matter to your future career–employers, executives, investors, and journalists–what they think.  And that’s what we’ve done.

Over the past month, we have asked our readers to name the 10 best business schools in the world.  They have responded with an overwhelming endorsement of Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and other top full-time programs.  We have also interviewed more than a dozen recruiters across a wide range of companies–IBM, GE, McKesson, Bain, VC firms, startups–to get their sense of the top business schools.  Their comments confirmed the feedback we got from our readers.

Our readers confirm that the quality of the curriculum at the school is very important. In fact, when asked to list the single MOST important differentiator among the schools, they responded as follows:

  • 38% said the skills and knowledge acquired in courses was was most important
  • 31% the network of contacts acquired was most important, and
  • 28% said the brand value of the school and degree was most important. 

Other business school rankings do a good job of evaluating the curricula and facilities of the various schools, and we’ve included their findings here.  But in our opinion the other lists underweight the value of the network of contacts and the brand value of the school and degree.

Unlike the other business-school ranking lists, which often trigger bewilderment among those who actually work in business, our rankings probably won’t surprise anyone.  Our list is also global: We know too many wildly successful executives educated at INSEAD, LSE, and other schools located outside the U.S. to confine our rankings to the U.S.A. The business world has gone global.  And so should lists of the world’s best business schools.

So, let’s get  to it…