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How effective are MBA rankings when comparing universities?

With so many MBA programs on offer around the world, it’s tough to compare and choose the right program, and university, for your studies. University MBA rankings are one way in which to gain an overall perspective, but what do they really mean?
Campus Düsseldorf, where WHU's MBA that continually tops the MBA rankings, takes place

What are rankings?

International magazines such as the Financial Times, The Economist, or worldwide education and career networks such as QS, publish well-known, global rankings. By gathering information from universities, students, and alumni, they are often the first place that perspective students begin their research.

Different ranking bodies assess schools on different areas. These can range from research output, internationality, careers and salary, to faculty diversity, student satisfaction, and student numbers. By gathering this data, universities and their individual programs are ordered into league tables.

How are rankings for MBA useful?

MBA classes are diverse – every student has their own background, motive, and aspirations, and it’s this that makes the MBA journey so unique. By researching the rankings of different universities and programs, you can gain a top-level perspective on performance. Rankings can guide you on which university excels in career prospects, where to go if you’re interested in research, the most international environments to be in, or how you’re valued as a graduate.

As a starting point, rankings are a popular way to orientate yourself in the variety of MBAs and business schools on offer, but should not be the sole basis for a decision when choosing between different MBA programs. Often such rankings are determined according to criteria that are not explained, and really act more as ‘snapshots’ of individual aspects of a program or school, rather than quality in the same way as accreditations.

Are MBA rankings always conclusive?

Each ranking body assesses schools differently, so it’s important to have a clear understanding of their methodology. All universities have different strengths to offer, as a whole and in their programs, meaning there is no single authority on a university’s standing. WHU’s Dean, Professor Dr. Markus Rudolf, is clear on this. “There is not just one business school ranking. There are good and bad, those who focus more on research and others who focus on income. Every ranking has its own target group, so it’s important to explore a variety.”

Ranking and reputation are not synonymous, which is why applicants are encouraged to research different rankings, their methodologies, and to consider what is important for their needs.

Why do business schools want to be in rankings?

It goes without saying that rankings of course help business schools attract talent and confirm their reputation. It’s important for schools to gain external validation of their program, but this also acts as a way for them to map their development and constantly improve. However, as Professor Dr. Markus Rudolf explains, they shouldn’t be the main steer for school’s strategy. “Rankings should not influence the strategy of a university,” he says. “Every university needs to decide which topics they want to create to add real value for students, society, and teachers. That being said, there are categories in some rankings that that are important for a sensible strategy, but not all rankings are good. It’s just as important to have the courage to actively ignore rankings that don’t suit the strategy and society of the school.”

How does WHU rate in these rankings?

Through such globally recognized rankings, WHU is making its mark on the international MBA market. In the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Global MBA Ranking from the Financial Times, the WHU MBA Program achieved #1 in Germany, beating many other prestigious and well-reputed business schools. In 2022, WHU was ranked #1 by the Financial Times as best MBA in Germany for entrepreneurship teaching.

Each year, the Financial Times MBA Ranking rates the top 100 MBA programs in the world. This particular ranking consists of several categories, including student satisfaction, career and salary development after graduation, as well as student and faculty diversity.

As a method of research, exploring rankings can be a successful way of discovering top schools you may not already be familiar with. When choosing a school and program, looking into rankings goes hand-in-hand with visiting the campus, talking to staff and students, and finding a program that meets your career goals.

Want to find out more about the #1 MBA program in Germany? Still have more questions?

Our MBA Recruiting Team would be happy to help.

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