Poets&Quants 2023-2024 MBA Ranking: Stanford’s Triumphant Return To The Top

MBA ranking

It’s long been known that business schools have a love/hate relationship with MBA rankings. When they go up, you’ll find little complaint. But when they go down, the knives come out.

Well, there will be plenty to love and much to hate in the 2023-2024 composite ranking from Poets&Quants. Few would likely disagree with Stanford’s re-emergence at the top of the list for having the best full-time, residential MBA program in the U.S. After all, Stanford Graduate School of Business has rightly claimed that title five times in the 14 years of the ranking, including four of the last five. And few would likely argue with the No. 2 ranking for Harvard Business School, which has topped our list for seven of the 14 years. But then the surprises come fast and furious.

Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business has its best showing, securing third place, while No. 4 Columbia Business School and No. 5 Yale School of Management also have their best showings ever in this ranking. Rounding out the Top Ten are No. 6 Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, No. 7 Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Business, No. 8 UVA’s Darden School of Business, No. 9 Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and No. 10 New York University’s Stern School of Business. The higher-than-expected ranks for these schools is a testament to their outstanding quality, often diminished in many traditional rankings.


2023-2024 MBA rankingThe single biggest shock in the ranking is Wharton’s fall to 31st place, a consequence of its disappearance from the latest Financial Times ranking and a surprising fall in Bloomberg Businessweek‘s ranking, where the school’s MBA program placed a lowly eighth. And while Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, and MIT Sloan all fell out of Poets&Quants’ Top Ten, they are ranked 11th, 12th, and 14th, respectively. Most of the upheaval is caused by an unavoidable change in the methodology used to compile our composite list. Our international MBA program ranking will be released next week.

Unlike other rankings, the 14th annual Poets&Quants list combines the most influential business school rankings in the world: U.S. News & World Report, The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, and for the first time LinkedIn‘s debut MBA ranking and Princeton Review‘s annual list of the best. The latter two rankings were added after the decision by The Economist and Forbes to abandon their MBA ranking projects.

Instead of merely averaging the five lists, each ranking is separately weighted to account for our view of their credibility. (U.S. News is given a weight of 35%, the Financial Times is at 30%, Businessweek is given a 15% weight, and LinkedIn and Princeton Review are each given 10%. The addition of these two rankings puts greater weight on two important measures: a longer-term view of career outcomes from LinkedIn and a fuller appreciation of thel academic and educational experience of MBA students from the Princeton Review. The greater focus on those metrics help to decrease the rankings dependence on more traditional measures such as admission stats and starting compensation.

In truth, none of these rankings capture the true essence of the academic experience delivered in an MBA program. A school’s ups and downs may have more to do with the career choices of its graduates than it is a reflection of the caliber of an MBA program. Tuck’s strong rankings in recent years owes much to its success in funneling so many MBA graduates into consulting and financial services, two industries that pay freshly minted MBAs the highest starting salaries and bonuses. This year, for example, nearly seven of ten Tuck grads went into those two fields alone, with 46% becoming consultants with median starting salaries of $190,000 and 23% headed into financial services where the beginning salaries were $175,000. Consulting and financial services also recruit on a schedule that pushes up another metric counted in several rankings: placement rates at graduation and three months later. Schools that put grads into a wider group of industries, including tech, healthcare, consumer products and entertainment, end up with lower rankings because those industries pay less and often hire outside traditional recruiting schedules.

Poets&Quants 2023-2024 Top Ten MBA Programs

Rank & School Y-O-Y Change Newest Cohort Size Women International First Gen
1. Stanford +2 431 46% 36% 11%
2. Harvard +3 938 45% 39% 11%
3. Dartmouth (Tuck) +6 297 44% 33% 19%
4. Columbia +3 900 44% 47% NR
5. Yale SOM +3 339 40% 50% 16%
6. Duke (Fuqua) +6 385 45% 47% 18%
7. Cornell (Johnson) +6 283 43% 42% NR
8. Virginia (Darden) +6 352 37% 41% 21%
9. Michigan (Ross) +2 379 43% 43% 17%
10. New York (Stern) +5 327 43% 48%
Source: Poets&Quants analysis of class profiles. NR = Not Reported


Even so, as proxies for quality, rankings are obsessively consumed and watched by applicants, students, alumni, and business school officials. The 2023-2024 Poets&Quants MBA ranking is a reflection of those imperfect results. Yet by combining all five of the top rankings and weighing each for its credibility and authority, the composite MBA ranking has become a much-cited touchstone in the MBA world. It provides a more complete sense of where a school’s MBA program ultimately stands in the hotly competitive business education market. That said, this year’s addition of two new rankings does cause more substantial shifts in rankings that will, no doubt, raise eyebrows.

Our ranking also offers evidence that the differences, particularly among the very top-ranked schools, are often inconsequential, regardless of a school’s actual numerical rank. What separates a school ranked fourth from one ranking eighth is statistically insignificant — or at least rankings are unable to discern meaningful quality differences among the programs. That is why we include the index numbers behind the numerical ranks. Consumers of rankings need to bring a certain skeptical eye to all of them for that every reason. The index shows that the difference between Chicago Booth’s No. 11th ranking and Northwestern Kellogg’s No. 12th ranking is a mere .2 gap. That means the MBA programs at these two schools are equal and the numerical rank difference is statistically meaningless. 

It’s also important to note that combining these five more credible rankings doesn’t eliminate the flaws in each system, but it does significantly diminish them. When an anomaly pops on one list due to either faulty survey technique or biased methodology, bringing all the data together tends to suppress oddball results in a single ranking. So the composite index tones down the noise in each of these five surveys to get more directly at the real signal that is being sent. The upshot: More importantly for users, our ranking tables allows you to glimpse where the top MBA programs fall across the most credible lists and to immediately see where there is concurrence or a strange result that you should discount.


Let’s immediately address the biggest surprise this year: Wharton’s mediocre showing. The school’s MBA program plunged more places — 30 in all — than any other MBA program in the U.S. this year. Truth be told, 2023 has been an awful rankings year for The Wharton School. First off, Wharton’s MBA program completely fell out of the Financial Times MBA ranking after it failed to reach the minimum threshold of responses to the Financial Times’ alumni survey. That has never happened to an M7 school. Wharton’s failure to meet the 20% response rate is  a likely reflection of the lingering resentment of its MBA students who bore the brunt of the pandemic shutdown (see At Wharton, 8 Devastating PowerPoint Slides That Capture MBA Anger & Frustration). Those students were particularly resentful of the school’s leadership. The survey found that 86% of the students felt the Wharton administration had not incorporated student feedback in the decisions that led to online-only instruction and lockdowns in the fall of 2020.

Add to this the fact that Wharton fell to third from first in U.S. News and to eighth from seventh in Bloomberg Businessweek. Wharton, which has often been singled out by its own students for the uneven teaching quality in its MBA program, isn’t ranked at all by Princeton Review where student satisfaction is the focus. On career outcomes tracked by LinkedIn, it fares much better in fourth place behind Harvard, Stanford, and Dartmouth Tuck but even here it may come as a shock that Tuck alums fare somewhat better in the workplace than Wharton MBAs.

No less crucial, near-term prospects for Wharton are not all that favorable because the school has been among the worst hit by major donors who are disgusted with the university’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war. The donor backlash includes Apollo Management, Inc. CEO and 1984 Wharton graduate Marc Rowan, who currently serves as chair of the Board of Advisors to the Wharton School, and Peter Huntsman, a former member of Wharton’s Executive Board, whose father’s name adorns one of Wharton’s most important buildings. All in all, it’s quite a comedown for a program that had been ranked first by P&Q last year. Hedge fund manager Ross L. Stevens also said that he would claw back a $100 million donation he had made in 2019 to establish the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance at Wharton.

Wharton’s failure to hit a meager response rate for the Financial Times‘ alumni questionnaires is also telling. The FT surveys alumni three years after completing their MBA. For schools to enter the ranking calculations, the FT usually requires that a minimum of 20% of alumni reply to the survey, with at least 20 fully completed surveys. That relatively low hurdle rate was even made more liberal in this ranking. While a rank of 31 clearly undervalues Wharton’s MBA and the school will certainly bounce back next year, there’s no question that 2023 hasn’t been a good one for the M7 program.

So when a school moves up or down in this composite ranking, it’s a function of how the school’s MBA program has performed in this year’s most important rankings. While Wharton underperformed, many other MBA programs gained important ground. Dartmouth Tuck pulled ahead of most M7 schools by improving its U.S. News rank to sixth from 11th a year earlier, advancing to a rank of third on the Bloomberg Businessweek list from fifth and winning recognition from LinkedIn’s analysis of alumni data. That analysis showed that the career progression of Tuck alums — and their proven networking skills on LinkedIn’s platform — bested every U.S. MBA program with only two exceptions: Harvard and Stanford. Those results helped Tuck move up six places to impressively finish third. The best evidence of the school’s remarkable strength is in this year’s MBA employment report. Ninety-six percent of Tuck’s MBA Class of 2023 were offered jobs by three months after graduation, marking the third straight year and ninth in the last 10 that Tuck grads have enjoyed 95% offers or better. At Harvard, the equivalent number the year was a dismal 86%, a full ten percentage points lower than Tuck, down from 95% one year ago.


Significant gains also were achieved by Duke Fuqua, Cornell Johnson, and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. These full-time MBA programs each advanced by six places to land solidly in the Top Ten. New York University’s Stern School of Business gained five spots the year to get back into a Top Ten rank as well, while Columbia Business School and Yale School of Management improved their year-over-year rankings to move to stronger Top Ten positions, respectively ranking fourth and fifth. Over the course of our annual rankings, Yale has shown the single biggest improvement of any prestige MBA program. It has gone from a rank of 17th in 2013 to its highest rank ever this year.

All of this positive movement came at the expense of Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, and MIT Sloan, MBA programs that lost ground and fell out of the Top Ten for the first time in Poets&Quants‘ ranking. It’s not that these MBA programs suffered any major setbacks; it’s just that other programs had a better rankings year, especially when longer-term career outcomes and student satisfaction with the educational experience were more heavily put into the mix with the addition of the LinkedIn and Princeton Review lists.

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