Rankings Rundown

So sorry that I’ve been absent for the past few weeks – its been a busy term! – A few things have happened that I want to touch on that my readers may find relevant. The biggest one is that (as many of you know) the FT posted its MBA rankings and SBS fell a few slots. Now I could get into a long rant about the methodology; how 47% is based on Salary 3-years out while only 4% is based on “Aims Achieved.” Or how INSEAD helped to develop the FT rankings in the first place and they happen to be #1 this year. But that doesn’t help anyone. Instead I’ve taken the past few weeks to look at and think about the accuracy of the ranking, its relevance, and what changes can (and are) being made to improve the school itself (regardless of rankings) in the long-term.

First of all, I think that the rankings are more-or-less accurate if you are an MBA recruiter looking to slot Management Consulting or Finance candidates. We should probably be in the late-teens, but there is a lot to be said about our 1-year program (which starts late) and its ability to prepare our students for in those fields in the short-time frame that we have. This is a problem which can be fixed and in looking at the program for the next 2-3 years it will be addressed very quickly with a handful of initiatives designed to give students who know they want to do Finance or Consulting the tools they need to network, recruit, interview, and get placed at top firms. We already started this shift with our year, the first to offer a summer internship for credit which allows partnerships with Deloitte and Accenture (and many finance roles I know little about) which can parlay into jobs following the MBA.

Second, as you may have guessed from the first part, I think that rankings are largely irrelevant. Really only Finance and Consulting recruiters care about MBA rankings. Tech, the next biggest recruiter, doesn’t really and the one that does (Amazon) just hired like 10-15 people from SBS. For all fields, when you move to your second job (typically within 2-3 years post-MBA) the recruiter doesn’t care about your MBA ranking but the brand recognition of your institution. In our case Oxford University carries significant weight. In the long-run, it shouldn’t have to; SBS should be able to stand on its own, but it is an undeniable fact that the school and students enrolled or incoming should lean into. We are a part of the broader University of Oxford – an institution 220 years older than the founding of the Aztec empire, 350 years older than the Gutenberg printing press, and only 42 years younger than the Greek Orthodox church which split from the Roman Catholic church in 1054. We are backed by amazing colleges rich with history, scholarships, and alumni networks that other business schools can only dream about – incoming students lean into your college network.

Third, other schools are focused on building huge alumni bases and top salaries in a play for the rankings and to make up for what Oxford has and they lack. They recruit students who are sponsored by their consulting firms in large numbers and often they lack the ethnic, cultural, or gender diversity let alone the diversity of industry we have at SBS. In my section we have your standard 3Ms of an MBA (Mormon/Military, Male, McKinsey) but we also have leaders from Teach For America (a huge feeder into Google and other large Tech firms), master’s students in Data & Analytics, Mechanical Engineers, high-fashion experts, social entrepreneurs who built schools in Africa, and quite possibly a handful future Heads of State. SBS chooses to (potentially) sacrifice the rankings in favor of a more diverse student population and I feel that the discussion, and our global network is far superior to other schools because of it.

Lastly, we are in the process of rapidly changing things but that takes time. We are going to on-board students differently, we have tapped a new careers director (announcement forthcoming) and are now looking at a replacement for the MBA director role that was vacated this past week. We have quadrupled the number of marketing electives this year and are poised to propel a new generation of digital-first marketers into Brand Manager roles at major firms. We hired a new careers lead for Social Impact and are looking at hiring another for Technology as well.

Each day as class Rep I sit in one meeting or another with faculty or administration; day-in day-out I see how the sausage is made. Has the school messed up in a few areas? Definitely although they may not admit it. Do the operations and communications need tuning and improvement? Absolutely, which is just one reason why Dina Dommett was hired 9 months ago and you can see the improvement she has been. Does the school know where their challenges lay and how they are going to address them? Mostly (and where they aren’t its more because of bandwidth, not institutional inertia). Is this a perfect school? No. Is HBS? Wharton? Kellogg? LBS? – In talking with my friends at those schools they have similar complaints across the board. Can we be a much better school? Yes, and I have complete confidence in the long-term value of an Oxford MBA from SBS. This degree is going to be immensely valuable – despite what the FT rankings might lead you to believe.


As always if you want to talk about any of this reach out to me (a few incoming students already have) – email: blog@davidbbaker.com and I’ll get to you as soon as I finish a couple of assignments!