The 2013 Financial Times rankings are a testament to the power of top business schools, and, simultaneously, to the fragility of that power.
This paradoxical feat aptly reflects the current state of MBA education, as schools constantly strive to adapt and grow while also retaining the strengths that made them great in the first place.
On the one hand, the rankings evince the undeniable power of traditionally high-ranking schools.
Yes, the #1 ranking did change hands this year; but Harvard Business School unseating Stanford GSB is hardly David vs. Goliath- it’s more like a Clash of the Titans.
According to this Financial Times article, only four schools have held the number one spot since the rankings’ inception- Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and London Business School.
Looking at that statistic, the rankings might seem ironclad, more of a foregone conclusion than a big announcement.
However, a closer look proves FT’s rankings are far from static- starting with the reigning number one.
Prior to this ranking, Harvard had not held the number one ranking for eight years, and the school had to make significant improvements in salary rankings, research, and diversity to regain the top spot.
Given this year’s shakeup, Stanford, Wharton and other schools will likely try for the same feat next year.
Look further down the list and you will see additional evidence that top schools cannot simply rest on their laurels.
As the Financial Times points out, and as I described in my last blog post, British business schools suffered in this year’s rankings, in part because of stricter visa requirements in the U.K. Asian schools filled some of the spots left behind, with three more Asian-Pacific schools making the top 100 this year and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology finishing No. 8.
For today’s MBA student, aspiring to a top education, this tough competition is a pretty good thing.
It means that top schools must strive to earn their ranking, and it encourages those just below to constantly aim high.
It means that top schools are well worth aiming for, but that many other options are great as well.
Much like Harvard and other business schools, you can constantly strive for improvement as a student, and, with many great choices, find a school that rewards your efforts.