Harvard Business School (HBS) maintained its third-place ranking when Business Week released its biennial rankings of the top U.S. business schools last week.
According to Business Week, HBS now ranks behind both Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and The University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, traditionally ranked among the top two programs in the country, fell four places this year—from first to fifth.
Last time, HBS finished behind Wharton and Kellogg.
Kellogg and Chicago won praise for their intimate culture and top-notch career placement resources.
Chicago’s Associate Director of Communications Barbara Backe said that the school’s new dean, Edward A. Snyder, has played an integral role in the school’s ascension from 10th to second place.
“He has been very accessible to students—he holds coffees for them and he pays a lot of attention to their personal needs,” said Backe.
Business Week conducted polls of graduates and corporate recruiters in order to assess the schools. The magazine reported that Harvard graduates complained of an aloof, seemingly undedicated administration and poor career placement services—HBS finished 14th in graduate satisfaction.
HBS Dean Kim B. Clark ’74 agreed that Harvard could improve its recruitment services.
“The main challenge this year was that many students did not receive good on-campus recruiting,” he said. “So we have taken measures to improve our alumni connections and to support students better with off-campus recruiting initiatives.”
Clark said HBS is also hiring more career counselors and updating its technology in order to publicize alumni recruitment more widely.
“We began many of these new initiatives last year, but we started too late in the season. This year we are beginning early and we hope to be much more proactive in our approach to recruitment,” he said.
But despite student complaints over job placement, corporate recruiters interviewed for the survey ranked HBS students as the best in America.
“With the weak economy, a lot of business school graduates are disappointed with current job opportunities, but people have to realize that Harvard fares far better than other business schools,” said Craig M. Robinson, who graduated from the Business School last year and now works at Trammell Crow, a management firm based in Dallas.
He attributes the low graduate rating to the mix of high expectations and a bad economy.
“When HBS students don’t get their first or second choice job, they feel a need to point a finger at someone,” said Robinson. “They tend to associate their disappointment with the school.”
Clark agreed. “We always have very high recruiter rankings and comparatively lower graduate rankings,” he said. “That stems from the fact that our students have tremendously high expectations of us, which sets them up for disappointment.”
“The graduate survey is simply a measure of the students’ experience relative to their expectations,” Clark added.
Though Business Week has listed HBS between third and fifth over the last decade, many HBS students questioned the importance of these rankings.
“It’s really a number shuffle. All these surveys are volatile. It’s hard to give them credence,” Robinson said.
Sanford Kreisberg, founder of Cambridge Essay Service, an admissions consulting firm for applicants to elite business schools, dismisses the Business Week rankings.
“From an applicant’s point of view, the top three schools are still Harvard, Stanford, Wharton,” he said. “And that is not likely to change year to year, as these rankings seem to do. Those places are, and remain, the hardest to get into and have the most clout with peers.”