GSB claims top spot in U.S. News rankings

March 28, 2011, 2:38 a.m.

After sharing the top spot with Harvard for the past three years in the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the country’s top business schools, the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) has claimed sole possession of No. 1 in the newly released 2012 rankings. Harvard Business School dropped to second place.

The GSB, however, remains modest about this achievement.

“Because of our belief in the inherent limitations and subjectivity of any ranking system, we are careful not to read much into our standings, especially when the changes are so small,” GSB Dean Garth Saloner wrote in an email to The Daily. “The margins among schools at the top of this and other surveys are very thin.”

“Just as there is no ‘best’ city in which to live or ‘best’ career path to pursue, we don’t believe that there is a ‘best school.’”

Saloner said he encourages applicants to decide which school best suits them based on their own personal values, aspirations and interests. Applicants’ independent research and visits to different business schools provide a richer and more meaningful picture than a simple aggregate ranking, he said.

The U.S. News methodology is based on a qualitative assessment by peer deans and corporate recruiters, placement success and school selectivity.

Measures of placement success, an area in which the GSB excels, include starting salary and percentage of graduates employed at graduation or three months after graduation. Measures of student selectivity include undergraduate GPAs and GMAT scores of entering students, as well as the acceptance rate.

Though a given school’s acceptance rate is not heavily weighted in U.S. News’ methodology, Stanford’s rate of 6.8 percent is far below that of other elite business schools. This low rate is partially due to the fact that the GSB’s class size is somewhat smaller than those of its competitors.

With a self-reported tuition of $53,118 in 2010, the GSB was also the fourth most expensive business school to attend in the country.

“Tuition is ‘information,’” said Barbara Buell, communications director at the GSB. “It is not a factor in the [U.S. News] ranking itself.”

Saloner said the GSB did not take any deliberate action to improve its performance in the rankings.

“We set our vision and strategy based on our deep knowledge of the field of business and our abiding aspiration to continue to provide an outstanding management education,” he said. “We do not use rankings in our marketing. Rather, we prefer to point to our records of research and education and have those who inquire speak directly with our students and faculty.”

Saloner further believes that the GSB’s curriculum set it apart from other schools. The business school boasts a new MBA curriculum that debuted in 2007 and has numerous collaborative efforts with the University’s other graduate schools, including the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering. The GSB’s relatively small student body size is also a distinct advantage.

“We now offer a 16-person Critical Analytical Thinking seminar to all entering students, along with small-group leadership labs and a required Global Experience (usually a study or service trip or global internship),” Saloner said. “All this comes on top of the canon of business knowledge necessary to the strongest possible management education.”

“Together, these elements provide a transforming two-year experience for our students who apply their leadership and passion for management to a broad spectrum of careers.”

While Saloner believes it was still too early for the Knight Management Center, which fully opens its doors on Apr. 29, to have made an impact on the rankings, he expects the center and the programs it supports to be a source of innovative educational offerings in the future.

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