Villanova Tops Flawed Businessweek Undergrad B-School Ranking

The Villanova School of Business

The Villanova School of Business

Last week, Bloomberg Businessweek announced that it would no longer rank undergraduate business schools. Based on its final ranking released today (April 19th), it is easy to see why.

Long known for judicious research and high standards, Businessweek dumped a wacky ranking on the education world with as many holes as a gopher’s nest.  In Businessweek’s wild final ride Wharton – regarded by some academics as the finest undergraduate business program in the country – doesn’t even make its top 10. And the University of California-Berkeley (Haas) and Washington University (Olin), long-time fixtures in the top five, are afterthoughts.

So it should be poetic justice that 2016’s top undergraduate business program – in Businessweek’s view, at least – is Villanova University. Forget the ranking’s flaky output for a moment and give the school props. What a special month! Three weeks ago, Villanova fans were celebrating Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beating three-pointer to win the men’s basketball championship. And now the school boasts the top program in academia’s most populous major.


Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business

Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business

Of course, few saw this Cinderella story happening. In Businessweek’s last ranking in 2014, the school finished 24th – the equivalent to a sixth seed in the NCAA tournament. Despite the odds, Villanova went supernova, leapfrogging more decorated programs (including cross-town rival Wharton) to earn a perfect 100 index score. But it was no easy climb. Just .14 of a point separated Villanova from runner-up Notre Dame, the top undergrad business program of 2014.

So why should Peter Donohue, Provost Patrick Maggitti, and Interim Dean Daniel Wright be loaded onto the big bus and showered with cheers and confetti on Market Street? This year, Villanova excelled in that ever-flawed category that mattered most to Businessweek: The Employer Survey. Here, the school finished 2nd overall – with employer opinion accounting for 40% of a school’s rank.

Based on opinions collected from 1,079 recruiters at 582 firms, the employer score is based on two components: “Average rating by employers (a measure of the school’s quality in the eyes of recruiters); and the sum of ratings it received (a measure of the school’s reach).” In other words, not only did Villanova students impress potential employers in the areas important to them, but also performed well once they were hired. More impressive, the program has progressed substantially in this area, ranking 55th among employers in 2014 (and 31st in 2013).


Employers weren’t the only ones happy with Villanova. Students themselves gave the business program high marks. The school placed 10th in the student survey, which covers another 35% of the ranking’s weight. This survey was conducted with over 27,000 recent graduates, with each school needing a minimum of 30 alumni responses to be ranked (with 2014 surveys given a fourth of the student survey weight). While Businessweek didn’t disclose the 22 questions posed to graduates, they have traditionally covered areas like teaching and facilities. That said, student satisfaction has traditionally been a Villanova strength, with the school ranking 13th here in Businessweek’s 2014 undergrad business rankings.

However, Villanova still has room for improvement. Despite scoring high marks from employers, recent grads lag behind their peers in starting salary, finishing 29th in this category (which contributes 15% of a school ranking). Villanova also ranked below the top ten in internships, which is defined by Businessweek as “work experience that accumulates a minimum of 120 hours of work within a six-month (consecutive) period, in which a student receives supervision and/or mentorship and in which the student applies his or her knowledge and skills learned in college.” Luckily, this only comprises 10% of the weight.

Boston College Carroll School of Management

Boston College Carroll School of Management

Ironically, 2nd-ranked Notre Dame often flourished where Villanova floundered. Case in point: Student surveys. For the third year running, Mendoza topped all comers in terms of student satisfaction – a tribute to the school’s academically rigorous yet deeply value-driven and supportive culture. Notre Dame grads also pulled down higher starting salaries than their Villanova counterparts (though Businessweek chose to rank schools in this area rather than disclose actual salaries as in years past). In the end, these differences cancelled each other out, with Villanova’s stronger performance in the employer survey enabling it to squeak out the win over Notre Dame.

Rounding out the top three is Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. This school is defined by consistent excellence, being one of three schools to rank in the top 20 across all four measurements (with Indiana and Texas being the others). Like Villanova – also a Jesuit institution – Carroll shined in both the employer and student survey, ranking 5th in each category. Notably, Boston College climbed from 15th to 5th in the student survey since Businessweek’s 2014 ranking, while hanging in the employer top 10 for the past three rankings. Carroll’s Achilles heel, however, was starting salary, though the school still posted a respectable 17th-place finish here.

Despite ranking 4th and 5th, Indiana University (Kelley) and the University of Virginia (McIntire) are probably responding differently to this year’s ranking. Since the 2013 Businessweek undergraduate business ranking, Kelley has vaulted up nine spots overall. The school is a favorite of employers, placing 4th in the employer survey (after ranking 1st in this measure in both the 2014 and 2013 rankings). The school has also made slow-but-steady gains in student satisfaction over that time as well, going from 20th to 13th. McIntire, on the other hand, tumbled three spots after ranking 2nd in both of the previous Businessweek rankings. To add insult to injury, Virginia ranked in the top 10 in three categories, topping out at 2nd in student satisfaction. So where does the school fall short? Try the all-important employer survey, where the school finished a dismal 43rd.


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