Maybe you’ve heard about a particular master’s during your studies, have friends or colleagues who have touted the transformative benefits of a school, or are looking to transform or expand your career. Whatever’s the case, usually you’ll begin your investigation by looking at a ranking. If you’re in the US, you may look to US News; in the UK, you’ll probably first turn to The Economist; while in Europe and Asia, you may be brought to The Financial Times. However, a ranking alone is a poor source for identifying ideal programs. Let’s look at the latest MiM rankings from the top 2 global agencies, ordered based on the average standing:
While a small number of schools consistently rank in the top 10, many experience large disparities between the ranking services. For instance, the University of Warwick is 3rd according to FT but 10th according to The Economist. What’s more, a total 8 schools are only ranked by one of the agencies in the two Top 10s. Why are the differences so great? Rankings are far more art than science. The measures, methods and weights of all ranking components, even when changed marginally, lead to significant disparities in outcome. Not only that, but the rankings experience large volatility year-to-year, with schools dropping or rising dozens of positions, which isn’t true-to-life as quality among master’s does not change meaningfully on an annual basis. Moreover, many schools just experience ‘rankings fatigue,’ and choose not to participate; you won’t find powerful US universities like Kellogg or Duke in the above lists.
But these publications do serve a purpose. Rankings are good for understating your universe of options and for gleaning the background data they provide on schools, such as salary information, alumni location, common job categories, etc. To accurately select a school, you need to look deeper into your possibilities. What’s the culture of this school: is it more team based or more competitive? Does the program orient itself towards consulting, finance, data analytics or something else? Does it have a large cohort or a small one? It might even be the case that a Master in Finance would be as useful as one in Management or even Data Science. There are many questions about the program, its students, its partners and post-master’s job opportunities that you’ll need to answer before you can arrive at a ‘ranking’ that works for your future.