The survey shows that 38% of respondents refer to the Economist rankings when gathering information about potential MBA programmes.

The Economist publishes rankings about the top full-time MBA and executive MBA programmes as well as the Top 10 business schools ranking in terms of networking, the Top 10 in terms of facilities and the Top 20 business schools in North America. The Economist Global Full-time MBA ranking is published annually in October and began in 2002.

The Economist full-time MBA rankings feature 100 of the most elite business schools globally and give users the opportunity to view the schools of their choice ranked by region. For instance, if your interest is only in European business schools, you filter for that continent and the system automatically displays where European schools appear in the top 100 ranking.

The Economist's ranking of full-time MBA programmes, as explained in the methodology section of its website, is based on an initial selection, done by the Economist, of 130 leading business schools around the world. These 130 schools are invited to take part in a two-stage survey, which requires input from both schools and students/alumni.

To qualify for inclusion in the ranking, schools that respond to the survey have to meet various thresholds of data provision, as well as attaining a minimum number of responses to the survey of current students and alumni who graduated within the last three years. Further information and details about the ranking criteria can be found on the Economist website.

The Economist business school ranking system allows users to compare schools against criteria that include overall rank, regional rank, new career opportunities, percentage in work three months after graduation, percentage who found jobs through the careers service, personal development and educational experience, faculty quality, student diversity, education experience, increase in salary, percentage increase on pre-MBA salary, post-MBA salary and others.

Various criteria are included in the calculation of the Economist final rankings and each is weighted. The main categories of criteria are opening new career opportunities (which accounts for 35% of the final result); personal development/education experience (35%); increase in salary (20%); and networking potential (10%). The survey asks several questions in each category and once the data has been collected, the percentages are allocated as indicated to form the final outlook of the year’s rankings.

Another prominent ranking source is the Bloomberg Businessweek. According to the AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey, the Businessweek MBA rankings are used by 57.1% of prospective international MBA students who responded to the survey. The Businessweek U.S. full-time MBA ranking is published annually in November and began in 1988. The main goal of the rankings, as indicated in the All details regarding the formation of the different rankings published by Businessweek can be found on their website. A brief explanation follows.

The full-time rankings

are based on the combined results of a survey that Businessweek conducts annually with MBA graduates from North America, Europe and Asia, plus the results of a survey carried out among hundreds of corporate recruiters. The recruiters are asked to rate the top 20 schools from which they have recruited.

As announced on their website, Businessweek bases their part-time rankings on various measures of student satisfaction, post-graduation outcomes and academic quality.

The executive MBA ranking

is based on an online survey with EMBA graduates and directors. The survey includes questions about teaching quality, career services, curriculum, and other aspects of their experience.

Each year, the Businessweek ranking indicates where a programme stands in relation to previous years, what the cost of the programme is and how many students are enrolled in the programme.

The Businessweek final rankings are formed by combining the results from three separate surveys spanning over six years. For instance, the results published in November 2012 were based on the combined results of three separate surveys with respondents who graduated from the participating schools in 2012 (accounting for 50% of the final result), and in 2010 and 2008 (each accounting for 25% of the final results). The procedure is the same every year.

In contrast, the Economist rankings, published in October annually, are based on the results of surveys over three consecutive years. For instance, the rankings that came out in October 2013 were based on the combined results from two different surveys (one among the participating business schools and one among students and recent MBA graduates), each of which was conducted in the spring of 2013, 2012 and 2011.

The next article in our series will shed some light on a couple of other prominent rankings – the ones produced by the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. Stay tuned.