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You know, I was going to vote for BW, but honestly any ranking that does not have Harvard, Stanford & Wharton as the top 3 (in some order) is just kidding themselves; so I went with the US News Rankings. The top 7 in US News jives with Hjort's definition of the ultra-elite cluster and I agree with that. US News also has Berkeley tied at 7, with Dartmouth next after that and I agree that those are the 2 schools most likely to put upward pressure on the ultra-elite schools. I guess I'd put Michigan right there as well.
I just can't agree with BW putting Stanford at 6. Also, I support the idea that Chicago is one of the very best and has been doing a great job improving every aspect of its program. But seriously, it just doesn't pass the smell test to have Chicago (or Northwestern) ranked above Harvard. In terms of selectivity, access to jobs, over reputation, and I'm certain future reputation for the duration of your career, international presence, size and influence of the alumni base, and on, and on, and on, you just cannot go against Harvard. (Note: I'm not saying there's no reason for an individual to select Chicago over Harvard; it just makes no sense to rank them that way).
Hjort's cluster system is probably the best way to consider rankings. If you can get admitted to multiple schools within the same cluster, then just choose the one that you like best and it won't be a mistake. If are admitted to a school in a higher cluster and are leaning towards attending a school from a lower cluster, think seriously about whether that makes sense.
The problem with the USNWR is that it only considers US schools. Clearly LBS, INSEAD, IMD, Oxford, Western Ontario etc.. are all outstanding programs that don't even get recognized. I was curious because FT places LBS at #5, just above Chicago and just below Columbia, which seems fair. FT also keeps the "ultra elite cluster" pretty tight, probably favoring Wharton for its preminence as the oldest accredited business school in the country.
I like the FT ranking because it passes the smell test of having H/S/W in their top three, plus it includes international schools. However, their ranking of Kellogg is way off, plus it overvalues international schools (several of their ranking paramaters depend on having more international students, faculty, etc.).
I think it makes a lot of sense to exclude international schools from the ranking as the ranking authorities are done by US media and are meant primarily for an American consumer base. While INSEAD, LBS, etc. are excellent schools, the brand recognition of these programs in MOST American circles is much lower than that of the top US programs that companies are universally familiar with. International programs are best suited for those who want to work in Europe or Asia post-grad and can reap the full benefits of those programs prestige in the region. On the same tolken, I would venture to say that an LBS degree would get a bit more mileage in the UK than one from Kellogg/Northwestern. Even within the US there are regional biases.
Check out this awesome article about Anderson on Poets Quants, http://poetsandquants.com/2015/01/02/uclas-anderson-school-morphs-into-a-friendly-tech-hub/ . Anderson is a great place! Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I...