Tuesday, October 26, 2004

B-school Comparisons 
Yesterday I went to a small lunch with my marketing professor, and today Dean Kim Clark came to speak to my section during lunch. During each of these sessions there were questions from students regarding Harvard's status and program in relation to its peers. My marketing prof is young, in her 2nd year at HBS, and formerly of Wharton. Dean Clark shared some numbers that are hinted at in B-week but not usually available. I found the conversations interesting and positive, but since I am an HBS student, and they work for HBS, I'm sure neither was unbiased.

My marketing professor said that she found that one of the unique strenghts of the HBS program is the close tie to industry. She said that this connection isn't found at any other school she is aware of, including Wharton. She really enjoyed the fact that faculty was expected to spend a lot of time working with industry rather than being focused almost exclusively on publish-or-perish. She said water-cooler conversation at most schools revolves around this or that article that added on to such and such theory that was in the latest academic journal. At HBS, OTOH, it was more likely to be about the latest Economist article, and what that means for this or that industry, and how it's relevant to this case that is being taught this week. She added that teaching was a huge focus at HBS, again more than other schools she knew of. In order to succeed at HBS and achieve tenure one had to be at least proficient in teaching and handling a classroom, which she viewed as a differentiating factor for the school. Now, as a young professor she doesn't exactly have a lot of experience and hasn't seen a lot of places, but I thought it worth passing on.

Dean Clark, on the other hand, was asked a question about rankings and what they mean for HBS. He quickly focused in on WSJ and B-week, since they are the two where we are lowest. He viewed the WSJ ranking very similarly to how Career Services viewed their ranking in B-week, which is that companies are never going to like us very much and that's a fact of life. On the BW rankings he felt that part of the problem was likely that the school is not responsive enough to students, but also that students likely have higher expecations of the school as well. He gave the example of a mid-level b-school that has the highest ranking by its students for developing leadership. He has some level of familiarity with that school and assured us that HBS does a better job of teaching leadership than this mid-tier school, but HBS students rank HBS lower than those students rank their program. In that instance it is likely that our students are being more critical than our counterparts, but it isn't necessarily true on other issues.

Dean Clark went on to say that he felt that two of the most important measures for the school were job placement and yield. Those measures dictate how much prospective students want to come here, and how sought after our students are, irrespectively. In job placement we had the highest percentage of students with jobs by graduation and the second highest average salary last year. The number of students with jobs at graduation becomes more significant when you consider that HBS placed 900 graduates and the placement rate was meaningfully higher than the next closest school. On the yield side, Dean Clark said that last year's yield for Harvard, Stanford, and Kellogg, were about 87%, 77%, and 57%, respectively. Again, significant variation.

I realize that this post is very pro-HBS. The conversation with Dean Clark also covered the perceived arrogance of the student body, which seems to increase geometrically as it approaches graduation. You can only tell people how good, exclusive, and likely to be successful they are before everyone drinks the kool-aid and starts to believe it. The school still seems to have a ways to go before it gets a handle on this issue.

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