The Harbus survey says HBS MBA program more Walgreens than Apple

[stag_dropcap font_size=”50px” style=”normal”]A[/stag_dropcap] survey of over 100 students conducted by The Harbus reveals the HBS MBA program has a net promoter score (NPS) of 41, with 51% of students considering themselves extremely likely to recommend it to a friend or colleague.

This makes the HBS MBA about as popular as well known, respected brands like drug store chain Walgreens (42) or life insurers State Farm (45), but less popular than national leaders like Apple (70 for laptops, 67 for iPhone), according to the Satmetrix Net Promoter US Consumer Benchmarks 2014.

At the time of publication, 105 students had responded to The Harbus’ anonymous survey; this gives a confidence interval of ±16% at a 95% confidence level*. The survey asked them to rank on a ten-point scale how likely they would be to recommend a HBS MBA to an interested and qualified friend or colleague. Under the NPS methodology, developed by Bain & Company Inc., and widely used among marketing professionals, scores of nine and ten (‘promoters’) are totalled and from them are subtracted scores of one to six (‘detractors’) to provide a ‘net’ measure of promoters. Scores of seven and eight (‘neutrals’) are not added.

The MBA program’s NPS of 41 was comprised of 62% promoters and 22% detractors (allowing for rounding).

For this score, the sample of 105 gives the above confidence interval, provided that the sample is randomly selected and thus can be assumed to be representative of the whole MBA population. Since students self-selected, there is reason to doubt this assumption. However at a minimum, the NPS presented here reflects the view of a significant portion of MBA students. The Harbus did not attempt to solicit responses from any particular group of students, and the link to the survey was only available in Facebook groups to which HBS students had exclusive access.

Classmates, program structure, career opportunities drive scores

Over one third of respondents provided written reasons for their rating, with a number of consistent positive and negative themes emerging.

Many promoters cited the high calibre and attitude of their classmates, as well as the quality of the in-class learning experience. One commenter whose views were representative of those of others said, “The caliber of people at HBS sets it apart. Aside from being intelligent and well-accomplished, I find HBS students are on the whole to be thoughtful, warm, and humble. It makes every day here a true pleasure.”

Other promoters cited the professional opportunities offered by the program. One said the program offers, “Unparalleled professional opportunities available after graduation. Unbelievable access to influential leaders while at school. A large and powerful alumni network.”

Promoters were also impressed by how the program itself is run. “The school is extremely well run” said one, while another added, “I feel like I’m getting a management education every day just by observing how the school runs itself.”

Those who gave lower scores tended to cite similar issues: classmates, classroom learning, career opportunities and program structure; but they had different takes on those topics.

A number of less positive students felt that the school pushed people toward consulting and finance, and didn’t offer enough opportunities for students with different ambitions.

Another consistent theme among negative scores was the highly-structured nature of the RC program, particularly FIELD.

A number of students cited the pressure of the highly structured, intense and time-intensive program. One student said “HBS pushed me too hard” while another said HBS “do themselves a disservice by packing the schedule so full in RC year, it reduces the time people could put toward career exploration and getting to know classmates.”

Room to grow

The Harbus also asked students, regardless of their score, how HBS could improve its program.

Students’ two main areas of feedback were the need for a less packed RC schedule, and more bespoke career assistance, such as technical training sessions for those looking to build skills in careers like private equity.

Feedback also touched on the social life of the school.

One student said, “Class is a huge issue. Making friends here is expensive.” Another added the school “needs to work on the culture of every event being a drinking party…I would have enjoyed my social experience at HBS more if people would do more coffee chats than drinks!”

An ongoing focus for The Harbus

The Harbus hopes that this survey is the beginning of an ongoing discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the MBA program. In the coming weeks we will speak to the school about the results and encourage all students who want to be part of the conversation to get in touch.

You can view all of the anonymized responses here.

* Update: This article originally stated that the confidence interval for the result was 9%. This was based on the NPS score for the sample size. However the correct method is to take together the uncertainty of the promoter and demoter samples, which gives a confidence interval of 16 for the NPS.