Do You Have to Go to Harvard to Get the Best Entrepreneurship Education?

The value of an MBA for entrepreneurs is hotly debated on both sides (as noted here and here). But for those set on getting the best MBA to launch their careers, some universities are teaching with a greater entrepreneurial focus than others.

A recent New York Times article suggested which universities would be the best fit for a given career aspiration.  For the entrepreneurially inclined, the Times picks Harvard as the standout choice.

“[Harvard Business School] is so serious about the push that it recently backtracked on a longstanding policy not to participate in Entrepreneur magazine’s ranking of graduate programs. And the decision had its desired effect: Harvard came in at No. 1 last year, while Stanford, long considered the entrepreneurial hotbed among MBA schools, placed fifth.”

At the Kauffman Foundation, our main interaction with business schools is with the professors and their research.  With this post, I wanted to check the New York Times assessment against our research angle: does Harvard have an advantage in entrepreneurship research, as well? 

To figure this out, I used data from our Kauffman Emerging Scholars program to display which institutions have the highest level of Emerging Scholars. This illustrates where significant entrepreneurship research is happening. I also reviewed The Princeton Review’s top ranked entrepreneurship graduate schools for 2015, which is published in Entrepreneur magazine each year.

According to my findings, MIT is the institution where the majority of our Emerging Scholars are currently based. In addition, Harvard and the University of California, Berkley, are where the majority of our applications for the Kauffman Dissertation Fellowship originate. 

After an analysis of those scholars working out of the business schools at each institution, I find a tie between Harvard Business School, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and New York University’s Stern School of Business. For a full map of where our Emerging Scholars are based out of, check out my previous post


The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine produced the findings for the top entrepreneurship schools’ survey results. Results are based on self-selected school participation. The survey accounts for over 30 attributes, aggregating information on a survey of school administrator’s level of entrepreneurial commitment inside and outside the classroom. This includes the number of faculty, students, and alumni engaged in entrepreneurial activity; reach of mentorship; and scholarships and grants in support of entrepreneurial endeavors.

Princeton Review’s Top 10 Universities for Entrepreneurship 2015:

  1. Harvard University
  2. Babson College
  3. University of Michigan
  4. Rice University
  5. Stanford University
  6. Northwestern University
  7. Brigham Young University
  8. University of Texas at Austin
  9. University of Chicago
  10. University of Virginia

In comparing some of the top current institutions for Emerging Scholars with the Princeton Review’s top list, there are many similarities. For those that did not stand out on the Princeton Review’s list, but were present on the Emerging Scholars list, it is important to note that MIT chose not to participate in the annual study by the Princeton Review. In addition, international institutions are not considered, which explains the absence of the London School of Economics and Politics. 

So, what’s an aspiring entrepreneur seeking advanced education to do?

There are many factors to consider. For those considering a top entrepreneurship school but weighing tuition costs (particularly start-up costs for a new business), take this into consideration: the median tuition of those top 10 entrepreneurship schools is $54,448, but the 7th ranked Brigham Young University’s tuition costs only $11,280 per year. The biggest splurge is Stanford University, where graduate school tuition sits at $61,875.

As described in a Wall Street Journal article, part of the benefit of being an entrepreneur is that the name of the school is irrelevant to their future employer. It’s the skills, network, and community that matter most. The skills to think entrepreneurially and innovate may not be learned only in the walls of a top institution.

However, network matters tremendously: both in terms of people and location for generating funding, finding mentors, and making critical connections—and a network can be found at these institutions.

Regardless of the decision of whether or not to pursue an MBA, there is a definite clustering of institutions where the research is coming from. Kauffman Emerging Scholars will continue to foster growth in this particular field.

Harvard, which the Princeton Review found at the top of its list, is also a top institution in my findings. Neither list is fully representative of all of the institutions doing good work in entrepreneurship, but by comparing my research and that of the Princeton Review, we have a clearer picture of where some of our best MBA programs are for entrepreneurs. 

In future posts, I’ll dive into how the academic field of entrepreneurship is impacting future outcomes for students studying to become entrepreneurs.

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