U.S. News & World Report The newsweekly ran an abbreviated ranking in 1987, and three years later added MBAs to the list of graduate programs it surveys annually. Fifty programs are ranked, based on peer assessment (hence business schools touting their virtues to other business schools), job-placement success, and quality of students. Harvard's MBA was first in 2003.

The Financial Times This was the first survey to include non-U.S. schools, which nudged BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal to add international programs to their ratings. One hundred programs are ranked annually by the British business daily, according to salary, career progression, faculty strength, and international emphasis. Penn's Wharton School was number one in 2003.

The Wall Street Journal This is the annual survey the schools love to hate, because the Journal bases its rankings solely on the opinions of corporate recruiters. Recruiters are asked to rank 26 student and school attributes - such as leadership potential, teamwork, and personal ethics - on a 1-to-10 scale. Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business was first in 2002.

"We have to learn how to live with the surveys," says Tom Campbell, dean at UC's Haas school. "It's not like any of us has a magic wand [we can] wave to make the surveys go away. As long as our students and alumni pay attention, we have to."

In fact, say academics, the surveys may have played as important a role in changing business schools and MBA programs as did the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 1990s high-tech boom, and globalization. Those political and market changes powered the worldwide growth of American-style capitalism over the last 20 years; the surveys pointed the way so students could participate in that growth.