I was recently asked to consider whether the prestige of a university matters at all in the business world. I’d say it does.
One place you see it make a huge difference is when companies are looking for universities to partner with in the world of executive education. They feel a great comfort with a name brand as their university collaborators.
For individuals, in my experience, a prestigious degree (and the social network that goes with it) helps perhaps in landing that first job, but it isn’t a guarantee of career success. As I’m sure some grandmother somewhere would say, it can open the door, but you have to walk through it.
That much being said, some highly selective companies wouldn’t even look at an inexperienced candidate without a certain pedigree.
It’s been shown that the more selective MBA programs tend to convey a salary and job advantage on their graduates. There are several studies cited in this article:
Bennis, W. G. & O’Toole, J. 2005. How Business Schools Lost Their Way. Harvard Business Review, 83(5): 96-104.
I think university prestige always creates a nice opening, whether for business or for more social purposes. It provides people with a way to categorize your quality without actually having to make an individual judgment.
It’s also worth remembering the downside of a highly prestigious degree—possible employers, dates and others may assume that you’re stuck up, too expensive or too demanding and you could also lose out on opportunities.