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Marketing - BLOG

Are business school rankings good for you?

Niraj Dawar |

Whether you’re a prospective student, a recruiter, or a donor, use business school rankings with caution.

Since BusinessWeek launched them in 1988, and the Financial Times developed a more international and comprehensive version a few years later, business school rankings have become increasingly important in the decisions and choices of MBA candidates, recruiters, and even donors.

The rankings also unleashed an arms race among business schools by uncovering information and making it public. Business schools are by now accustomed to responding to press questions such as: What are the starting salaries of your graduates? What are their average incoming GMAT scores? What proportion of your graduating class is female? How international is your faculty? How frequently do your faculty publish in the top academic journals? The data are used by the newspapers to compute the rankings, using algorithms that have become increasingly opaque over the years.

The rankings have had some beneficial effects for the industry. They have made applicant, recruiter, and donor choices and decisions more data-based, and driven by transparent and comparable numbers. Rankings have also made competition for the best candidates more open, and made business schools more responsive to the demands of students, recruiters, and donors, at least on the dimensions used in the rankings.

But does it make sense for you to use the rankings as a guide?
The rankings measure business schools on a number of variables, but it is unlikely that the variables included in the rankings are exactly the ones you would use to rank business schools for your own purposes. If you are an MBA candidate interested in marketing, should you pick a business school with the highest starting salaries if those salaries merely indicate that most of the jobs are finance jobs?

Even in the unlikely scenario that the variables included in the rankings are exactly the ones you would use, would you assign the same weights to them as the FT or BW do? Is the number of women on the school’s board as important to you as it is to the FT, or more important, or less important? If the importance you attach to any of the variables is different, the rankings these publications produce will not match your preference ranking.

Furthermore, there may be many other variables that are of interest to you that don’t even figure in the rankings – location is an important one, as are the types of industries represented in the recruiter list, the nature of the network you will develop (geographies and industries represented), and so on.

Finally, the rankings offer a very limited window into the relative quality, and more importantly, the fit of the school for you. If you were asked, which is the better car, a Ferrari California or a Toyota Sienna Minivan, you would no doubt respond, “depends for what purpose.” For a Sunday drive on winding country roads, the Ferrari would be great. But to haul a sofa from a friend’s place, or to carpool a bunch of kids to their soccer practice, it is pretty much useless. It is the same with business schools.

In assessing business schools, don’t just ask “is this school good?” Ask “is this school good for me?” To answer that question, you have to do much more homework than looking up the rank.

>> This post appeared originally in Just Marketing; the author retains all rights

Comment
Nickname,

Here are some suggestions to improvise the assessment parameters used to rank or grade the business schools/ management institutions.

1. The fee (all-inclusive) charged from students including boarding and lodging fee (if the program is residential) ought to be a component of ranking methodology. The lower the all-inclusive fee charged from student, a higher ranking can be given for the institute.
2. Number of courses offered in a program that contain social, environmental or ethical component. The assessment can be done in terms of hours dedicated to these courses amongst the total number of hours that a student has to attend for a program. The higher the number of such courses, the higher the ranking given for the institute.
3. Number of scholarly articles published by faculty members in peer-reviewed journals that contain social, environmental and ethical content. The higher the number of such articles, the higher the ranking given for the institute.
4. Including "perception" as one of the ranking parameters may not be a necessity. There are institutions that release full page advertisements in print/ online media. In events that some institutions organize, gifts are provided to media personnel, so is sweets, cashew-nuts etc. Such practices may create a bias. Such practices also unfavorably affect institutions that offers cost-effective business management programmes as they cannot compete to pay for such advertisements, cashew-nuts and events.
5. Percentage of total annual revenue of the institute that is given as scholarships to students on an annual basis. The higher the percentage, the higher the ranking for the institute.
6. Multiples of salary difference between the salary earned by an entry level worker at an institution (even if that person works for another organisation that has taken the outsourced contract) and the comprehensive income earned by the top management personnel of that institution (Chancellor/ VC/ Dean/ Director). For example, if an entry level employee earns 10,000, and the Dean earns 1,00,000, the number is 10X. The lesser the multiple (X), the better the ranking that can be given to an institution.
7. Outcome of education should also include the ability and competence of a student to contribute to the well-being of the society. Examples could be participation in programmes or endeavors that contribute to a better world.
8. A higher weightage can be given to an institute that audits their placement report with an independent third party.
9. A higher ranking should be given to an institute that includes the all-inclusive fee that will be charged from a student in the course prospectus and institute website.
10. A higher ranking can be given to an institution that publishes journal(s)/ e-journal(s) that all can read free of cost, while not charging any money from the author as a processing fee for publication ("platinum open access").

The above parameters can contribute to meaningfulness in the usage of the word "best"/ "top"/ "leading" etc. in best business school rankings.

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