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Why Business School Rankings Shouldn’t Matter

Business school rankings are big business, but they provide little information about the quality of education.

(originally published by Booz & Company)

Same As It Ever Was: Recognizing Stability in the Business Week Rankings
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Frederick P. Morgeson and Jennifer D. Nahrgang

The Academy of Management Learning and Education, vol. 7, no. 1

Date Published: 
March 2008

Business Week has been ranking the top business schools (30 today; 20 and 25 in earlier years) in the U.S. since 1988, and during that time its rankings have become incredibly influential: A single step up on the list can have a significant effect on a school’s ability to attract the best students and faculty and on its students’ likelihood of getting the most prestigious jobs after graduation. But the magazine’s rankings are also predictably static, say the authors of this study. The problem, as they see it, is that schools focus so much on their rankings — even going so far as to hire public relations consultants, add and drop new courses to cater to the trends on the list, and maintain especially cozy relationships with corporate recruiters — that the emphasis on education gets lost in the mix. And their efforts are often fruitless considering that the list changes little year over year. The rankings, which take into account a number of variables, including the school’s reputation, when the school was founded, and how much its students earn after graduation, seem to put little emphasis on the quality of the education. The authors argue that universities with business schools should develop their own standardized ratings system, much like the ratings systems used by Standard & Poor’s to identify the quality of corporate bonds and other credit instruments.

Bottom Line:
Business school rankings are big business, but they provide little information about the quality of education. Universities should develop more substantive standard ratings.

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