Do Business School Rankings Really Matter? 

  • By Kirti Yadav
  • 7 October 2019

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Choosing a business school to pursue an MBA can be an extremely tricky task and in those times business school rankings may seem like a way out, a lifesaver, but can we be mistaken?  Recent trends show that international institutes have figured out the role of business school rankings in the choice made by the MBA aspirant and hence they focus on reaching the top with all their efforts, turning this into a race where the winner makes it to the top.  Many students ask if there is a standardized criterion of ranking an MBA college. The answer is No. For example, the Business today ranking criterion is, a minimum of three batches must have passed out and the B-school should be offering a full-time Postgraduate Program in management. 

Do Business School Rankings Really Matter?

In India, a lot of renowned publications and organizations release the business school rankings annually based on a variety of combinations and metrics. These rankings, heavily impact the decision made by anyone who is looking to be associated with these B-schools in any way, be it a student, faculty member or a prospective recruiter. Hence various points are taken into consideration while assigning ranks to the MBA programs, which brings us to the main question, how reliable are these rankings?  It has been seen that many B-schools use this in their favor, manipulating students to fall into the farce of the B-school having a high rank. This begs the question, do MBA rankings provide useful information for prospective students or do they simply confuse the issue further? In this article, we will help you understand why these rankings cannot be the sole criteria you should rely on, and what are the different parameters that you should consider while choosing a B-School.

What Determines Business School Ranking?

Rankings measure the reputation of any B school, which in turn has resulted in the management institutes increasingly testing out several innovative ways to improvise and get an excellent ranking for their MBA programs. As a result, these institutes use various parameters to reach the top, sometimes showing their salient features that make them stand apart but also making these rankings highly unreliable if taken as the only criterion on which we base our decision. The upside of this process is that these rankings not only highlight the status of the schools but also put further their features and provide a strong brand representation. Some factors that are considered by various platforms to come up with a yearly ranking list are:

  1. The student to faculty ratio
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Number of full-time professors
  4. Notable alumni
  5. Student satisfaction
  6. Tuition fees etc.

Some rankings rely completely on the information via corporate recruiters. Some rankings consider alumni feedback along with their personal growth and satisfaction. A new way is for publications to also look at Google Trends to see the fluctuation in the frequency of online searches for that particular school, reflecting people’s interest in it. 

How to use business school ranking?

Many support the existence and relevance of these rankings and their relevance in many scenarios cannot be denied. However, the key lies in understanding how to use these rankings in our favor. Some benefits of referring to these rankings are: 

    1. Choosing a college: As stated above in this article, these rankings help an MBA aspirant choose a B school matching his interests, academic background, economic backgrounds, aptitude and ability of the student. 
    2. Recruiter’s perceptions: Certain rankings like Businessweek, Economic times give some weight to the recruiting companies' reviews and feedback. Students may use this to get an idea of the opinion that these recruiters hold about the B school. This will also help the recruiters to focus on the skill-set and feedback given from the other corporate giants recruiting from the same B school. 
    3. Student’s preferences: Even if one’s sure about the specialization one wants to opt for, a B school ranking helps understand the industry-specific rankings to gather employer perceptions of a particular program form a particular B school. 
    4. Consistent performers: This is to understand how certain programs have been performing over the last few years. Consistency always shines and if a particular program has been ranking high for the last few years it automatically affects an aspirant's choice of the B school. Random fluctuations may be an indication of major changes in the programs or the methodologies. 

How reliable are the Business School Rankings?

MBA rankings are not based on a single criterion but several factors contributing to the B schools’ ranking. This is the main reason contributing to the factor of why these rankings cannot be taken as the sole criteria on which our decision is based. This makes the nature of these rankings questionable as a B school may attempt to use methods to manipulate the result. Whatever the reason may be for these inconsistencies, this lends a reason to beware of what one is looking to achieve from these rankings. Some concerns that may arise due to this are: 

  1. If the ranking has been listed in grades, why is it that two MBA schools do not yield the same ranking?
  2. How does a ranking ensure an accurate and complete picture of the quality of the program? 
  3. Are business schools tempted to manipulate their data to give false data to manipulate their ranking?

Based on these above questions, let us try to understand how they may explain or dampen the credibility of these MBA rankings. 

  1. Inconsistencies in the ranking: as we already know that many ranking publications use different parameters to identify the superiority of one B school over the other. In these cases, we should try to understand the parameters on which the ranking is based and how valid and reliable is the source. It is also a personal choice of what we give more importance to, for eg. employer feedback or faculty. 
  2. Publications methodologies: All the publications releasing their annual MBA ranking may be using the same parameters (average salary package, employer perceptions, etc. ) are represented with different weights, where some publications may be focusing on a singular aspect like career growth.
  3. Ranking manipulation: In some situations, some B schools may be adopting undesirable methods to manipulate the data for the ranking. This aspect is completely hidden from the aspirant and the only way to reduce the effect of this aspect is to be well informed and do thorough research. 
The Final Word

A good rule of thumb while applying to MBA colleges based on the various available rankings is to analyze your career goals, your expectations throughout the course, your budget, etc. These rankings are a good start for your research but you should remember that these rankings can be influenced superficially by affecting one or the other criteria and they should always be seen from a personal critical point of view. These rankings reveal some critical information about the MBA programs but are not everything you need to know. There is no mandatory criteria to be used and the points being highlighted might be different than your focus areas and eventually might not be helpful to you. Therefore, it is important to see what criteria fits your requirement while assessing the rankings.

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