Does The World Need Another B-School Ranking?


A few years ago, Hasan Pirkul came across an article ranking the operations management departments of different universities. Pirkul, the Turkish-born dean of the School of Management at University of Texas at Dallas, thought the ranking was incomplete but it got him thinking. What if he could compile a database ranking various business schools by their research output in leading journals? “This way we, as B-schools, could benchmark ourselves based on the publications in these journals,” he says.

Pirkul and his colleague Varghese S. Jacob, senior associate dean at the School of Management, put their heads together and the UT-Dallas Top 100 Business School Research Rankings were born in 2005. BusinessWeek and The Financial Times include an academic research component in their rankings, but the UT-Dallas take may well be the single best measurement of business school scholarship currently available.

The latest global survey, which tracks published articles over the past five years from 2006 to 2010, was updated this past March. It has Wharton in the lead, followed by the business schools at Duke, Michigan, New York, and Harvard. Only two non-U.S. schools make the top 20: INSEAD at No. 10 and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology at No. 18.

Like every other ranking, this one is not without controversy. For one thing, the list  fails to take into account the size of the faculty at each school. It’s silly to compare Wharton, with 459 faculty members, to Dartmouth’s Tuck, with just 76 professors, without adjusting the data for size. In fact, if you make the adjustment, these rankings get turned upside down. Wharton plummets to a rank of 27, behind Duke, Stanford, Chicago, Michigan, Penn State, and Emory, among others. Cornell’s Johnson School jumps to No. 7 from 34, while Dartmouth’s Tuck School rises to 10 from a rank of 44.  (The top 50 ranked schools on the list, including adjusted ranks based on each school’s faculty size, are on the last page of this story.)

For another, it’s important to remember that all the journals measured are not read by practicing managers and executives. Most of them are barely read by other academics. Many of the articles published in these journals would have little if any value to most business executives. Interestingly enough, the academics who put this ranking together don’t include the Harvard Business Review, Strategy and Innovation, or the Sloan Management Review–journals far more likely to be read by practicing managers–than any of the publications counted here.

And finally, there is the issue of UT Dallas itself. How is it possible that this business school–which fails to make four of the five major business school rankings–is ranked 16th, beating out Berkeley, UCLA, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Yale? When you adjust for the size of its faculty, UT-Dallas still comes in at a relatively high rank of 24th, ahead of Wharton, Columbia, NYU Stern, Northwestern Kellogg, and Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

In this interview, Pirkul explains the rationale behind his research rankings and responds to the criticism:

In a world already cluttered with too many business school rankings, what spurred you to launch a new one?

When we started our rankings, there really was no place where you could check a school’s research productivity. The rankings brought out by BusinessWeek, US News and World Report, etc., were mainly looking at MBA programs or undergraduate programs and they did not take into account research. Financial Times (FT) did, but their results were not really available in a transparent way to researchers and academicians. There was a real need and people wanted to be informed about the strength of a school’s research.