Many Top Schools Absent From Aspen Ranking


The Aspen survey is as much a study of the attention business schools give to social, ethical and environmental issues as it is a ranking which is largely designed to call more attention to its attempt to reward schools that put more social-oriented concerns front and center.

The Institute’s researchers found that the number of business schools teaching MBA students to examine the social, environmental and ethical impacts of business decisions continues to grow, spurred by the global economic downturn, rising student demand and increased faculty willingness to explore those issues.

“In all scoring categories used to determine the ranking, business schools have raised the bar,” said Judith Samuelson, executive director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, in a statement. “There are more courses than ever before with content on social, ethical, and environmental issues, more courses about the role of business as a positive agent for change, more exposure of students to this content, and more research published by faculty on relevant topics.”

Aspen said that this year’s survey marked the first opportunity since the global economic downturn to  measure the extent to which MBA programs have altered the content of their courses, and whether faculty are pursuing research that questioned assumptions about the role of business in society.

“In the wake of the financial crisis we’re seeing an increased willingness to address these issues,” Samuelson added. “That willingness is coming from a variety of factors, including student demand, faculty readiness and a desire on the part of business schools to clarify what exactly they’re doing to prepare business leaders to serve the needs of society, such as job creation and energy conservation.”


For the 2011-2012 Beyond Grey Pinstripes rankings, 149 schools from 22 countries submitted data. These data included more than 6,000 course descriptions and over 6,000 faculty research abstracts. In addition, the Beyond Grey Pinstripes project team received extensive information on participating schools’ extracurricular activities, institutes and centers, joint degrees and specializations.

At top ranked schools, Aspen said, students encounter core courses that deal with social and environmental topics, and can select from an array of electives addressing this content. At all participating schools, social and environmental issues have continued to grow in importance in the business school curriculum. And compared to previous surveys, the proportion of schools offering courses to address these topics in terms of mainstream business decision-making is growing as well.

Other key findings, according to Aspen:

Schools are adapting their curricula to focus on responsible decision-making in business and to examine the social and environmental context in which business operates and thrives.

The core curriculum is changing across disciplines, including finance, accounting, marketing and management, with a striking increase in content on social, ethical and environmental issues in required courses.

For example, there has been a 38 percent increase in the number of relevant core courses in Finance departments across schools; a 41 percent increase in Marketing departments; a 22 percent increase in Accounting departments; a 57 percent increase in Operations and Productions Management offerings; and a 22 percent increase in relevant core IT / MIS offerings.

There has been an increase in the percentage of schools requiring students to take a course dedicated to business & society issues. This figure has increased since the first Beyond Grey Pinstripes survey, from 34 percent in 2001, 63 percent in 2007, 69 percent in 2009, to 79 percent in 2011.

Social Entrepreneurship courses are gaining far greater prominence across MBA programs. Aspen said that most of these courses focus not just on non-profit, mission-based organizations, but on how business models can be adapted in ways that produce companies that intentionally strive to achieve positive financial, social and environmental results. Between 2007 and 2011, there was a 60 percent increase in the number of courses being offered on social entrepreneurship among schools surveyed internationally.

(See next page for a table on the top 50 schools in the Aspen Ranking)