HER SUGGESTIONS ON HOW EACH RANKING COULD BE MADE BETTER
Even so, she believes that each of the three rankings studied has unique weaknesses. “The BusinessWeek rankings are determined by fully 90% subjective polls (students and recruiters),” writes Iacobbuci. “It is in the best interest of any student to graduate from a highly ranked business school, so setting aside any ephemeral complaints about one’s school, all students should be motivated to rank their schools as highly as possible. Due to such vulnerability of subjective polls, BusinessWeek may be well advised to incorporate a few indicators that are more objective. U.S. News is the strongest rankings in terms of objectivity, but going forward, they might insist that all students’ incoming test scores be represented.”
Iacobbuci thinks the U.S. News ranking could be improved if it were streamlined, using only GMATs and starting salaries, and perhaps recruiters’ subjective opinions. She also thinks that the FT could improve its ranking if it simplified and streamlined its methodology, “ceasing to measure facets that are empirically superfluous.” Among other things, the FT weighs such unusual factors as the percentage of female students and professors and the percentage of faculty and board of advisors with international passports. “The Financial Times could go forward using a much smaller subset of facets, e.g., alumni recommendations, their reported career progress and mobility, and faculty excellence in research,” recommends Iacobbuci. “I give them kudos for their social high mindedness,” she says, “but it didn’t end up being correlated with the rankings themselves. There is also a lot of variance.”
All three media rankings, she believes, have room for improvement. In addition to the final rankings, says Iacobbuci, the media might publish the raw scores, and denote confidence bands derived from them (e.g., + 5 poll points) to make it clear that schools at the top are not statistically higher than many further down. She also thinks the media could be more transparent regarding corporate relations, e.g., how are businesses selected to participate, and which ones do.
The media should report survey response rates for students, recruiters, peers, etc., and seek guidance to up-weight smaller schools’ smaller samples equitably. The media might seek guidance in defining excellence in research and scientific productivity. Alternatively, if rankings are to serve only students and recruiters, then they might extract any attempts to measure intellectual capital, and be more inclusive of online schools.
The media might establish easily accessible, interactive spreadsheets in which various constituents may re-weight the inputs into a customized ranking. For example, in the most recent U.S. News standings, the top 7 schools are: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Kellogg, Chicago, and Berkeley. However, a student seeking ranks based on the ratio of an outcome (salary) to an input (tuition) would find that the top 7 schools would be: Brigham Young University, the University of Wisconsin, University of Georgia, University of Texas at Dallas, Texas A&M, University of Connecticut, and the University of Massachusetts.
Iacobbuci said she didn’t include the rankings published by either Forbes or The Economist due to their shorter histories. The Wall Street Journal, which no longer ranks full-time MBA programs, wasn’t included because of its “intermittent appearance.”