McCombs School of Business | Mr. Marine Executive Officer
GRE 322, GPA 3.28
Tuck | Mr. Liberal Arts Military
GMAT 680, GPA 2.9
Harvard | Ms. Developing Markets
GMAT 780, GPA 3.63
Harvard | Mr. Policy Player
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Mr. Future Non-Profit
GMAT 720, GPA 8/10
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Tough Guy
GMAT 680, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. CPPIB Strategy
GRE 329 (Q169 V160), GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Chicago Booth | Mr. Unilever To MBB
GRE 308, GPA 3.8
Chicago Booth | Mr. Bank AVP
GRE 322, GPA 3.22
Kellogg | Mr. Double Whammy
GMAT 730, GPA 7.1/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Infantry Officer
GRE 320, GPA 3.7
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Ernst & Young
GMAT 600 (hopeful estimate), GPA 3.86
Kellogg | Mr. Engineer Volunteer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Kellogg | Mr. Operations Analyst
GMAT Waived, GPA 3.3
Kellogg | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 760, GPA 3.15
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Indian Dreamer
GRE 331, GPA 8.5/10
Kellogg | Mr. Innovator
GRE 300, GPA 3.75
London Business School | Ms. Private Equity Angel
GMAT 660, GPA 3.4
Chicago Booth | Ms. Indian Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 9.18/10
Yale | Ms. Biotech
GMAT 740, GPA 3.29
Stanford GSB | Ms. Global Empowerment
GMAT 740, GPA 3.66
Harvard | Mr. Renewables Athlete
GMAT 710 (1st take), GPA 3.63
UCLA Anderson | Ms. Apparel Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Mr. Armenian Geneticist
GRE 331, GPA 3.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. 1st Gen Grad
GMAT 740, GPA 3.1
Ross | Mr. Travelpreneur
GMAT 730, GPA 2.68

The Dark Side Of MBA Rankings

The new Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall just opened last year

The new Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall just opened last year

How desperate can a business school be to get ranked?

In some cases, very desperate, especially when a school fails to make the most influential rankings published by U.S. News, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and the Financial Times.

Consider the University of Missouri—Kansas City’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management.  The school’s efforts to get a ranking—any kind or ranking—were the subject of a highly revealing series of investigative stories published last weekend by The Kansas City Star.

A PATTERN OF EXAGGERATIONS & MISSTATEMENTS TO ENHANCE REPUTATION

The newspaper found a pattern of exaggerations and misstatements that polished the school’s reputation as it sought to boost enrollment and open the checkbooks of donors, especially its primary benefactor Henry Bloch. No less crucial, the stories reveal how easy and how desperate a school might be to obtain a ranking, even one that few outsiders would bother to report—but at least the school could use it to promote and market itself to would-be applicants.

The irony in all this: The school is named for an entrepreneur whose signature line is “no shortcuts.” The co-founder of the H&R Block tax preparation firm had long sought greater recognition for a school. He made a $32 million gift to the business school in 2011, the largest in the university’s history.

Yet, it appears—based on the reporting of The Star—that shortcuts were indeed taken to get the school in the rankings game. Of course, this isn’t the first time a school has allegedly done less-than-ethical things to get a better ranking. Tulane University’s business school famously admitted reporting inflated GMAT averages and application numbers to U.S. News & World Report for several years so it would be ranked higher.

In its investigation, The Star reviewed thousands of pages of internal UMKC documents obtained through an open-records request, and interviewed scores of faculty and administrators. The reporters wrote that they discovered a number of embellishments designed to boost the Bloch School’s reputation. “Among them were inaccuracies and mischaracterizations of fact in the data the university supplied to the Princeton Review, which has awarded UMKC’s entrepreneurship program high rankings in four of the past five years,” the newspaper wrote.

COULD THE BLOCH SCHOOL BE BETTER THAN HARVARD, STANFORD & MIT–IN ANYTHING?

But the most fascinating part of the series turned on an academic study—published in 2011 in the Journal of Product Innovation Management—ranked the business school ahead of Harvard, Stanford, MIT and other elite universities in innovation management research. That is a hot area in business these days because it is the study of how entrepreneurs turn ideas into thriving companies.

The study, however, was written by two Chinese authors as visiting scholars at the Bloch School when the paper was written. The relationship between the university and the authors was undisclosed when the study was published. When it came out, the university wasted no time promoting the news. It crowed about the achievement in a news release, and the university chancellor even appeared at a formal announcement of the ranking, telling a crowd of people, ““Oh my, have we made a big score.”

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.