More Schools Say ‘No’ To The Economist

The Carlson School at the University of Minnesota was one of 17 schools that refused to participate with The Economist

The Carlson School at the University of Minnesota was one of 17 schools that refused to participate with The Economist

At least 17 business schools, including many highly prominent institutions, declined to participate in The Economist’s new 2014 ranking. The director of one highly ranked MBA program which pulled out of the ranking this year said The Economist has a “shambolic” methodology to rate business schools.

Many of the schools that refused to play are far better than some of the schools on The Economist’s list of the 100 best MBA programs in the world published yesterday (Oct. 9). The U.S. institutions that have bowed out include Babson College, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, Purdue University’s Krannert School, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A group of prominent Canadian schools also decided against cooperating with The Economist. They include the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, McGill University’s Desautels, and the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School.

THE METHODOLOGY IS DEPENDENT ON SCHOOL PARTICIPATION

The Economist ranking relies heavily on surveys filled out by the schools. The school-provided data on those surveys accounts for 80% of the methodology used to crank out the ranking. The remaining 20% is based on surveys sent to current MBA students and recent graduates. So if a school refuses to provide data, The Economist can’t rank it.

The Economist said it invited 144 schools to participate this year and identified the 17 schools that declined to provide data. The group of schools saying no also includes such well-known British institutions as Ashridge, Imperial College Business School, and the University of Manchester.

Most schools that refuse to participate have significant issues with the methodology used by The Economist and the peculiar results that show up every year. Harvard, Stanford and Wharton have never topped this ranking even though it has been published every year since 2002. This year, Harvard placed sixth, Stanford ninth, and Wharton 11th, even though the MBA programs at those schools are generally regarded as the best in the world.

THE ABSENCE OF WELL-RANKED MBA PROGRAMS DIMINISHES THE USEFULNESS OF THE ECONOMIST LIST

Filling out these ranking surveys, moreover, has become a time-consuming process for many of the schools. Top rankings require the input of multiple offices and deans, who must review and sign off on the stats. It can take months for a school to aggregate the data requested by an organization and send it out.

This isn’t the first time The Economist list has been compromised by schools unwilling to participate. Back in 2005, Harvard Business School and Wharton were dropped from the ranking when they declined to participate in the information-gathering process. At the time, both schools attributed their decisions to the fact that compiling the data for the survey takes up too much staff time and that overall, magazine rankings don’t accurately reflect the quality of individual schools. At the time, Harvard and Wharton also declined to cooperate with the BusinessWeek rankings.

“We have allowed the rankings to define us not only to the outside world but to ourselves,” Patrick Harker, then dean of the Wharton School, told The Wall Street Journal in 2004. “The most important thing is that I firmly reject the idea that there is a No. 1 school. Different schools are unique.”

PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS TO BOYCOTT RANKINGS HAVE GENERALLY FAILED

Some business school deans predicted that other schools would follow Harvard and Wharton, but they didn’t. It has been difficult to organize concerted boycotting of the rankings because schools that move up benefit from increased applications and visibility. Ultimately, Harvard and Wharton changed their minds and began to cooperate with both BusinessWeek and The Economist. And more recently, both Harvard and Stanford began cooperating with the Princeton Review for its ranking of the best business schools for entrepreneurship, even though the schools acknowledge that the methodology for that ranking is severely flawed.

The absence of such highly prominent business schools makes The Economist ranking less useful and less credible. Many of these schools participate in other lists that rank them significantly higher than the MBA programs singled out on The Economist list. U.S. News & World Report, for example ranks the Carlson School 33rd, the University of Illinois 35th, Purdue 40th, and Babson 65th among the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S.

Economist rival The Financial Times ranks Manchester Business School, which declined to provide info to The Economist, 43rd. It ranks Illinois 44th, Imperial 49th, Rotman 51st, Carlson 54th and Purdue 56th. The Indian School of Business, ranked 35th in the world by the FT, apparently was not invited to participate in The Economist ranking.

Declined to participate: American University (Kogod), Monash University, Ashridge, Globis University, University of Missouri-Kansas City (Bloch), University of the Witwatersand, Babson College (Olin), EGADE-Tecnologico de Monterrey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Imperial College Business School, University of Manchester, McGill University (Desautels), University of Minnesota (Carlson), Purdue University (Krannert), Seoul National University, University of Toronto (Rotman), University of British Columbia (Sauder)

The Economist also said the following schools only provided one year of data and were not ranked as a result: Bradford University, Trinity College Dublin, University of Glasgow, Queen’s University, University of Western Ontario (Ivey), Universidad Austral, Michigan State University, Ryerson University, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Sun Yat-sen University, S P Jain School of Global Management, Politecnico di Milano School of Management, The University of Liverpool, City University of New York.

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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.