For business school administrators in the U.S., the U.S. News rankings are the academic equivalent to the Super Bowl. It is a winner-takes-all event where the movers gain prestige, gain pats on the back, and can see additional application volume. However, there is a lower stakes ranking that bestows something even more important to academics: Bragging rights. And that comes from the University of Texas-Dallas’ annual Top 100 Business School Research Rankings for North America.
Conducted by the school’s Jindal School of Management, the index compiles the number of faculty research articles that appear in 24 peer-reviewed journals from 2010-2014. Since the rankings were established, Wharton has held the number one spot every year. And 2015 was no different. In fact, the outcome was never even close.
Over the past five years, Wharton has cranked out over 351 research articles over the past five years, over 100 more than their nearest competitors (Harvard Business School and New York University’s Stern School of Business tied at 250). Wharton’s index score – 188.84 – was nearly sixty points higher than Harvard – and double that of Stanford. And here’s an example of how dominant Wharton is. The combined index score of Stanford and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business didn’t equal Wharton’s score (though the two programs, combined, produced 27 more articles than Wharton).
A HIGHLY DEMOCRATIC – AND FLAWED – METHODOLOGY
So how does the ranking work? For starters, the 24 research journals include publications you will never see on a newsstand or in a typical library. They are journals that are barely read by the academics who publish in them and precious few, if any, practitioners: Journal of Marketing, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Finance, and the Academy of Management Review, among others. What’s excluded–and arguably more telling about a faculty’s contributions to the real world–may very well help some schools get higher up in the ranking, including the sponsor of this exercise, Jindal in Dallas.
As you’d expect, the ranking doesn’t factor in op-eds in such outlets as The Wall Street Journal or The Financial Times. However, it also doesn’t index such respected outlets such as the Harvard Business Review or the MIT Sloan Management Review, the two serious-minded business publications most read by real business people. Published books (and research sponsored by private and private entities) aren’t counted either. As a result, the rankings tend to reward research that may be a bit esoteric – and not necessarily indicative of a business school’s larger contributions. A cynic might even suggest that this ranking is more likely to reward schools that allow faculty to be so focused on their narrow careers and esoteric research that they are not ideal teachers who can deeply and effectively engage with MBA students.
To formulate a score, Jindal credits a single-authored paper with a score of 1. In cases where there are multiple authors, “each school gets a core of p/n, where p is the number of authors from the same school and there are a total of n numbers on the article.” Bottom line: The methodology treats all articles equally and doesn’t incorporate other factors like citations and awards.
While this approach is theoretically egalitarian, it naturally skews towards more research-driven schools with larger faculties, putting smaller schools, such as Dartmouth Tuck or Yale SOM, at a distinct and unfair disadvantage. Wharton, for example, boasts 228 standing faculty members and another 243 non-standing professors, both full and part-time. In contrast, Tuck has all of 55 full-time professors. The ranking also doesn’t measure how research is integrated back into the classroom for the benefit of students.
HIGHEST RANKED PROGRAMS TEND TO BE RESEARCH JUGGERNAUTS TOO
If you compare Jindal’s research rankings against U.S. News’ U.S. business school rankings, you’ll find a strong correlation. There, six top ten schools (Wharton, Harvard, MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg, Columbia, and NYU Stern) also appear in Jindal’s ranking. And the three of the four outliers ranked by Jindal (Texas McCombs, Michigan Ross and USC Marshall) are top 40 schools according to U.S. News (Technically, Maryland is ranked 41st). As cited earlier, Stanford and the University of Chicago (Booth) both punch well below their reputation when it comes to research, ranking 13th and 14th by Jindal. The University of California Berkeley Haas (34th), Dartmouth Tuck (62nd) and the University of Virginia Darden (78th) are other surprises, though the low rankings on the latter two could stem from their uncompromising focus on teaching excellence.
Some surprises in the rankings? The University of Texas-Dallas landed in the number 12 spot, ahead of stalwarts like Duke Fuqua, the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler, and UCLA Anderson. In fact, Jindal published twice as many research papers in the top journals it selected for the study as Yale over the past five years (196 vs. 92). Georgia State University and the University of South Carolina were also top 50 programs research-wise, ranking ahead of Ivy power Cornell Johnson (number 44).