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Can Businessweek Ranking Become Even Less Credible?

Bloomberg Buisnessweek is making a few substantial changes to its next full-time MBA ranking that could have a significant impact on the results of its annual list due this November. In an email to school administrators obtained by Poets&Quants, the magazine said it now allow the schools to survey corporate recruiters on its behalf and, astonishingly, told the schools that their alumni who recruit MBA students would be “fully eligible” to fill out those surveys used to rank MBA programs.

“Rather than asking schools to send Bloomberg lists of recruiters, we will ask schools to email survey links directly to recruiters, just as schools do for the student and alumni surveys,” said Caleb Solomon, senior editor of Bloomberg News in the email. “Schools we spoke with said sending  blast emails to recruiters is common and easier than assembling recruiter lists for Bloomberg. This year, alumni from your school who recruit from your school will be fully eligible.”

Solomon said the changes or, in his words, “process improvements,” were made after “many exchanges we’ve had with schools in the past few months.  Most, we hope, will simplify schools’ workloads.”

BLOOMBERG NOW ASKING BUSINESS SCHOOL TO SURVEY RECRUITERS 

Bloomberg, however, appears to be pushing more work for its ranking onto the schools. In years past, Businessweek would not only survey graduating students on its own but also would independently survey MBA employers, insuring that only HR professionals with direct oversight of MBA recruiting were surveyed. Allowing anyone who recruits from an MBA program, especially alumni who are being asked to rate their own alma maters, raises significant questions about the credibility of the survey results. Turning over the polling process to schools would make the surveys more vulnerable to manipulation by programs seeking higher rankings.

In MBA recruiting, it is typical for a company to send back graduates to their alma maters to interview candidates. Obviously, alumni would be biased in favor of their schools when completing what is an anonymous survey that reflects on the reputation of their own schools. When Businessweek first made this change in 2015, the magazine acknowledged this problem by noting that alumni tend to rate their schools “significantly more favorably than non-alumni.” Nonetheless, Businessweek continues to survey everyone who recruits at its target schools as opposed to the top officials at companies who are in charge of overall MBA recruiting.

Last year, Harvard Business School’s full-time MBA program was ranked first by Bloomberg Businessweek for the third consecutive year, followed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

The change in how Businessweek compiles its recruiter survey is among several alternations announced by Solomon. After feedback from the schools, the magazine said it will survey both students and alumni at the same time. “Rather than stagger our student and alumni surveys by month, we will launch both in May,” wrote Solomon. “Schools have told us that concentrating the effort may save them time.”

CHANGE IN HOW BUSINESS SCHOOL GATHERS PAY AND PLACEMENT DATA

Another change involves the way schools report compensation and employment data for its graduates.  “Rather than sending schools a Bloomberg form to fill out with compensation and employment data, we will ask you to send us the exact same MBA CSEA file as an excel spreadsheet on employment statistics,” added Solomon. “Schools told us sending us the exact same file would be easier. Bloomberg expects to  publish more data from the report than in the past.”

Solomon also told the schools that the magazine would share more of the data it gathers with participating programs. “Soon after we publish our rankings in November, we will provide each school with a custom report breaking out key details of their survey results and  verbatim comments,” he wrote. “We realize schools spend a lot of time working on these surveys to help us better inform prospective students and improve business school education. We think sharing some of our survey data with schools are important steps toward those goals.”

Solomon then outlined a timeline for Businessweek’s ranking project. It follows:

Week of April 16: Schools will receive email with sign up link to a Survey Dashboard
Week of April 30: Student Survey opens
Week of May 7: Alumni Survey opens
Week of May 14: Recruiter Survey opens and MBA CSEA employment data due
Week of July 9: Student Survey closes
Week of July 16: Alumni Survey closes
Week of July 23: Recruiter Survey closes
November: U.S. Rankings publish
December: International Rankings publish