Oops! A School Admits Overstating Data To Financial Times

“I take complete responsibility for this reporting error,” says Rady Dean Lisa Ordóñez after reporting inaccurate data for the Financial Times’ 2020 MBA ranking

UC-San Diego’s Rady School of Management says it accidentally provided more positive employment outcomes for its MBA graduates to the Financial Times for its 2020 ranking of the best full-time MBA programs. The school reported that 76% of its Class of 2019 MBA graduates had accepted jobs within three months of commencement when the actual number was 13 percentage points lower at 63%.

After an internal review made the error apparent, the school notified the Financial Times of its mistake, according to Lisa Ordóñez, Rady dean. She also said the university caught the error in time to provide correct data to U.S. News & World Report for its forthcoming MBA ranking which will be published next Tuesday, March 17. Last year, Rady was tied for 69th place with three other schools on the U.S. News list. Dean Ordóñez attributed the error to an “outdated” method for analyzing career placement information and said the school has since fixed the issue.

Rady’s MBA program, ranked 96th by the FT earlier this year, had failed to make the newspaper’s top 100 a year earlier. It’s unclear what impact the inflated employment data had on the school’s ranking. Though that metric accounts for only 2% of the Financial Times’ ranking, small differences in a single data point can sway results, particularly near the bottom of a list where differences among the schools are small and lack statistical relevance.

DEAN ASSUMES ‘COMPLETE RESPONSIBILITY’ FOR THE MISTAKE

“I take complete responsibility for this reporting error,” Ordóñez said in a March 2 email to the Rady community. “Simply stated, we had not collected and documented the proper evidence to justify our (job) classifications. Thus, without this evidence, we had to reclassify six of 55 students as not accepting a job at three months after graduation.”

The school is unlikely to be penalized for reporting inaccurate data to the FT.

“We have submitted a letter to the Financial Times explaining our mistake and received their response. Since they cannot change the print version of the rankings that have already been published, they will not change our ranking. In addition, they will allow us to submit data again next year. Thus, we have not incurred a penalty after informing them of our error.”

In the past, schools that have accidentally provided incorrect data for the U.S. News ranking have been yanked from the list, even when they have been proactive in reporting errors. Unlike the Financial Times, U.S. News has taken a tough line on both omissions and the submission of wrong data.

A SILVER LINING?

“The silver lining in this situation is that we have a culture where people feel comfortable coming forward with this important information,” Ordóñez said in her email.

“In addition, we demonstrated our integrity (one of our five core values) by correcting our error with the Financial Times. Our major benefactor, Ernest Rady, often discusses the importance of integrity and believes that his success has been due to his ethical business practices. Thus, we wanted to correct this error as soon as we were able.”

Ordóñez became dean of the Rady School in September after 25 years at the University of Arizona as a research faculty member; her last four years at the Eller College of Management were spent as vice dean, a role in which she supported development of an online undergraduate program, an international program, and six master’s programs. Among her other responsibilities were successfully restructuring a college-wide financial allocation model and leading a successful AACSB review.

She took over for the only other dean Rady has ever had. Robert Sullivan ran the school from its founding in 2003 and was at the helm when, in 2015, Rady received a $100 million gift from the school’s namesake, billionaire Ernest Rady. The windfall, Sullivan said at the time, would help catapult Rady into the top 15 in the U.S. So far, that lofty goal hasn’t panned out.

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