Sunday, July 01, 2007

TPCK - MBA Program Rankings

The MBA degree has become one of the most popular masters' degrees. As more universities started offering the degree, differences in the quality of schools, faculty, and course offerings became evident. Naturally, establishing some criteria of quality is needed to differentiate among MBA programs, especially for prospective students trying to decide on where to apply. As MBA programs proliferated, a variety of publications began providing information on them. Some of these consisted of compilations of information gathered from the universities offering the degree, usually published in book form. Eventually periodicals began publishing articles describing various MBA schools and ranking them according to some perceived quality criteria. One of the most prominent of these is Business Week, which devotes a biennial issue to ranking MBA programs. Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and U.S. News & World Report also publish MBA program rankings. See the External links section below to view some of these rankings.

Different methods of varying validity were used to arrive at rankings of MBA programs. The Gourman Report, for example, did not disclose criteria or ranking methods,[10] and these reports were criticized for reporting statistically impossible data, such as no ties among schools, narrow gaps in scores with no variation in gap widths, and ranks of nonexistent departments.[11] In 1977 The Carter Report published rankings of MBA programs based on the number of academic articles published by faculty. Periodicals based their rankings on interviews with company recruiters who hired MBA graduates, surveys of MBA schools' deans, polls of students or faculty, and a variety of other means. The defunct MBA Magazine asked deans to vote on the best programs. The methods of obtaining ranks often changed from year to year. Initially, rankings included only a small number of universities consisting of the largest and best known Ivy League and state schools.

The ranking of MBA programs has been discussed in articles and on academic Web sites.[12] Critics of ranking methodologies maintain that any published rankings should be viewed with caution for the following reasons:[13]

  • Rankings limit the population size to a small number of MBA programs and ignore the majority of schools, many with excellent offerings.
  • The ranking methods may be subject to biases and statistically flawed methodologies (especially for methods relying on subjective interviews of hiring managers).
  • The same list of well-known schools appears in each ranking with some variation in ranks, so a school ranked as number 1 in one list may be number 3 in another list.
  • Rankings tend to concentrate on the school itself, but some schools offer MBA programs of different qualities (e.g. a school may use highly reputable faculty to teach a daytime program, and use adjunct faculty in its evening program).
  • A high rank in a national publication tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

One study found that objectively ranking MBA programs by a combination of graduates' starting salaries and average student GMAT score can reasonably duplicate the top 20 list of the national publications.[13] The study concluded that a truly objective ranking would be individualized to the needs of each prospective student.[14] National publications have recognized the value of rankings against different criteria, and now offer lists ranked different ways: by salary, GMAT score of students, selectivity, and so forth. While useful, these rankings still are not tailored to individual needs, and their value is diminished if they use an incomplete population of schools, fail to distinguish between the different MBA program types offered by each school, or rely on subjective interviews


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