Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Business of B-School Rankings & The Big Farce

Intellectually and technically incompetent; advertisement and money driven, it's an annual joke

The ranking agency is yet to be determined, the methodology yet to be formulated, the parameters still to be decided - but the marketing team is already haunting a B-School management for advertisements like a swarm of irritating mosquitoes. Be it business magazines or financial newspapers or news weeklies - it is a cool way to earn a few extra bucks - the annual B-School rankings. Magazines and newspapers apart, some ranking agencies have also floated websites to attract advertisements and earn as well while they “unbiasedly” rank the same B-Schools!!!

The ranking agencies (often one man shows existing solely to rank B-Schools annually) don’t have any competence or intellect to even determine criteria to rank B-Schools. Most of them go pathetically wrong even while trying to do quantitative pre poll predictions but are all boasting of accurate (though mostly qualitative and perception based) B-School rankings. The magazines which try to tie-up with more known market research agencies somehow seem to have an amazing manipulative hold over them - one look at it will reveal it to even a layman. Tough to believe that internationally acclaimed market research companies can come out with such jokes in the name of rankings. One wonders whom were they getting the questionnaires filled by??? Defunct institutes which haven’t innovated their courses in the last decade, institutes which hardly have 10 permanent faculty members, institutes about whose MBA course, students don’t even know of (!) are all there in the top!!! Institutes whose faculty members don’t do any industry consulting or even research for that matter, are there too!! Technology institutes whose only claim to fame are a few extra acres of grassland with no management expertise are also there! Institutes whose names wouldn’t even figure in any recruiters top 20 wish list are ranked in the recruiters top 10 as well as the overall top 10 B-Schools. And every editor - most of them, barring one or two, not qualified or educated enough to comment on management education - has a comment on how B-Schools need to be and how they think (whatever their intellect) that their B-School ranking is the best. They even go up to the extent of exploiting the media space (not owned by them) to take out their petty jealousies through frivolous comments!!

No, I don’t need to laugh at these ludicrous rankings and their so called reputed agencies - the public is already doing that. Seven rankings - seven media houses - seven agencies and... none of them seem to have any similarity (barring of course the top four names to bring credibility to their rankings).

Try to argue with these rankers and you will hit a wall - oh, these were based on perceptions of industry people - of course who can debate perception studies? Who perceives? Who cares! Nobody - till somebody like me takes out a perception study on journalists too!! Or some institute which believes in the judicial system of the country files a multi crore defamation case on them, asking them to reveal the data collection details to the public.

The bigger question though is what should be the correct criteria for B-School rankings and how to do it credibly. To me, B-School rankings need to do the following.

1. Academic institutions should be judged by the education they impart and its quality of faculty and not by the placements. Rankings need to bring in front of people the B-Schools which have the best course content and faculty. At the most there could be a separate ranking of best B-School and best placements so that institutes are not looked upon as placement agencies but are given academic respectability. Placements are important but if given extra weightage to judge an academic institution makes it favourably inclined towards institutes who have enjoyed a historical bias in the minds of the recruiters. The more the weightage on placements the more these institutes will repeatedly get high ranks and the more people will be fooled to believe that they are the best. It's a vicious circle.

2. Judging the quality of education is more of a qualitative thing. The key is in getting a huge number of leading experts (in the case of Oscars the number of voters are 6000+ to avoid any individual bias) on management like Ratan Tata, Narayan Murthy, M.S.Banga, Gursharan Das, Bibek Debroy, Arun Maira, Ashok Soota etc. giving their votes after going through the course contents and faculty details of the qualifying B-Schools.

3. Quantitative parameters like - no. of credits taught in each B-School, no. of permanent faculty members, amount of industry consulting done by each institute in terms of revenues, no. of research articles and cases developed every year, no. of international faculty members coming to teach, percentage of students going abroad to do projects, no. of Laptops per student - should be used to rank B-Schools in the parameters related to course contents, faculty, industry interface, research, global initiative and modern technology.

4. No ranking agency should be allowed to have any business interest with the institutes it ranks like running a website where the institutes advertise.

5. The entire process should be audited by a reputed firm like PWC or E&Y so that editors can’t manipulate rankings on the basis of their whims and fancies or other non ethical considerations.

6. The entire process and details of the above ranking should be made available for the common man through a website for the final seal of transparency.

Surprisingly IIPM’s name also features in these rankings often in spite of IIPM’s regular questioning of the credibility of most of these rankings. IIPM believes that it is the #1 B-School in India in terms of education, faculty, research and consulting, international exposure to the students and infrastructure. Whenever IIPM is ranked anywhere in the top 10 IIPM mentions it in its ads. As the Dean of IIPM, I mostly don’t agree with the ranking criteria but I do realise we have to live with it and keep voicing our opinion on the required changes in the methodology etc. of these rankings - till the changes really take place.

I do hope that very soon we would have B-School rankings which would follow the above suggestions and look more credible. Till then – like so often in today’s times - love and B-School rankings will continue to be bought by money.


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