MBA Rankings: A Better Way

Media rankings of MBA programs do a poor job of assessing quality. Three professors propose a rating system that allows users to define the terms

To say that MBA programs have undergone significant changes over the past three decades is an understatement. There have been dramatic shifts in approaches, curricula, and the overall MBA experience, all with a decidedly student-centric focus. Media rankings, such as those published by Bloomberg Businessweek, have played an influential role in this transformation by shining a light into an insular academic world, opening it up to scrutiny and increased accountability. In particular, rankings have shown business schools they must operate within a larger environment, one in which multiple stakeholders (students, businesses, society at large) have a vested interest in the educational process. To be certain, business schools now understand this message and have set a course to work on improving their MBA offerings.

Yet for all the good that has come from the rise of rankings, our research suggests that ranking systems fall short of achieving their primary objective, which is to summarize comprehensively educational or academic quality"the most fundamental product of any MBA program. Despite decades of discussion, a complete understanding of MBA program quality has yet to be achieved. Accordingly, we recently completed a project to define MBA program quality exhaustively (read a short summary here). Put simply, our findings suggest that MBA quality is multifaceted, and although rankings capture some important aspects of academic quality (e.g., student economic outcomes), they fail to assess adequately a number of critical features of the educational process, such as the quality of curricula, educational environment, and student learning, to name a few...

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