TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Non-Elite B-Schools Urge 'Just Say No' Approach To Rankings

US NewsWall Street Journal, Business Schools Take a Stand Against Academic Rankings:

Business-school deans and research faculty at more than 20 universities are taking a stand against the academic rankings published by media outlets such as Bloomberg Businessweek, Nikkei Inc.’s Financial Times and the Economist Group.

Rather than “acquiesce to methods of comparison we know to be fundamentally misleading,” the administrators are urging their peers at other schools to stop participating in a process they say rates programs on an overly narrow set of criteria.

The plea, issued by deans and faculty from institutions including University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business and the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, comes in the form of a research paper to be published in the May edition of the Decision Sciences Journal [On Academic Rankings, Unacceptable Methods, and the Social Obligations of Business Schools].

The researchers examine the approaches used by media outlets to aggregate different factors like admitted students’ test scores and tenured faculty on a school’s payroll into a single number, arguing that the process oversimplifies the array of reasons students pursue business degrees.

The debate over rankings is hardly new, but the recent rancor comes as schools battle declining enrollment in two-year M.B.A. programs, compounding pressure on the institutions to tout the benefits of one of America’s priciest degrees.

On Academic Rankings, Unacceptable Methods, and the Social Obligations of Business Schools:

Inspired by recent discussions of the systematic costs that external rankings impose on academic institutions, and the undeniable shifts in the landscape of institutional data, a concerted and pragmatic re-evaluation of ranking efforts has begun. In this study, multiple administrators and researchers representing both public and private institutions across the United States weigh in on these issues. While reaffirming the social contract we hold with society, we argue that the fundamental methodological shortcomings of existing rankings, and ultimately any ordinal ranking system, limit the value of current rankings. These shortcomings emerge from the conceptualization and the architecture of comparisons, and are evident in survey designs, data collection methods, and data aggregation procedures. Our discussion continues by outlining the minimal requirements that a socially responsible, transparent, flexible, and highly representative rating (vs. ranking) approach should employ. Ultimately, we call on academic institutions and organizing bodies to take a collective stand against existing rankings and to embrace the strategic use of multidimensional alternatives that faithfully serve prospective students, parents, and other key stakeholders. We conclude with a number of suggestions and opportunities for practice-oriented research in the decision sciences aimed to support this fundamental shift in evaluative framing.

Dealbreaker, Third-Tier B-Schools Don’t Like Rankings Placing Them In The Third Tier:

The triumphalism and hang-wringing that accompanies each rankings’ release is, of course, ridiculous, since everyone knows they are bullshit. ... But they still hurt our feelings. At the moment, they hurt the feelings of the b-school deans at USC, UNC, Ohio State and the University of Iowa, who have crunched the numbers to prove that their schools aren’t as bad as U.S. News says.

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