Business schools, it seems, will go to great ends just to climb the rankings.
The University of Missouri at Kansas City reported false information to the Princeton Review to improve the ranking of its business school, according to an outside audit on published Jan. 28.
The audit — published by the auditing, assurance and consulting company PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP — claimed that the falsified data was related to pressure put on school administrators by a donor. Though School of Management Associate Dean David Bach said the SOM experiences its own pressure to continue the rankings climb, he stressed that this pressure is self-generated and comes from a desire to optimize student opportunities at the SOM, which will then be reflected in a rankings increase. Similarly, SOM Dean Edward Snyder said the SOM’s commitment to its mission and rankings are linked.
“If you don’t have a mission and you don’t have a strategy and aspirations, then there’s no pressure,” Snyder said. “I’ve always said I think higher rankings are good for the school, but it’s all dependent on executing our mission and sticking to that.”
The information the audit found to be false, released by UMKC, included for instance student clubs that the school wished to create as part of its total count for existing clubs. The school also counted any student enrolled in an entrepreneurship course as enrolled in the entrepreneurship program, which worked to boost its ranking.
While the University of Missouri at Kansas City’s false data reporting to the Princeton Review calls into question data collection techniques for rankings, SOM Associate Dean Anjani Jain said the method of data collection varies from ranking to ranking. Though some business school rankings require self-reported information from schools, he said others audit information, and if the information is not audited there are ranking standards to ensure transparency.
The SOM started off the academic year with a substantial rankings leap in the biannual Bloomberg Businessweek MBA ranking, in which the school jumped from 21st place in 2012 to sixth place in 2014. However, after breaking into the top 10 MBA programs in the 2014 Financial Times rating, the SOM dropped to 17th place in this year’s ranking, released at the end of last month.
Jain said one of the primary causes of this decline is that the Financial Times ranking relies on an alumni survey on pre-MBA and three year post-MBA salaries. This year, the response rate of SOM alumni to this survey was small, only about 35 percent, which affected the SOM’s overall ranking, he said.
“Anytime you have a survey [in a ranking], you have the possibility of non-response bias,” Jain said.
SOM Deputy Director of Admissions Melissa Fogerty stressed that though the admissions office is aware prospective students pay attention to business school rankings, admissions officers still encourage prospective students to come to the SOM and visit with students and faculty. She said this is particularly important at the SOM because many of the school’s strengths and distinguishing factors are not reflected by rankings, such as its global curriculum.
For prospective students, Bach noted that rankings are particularly important because the SOM has not had the same public attention as other business schools historically.
“Yale University until recently was much better known than SOM [was] as a top management school,” he said. “I think the rankings help establish the global reputation for SOM that clearly benefits from the overall brand awareness that Yale has but reinforces this sense that this is a great place to come to study management.”
But Bach also said prospective MBA students are not the only audience for business school rankings. In particular, he said, corporate recruiters also look at rankings to determine their strategies and lists of core versus noncore schools. Though Bach said many recruiters also establish long term relationships with business schools, recruiters outside of the United States sometimes put more stock in rankings if they do not have a relationship with the individual school.
The 2015 Princeton Review Business School rankings collected data from 296 business schools.