How Business School Rankings Can Transform an MBA Education |

How Business School Rankings Can Transform an MBA Education

By Nunzio Quacquarelli

Updated May 30, 2019 Updated May 30, 2019

The United Nations Global Compact is calling for a radical shift in the way organizations like ours conduct business school rankings.

Those who wrote the report want rankings to be more focused on helping drive change in business schools, “to open a constructive dialogue about whether and how we can improve our benchmarking systems to encourage a ‘race to the top’ by our business schools in effectively training and nurturing future managers.”

There’s a sense of urgency to the report’s conclusion, perhaps a result of changes to the global climate, air and water quality, the lightning-fast pace of technological advancement, and the great class divide to name a few.

We want to be at the table for this great conversation about how to transform rankings as a means of bettering business schools and producing the next generation of more empathetic and thoughtful business leaders.

What does the UN Global Compact suggest?

At the heart of the UN Global Compact report is the idea that business school rankings – and to a lesser extent accrediting bodies – can greatly influence educators. Until now, however, most rankings focus on who is earning the highest salaries, according to the report.

As a result, schools have focused on enrolling students who plan to enter high-paying fields, such as finance and consulting. In fact, the writers of the report suggest schools earn demerits for those who enter public service or nonprofits. Entrepreneurship, which is a driving force in the global economy, doesn’t even seem to count. 

Instead, the UN Global Compact suggests business school rankings focus on what schools are teaching. For instance, the writers of the report want rankings to reward business schools for teaching sustainability and ethics.

In 2001, the Aspen Institute surveyed MBA students and found that during two years of an MBA program, student priorities shifted from customer needs and product quality to an emphasis on shareholder value as reported by the UN Global Compact. The overriding message of the report is to combat this traditional outcome.

Being pioneers

QS is at the forefront of helping educators consider the issues raised by the UN Global Compact. For starters, along with The Wharton School, we host the annual Reimagine Education Conference & Awards, a competition for innovative approaches aimed at enhancing student learning outcomes and employability. The winner earns $50,000 in funding.

In addition, the QS Global MBA Rankings already address some of the concerns the UN Global Compact brings up. For one, employability is the driving force in the methodology, accounting for 40 percent of a school’s final score.

We talk to a wide range of employers in various fields to find out how they assess hires from different business schools. We also consider the employment rates provided by the business schools.

In addition, entrepreneurship is not ignored in the QS rankings. The alumni outcomes index and entrepreneurship as reported by the business schools make up a total of 15 percent of a school’s ranking score.

Another factor the UN Global Compact wishes rankings would address is diversity. After all, the world’s demographics are changing and the quest for equality continues. We recognize the importance of diversity for moral reasons but also in determining positive business outcomes. Diversity – both in gender and nationality – is another indicator in the QS rankings.

QS has also innovated in developing a new ranking metric for career success: ‘Alumni Outcomes’. This metric looks at successful alumni around the world and treats MBA alumni who lead non-profits and successful entrepreneurial ventures, on an equal footing with those who lead major companies or banks. In this way, we have already partially responded to the UN Global Compact’s recommendations.

Looking to the future

Rankings have long been, to some degree, controversial. Many have wondered whether the emphasis schools and applicants put on rankings has hurt higher education.

“Many respondents advanced the argument that the rankings systems and accreditation process were less likely to be ‘gamed’ if there were a multiplicity of measures aimed at encouraging business schools to educate managers for the 21st century,” according to the report.

People assume organizations like ours never think about the impact of our rankings. The truth is we think about it all the time. We recognize that schools want to perform well in rankings and therefore will respond to what we assess. In fact, the idea of influencing the way we conduct rankings to force more rapid change on business schools is hardly novel. I think that was always the point.

However, it’s worth saying out loud, as the UN Global Compact has. It’s also valuable to question the priorities set forth by organizations conducting rankings and the business schools themselves as the world grapples with some pressing problems. Time is of the essence. UN Global Compact, we hear you and change is coming.  

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

This article was originally published in May 2019 .

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