Why Rankings Matter | TopMBA.com

Why Rankings Matter

By Nunzio Quacquarelli

Updated Updated

Anyone living in the world of business schools recognizes that rankings are here to stay. Since the 1980s, media outlets have been surveying students, alumni, recruiters, and schools to determine which programs are the best in management education.  

Of course, you can argue that ‘the best’ is subjective. Yes, the proliferation of rankings and their different focuses can be overwhelming. Some schools have grown to resent the process and the resulting lists. They argue that different rankings have different emphases, and that they don’t tell the entire stories of individual programs. Indeed, they reduce schools to a number. And too many applicants get hung up on that number rather than finding a good fit.

All those points are valid. But business school rankings serve higher purposes that often go unrecognized. Looking at the upcoming QS Global MBA Rankings 2018, QS Masters in Finance Rankings 2018, QS Masters in Management Rankings 2018, and QS Masters in Business Analytics Rankings 2018 provides insight into the value of these rich data sets. Students repeatedly tell us that finding a better, higher-paying job is what drives them to attend an MBA or masters program. As a result, we put an emphasis on employability in our rankings.

To my knowledge, QS is the first to consider entrepreneurship among graduates as a key indicator. QS ranks more than 250 business schools across the world based on a total of 13 criteria that form the basis of five key indicators: employability, alumni outcomes and entrepreneurship, ROI / value for money, thought leadership, and class and faculty diversity.

While I could never say any ranking is fully comprehensive, I believe we have contributed to the larger conversation about the programs that merit the most attention. As a result of our efforts, I believe rankings still matter. Discover the reasons why:



What do I mean? Rankings serve as motivation for educators to be the very best they can be. Every program wants to be able to say it came in first with recruiters in such-and-such a ranking or that their recent grads are most satisfied with their education. So, they strive to improve and hit those marks.

In fact, some business schools have invested in an individual or team of people designated to improve their rankings results. In addition to filling out all the required surveys, these administrators also provide recommendations on how the school can change.

This could mean telling faculty and administration to be more responsive to student concerns. Or it could mean overhauling curricula to better address the needs of recruiters. In other cases, it could mean addressing issues in the career placement office. It all depends on the trends as determined by the various ranking results that emerge. Of course, then it’s up to the school to take action. But the rankings cycle, with deadlines always around the corner, pushes them along.



Rankings offer a unique opportunity for both applicants and schools to compare and contrast programs. While schools warn of the dangers of becoming fixated on the top 20, these rankings help set one program apart from another.

Usually, the data serves as a starting point for analyzing the culture and campus life you’ll find at various business programs. You can see which schools specialize in thought leadership, which in entrepreneurship, and so on.

Do not rely on rankings alone to create your own order of preference for schools. Look at the story behind the numbers and decide which criteria are important for you. QS encourages candidates to create personalized rankings on our mobile phone app – QSRankings – enabling candidates to filter and build short lists based on the criteria which matter to them.

We strongly believe in the importance of face-to-face contact, and recommend that candidates meet school admissions officers and alumni at events. These meetings help to build a sense of cultural fit and answer the intangible questions that rankings just cannot cover.

Indeed, applicants and recruiters should use rankings as a way to narrow down where to apply or seek out hires respectively. The schools use the information to determine their strengths and promote them. Business schools are always stressing the importance of self-assessment to their students. Rankings are a reflective tool for schools in many ways.



Rankings allow schools the chance to shine. You can see where each program excels. Looking at the individual metrics and specializations is sometimes more telling than the overall ranking.

This year, we have utilized wide ranging metrics in our rankings, which we believe will provide deep insight for candidates seeking to start their own business or looking for strong employability outcomes, for example.

I am particularly excited by the alumni outcomes and entrepreneurship indicator. This looks at founders, CEOs, and directors/partners of the world’s most successful companies. More than 49,000 of the most accomplished alumni of business schools contribute to this indicator.



When media outlets and other organizations regularly conduct rankings, they are putting a spotlight on business schools. They are consistently covering issues related to this niche in education. Beat reporters and statisticians become immersed in the relevant issues of the day.

Scrutiny means increased attention to detail. In the wake of the financial crisis, when we were trying to understand what happened, business schools were forced to field some tough questions.

Many of them began discussing ethics and regulations in ways they hadn’t before. While many educators probably would have done that on their own, the increased scrutiny kept them from consigning them once more to the backburner.

Furthermore, they wanted to make things right in time to get the thumbs up from the next student intake for their handling of the situation, whenever the next rankings survey asked about it.

Rankings may seem like the thorn in the rose of business education to some. But they actually help programs blossom and bloom.

What's your opinion on rankings? Let me know in the comments below.


*This article was originally published on LinkedIn. Please feel free to follow me to share your thoughts and comments.


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