Ranking Mania

5 May 2006 at 4:06 am 9 comments

| Nicolai Foss |

I just received a mail from the administrators of SSRN: “SSRN is pleased to announce a new service: Top Business Schools Rankings based on downloads from SSRN's eLibrary.  This list will be  updated at the beginning of each month and joins the Top Law School Rankings, announced last year.” 

Here is the list of US school for those who care: 

1   Harvard Business School
2   University of Chicago – Graduate School of Business
3   University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School
4   Yale School of Management
5   New York University – Leonard N. Stern School of Business
6   Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Sloan School of  Management
7   Stephen M. Ross School of Business at University of Michigan
8   Columbia University – Columbia Business School
9   Dartmouth College – Tuck School of Business
10  William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration
11  Duke University – Fuqua School of Business
12  University of Texas at Austin – Red McCombs School of Business
13  Stanford Graduate School of Business
14  University of Southern California – Marshall School of Business
15  Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management
16  Ohio State University – Fisher College of Business
17  Cornell University – Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of  Management
18  Indiana University Bloomington – Kelley School of Business
19  University of California, Berkeley – Haas School of Business
20  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – College of Business

And here is the so-called “international list”:

1   University of London – London Business School
2   Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) – Rotterdam School of Management
3   Tilburg University – CentER and Faculty of Economics and Business Administration
4   City University London – Sir John Cass Business School
5   IESE Business School – University of Navarra
6   University of British Columbia – Sauder School of Business
7   University of Zurich – Faculty of Business Administration
8   Hong Kong University of Science & Technology – School of Business
and Management
9   University of Toronto – Joseph L. Rotman School of Management
10  Universitat Pompeu Fabra – Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences
11  University of Amsterdam – Business School
12  Lancaster University – Management School
13  University of Reading – Business School
14  University of Maastricht (formerly University of Limburg) – Faculty of Economics & Business Administration
15  University of Oxford – Said Business School
16  Chinese University of Hong Kong – Faculty of Business Administration
17  Middlesex University – Business School
18  Aarhus School of Business
19  McGill University – Faculty of Management
20  University of Cambridge – Judge Business School

You can see the full list here.

Frankly, isn’t this going too far now? Most downloaded working papers? Give me a break!  

OK, abstracting from my personal irritation over the escalating ranking mania, why does it take place? Is it just a silly game with no serious underlying rationality? Or are there deeper economic reasons for it? Probably a mix of institutional and individual motives.  Thus, business schools and universities constantly need to acquire funding and they are constantly looking for new indicators that they can use to measure their worth and increase their reputation. The same kind of logic probably works on the level of the individual academic. I have not yet seen CVs that document the person’s paper downloads (many academics list their cites, however), but I am sure that will come. 

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Ephemera.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jüri Saar  |  5 May 2006 at 9:23 am

    Doesn’t the fact that an author can influence the number of downloads of his papers preclude this indicator from ever becoming serious enough to merrit inclusion in a CV?

  • 2. Nicolai Foss  |  5 May 2006 at 10:04 am

    Jüri, I couldn’t agree more!! Contrary to what I wrote in the post I have just learned that certain individuals — whose names shall not be disclosed — in fact feature this information on their CVs. N

  • 3. Peter Klein  |  5 May 2006 at 12:12 pm

    Downloads does seem a noisy measure of impact, but then again, look at the list — there are no real surprises. I.e., it seems unlikely that the institutions featured above achieved their SSRN ranks by opportunistic manipulation of the performance meausure (“OK, class, extra credit for the person who can download this paper the most times tonight!”). The flip side of course is that such a measure adds little additional information to the standard measures of citation counts etc.

    Can anyone recommend a good meta-analysis of business school rankings, comparing the pros and cons of alternative ranking strategies?

  • 4. Nicolai Foss  |  5 May 2006 at 1:36 pm

    While not strictly a meta-analysis, Harry Deangelo, Linda Deangelo and Jerold Zimmerman’s recent paper, “What’s really wrong with US business schools?” (downloadable at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=766404)
    contains a lot of relevant insight and analysis. Here is the abstract:

    U.S. business schools are locked in a dysfunctional competition for media rankings that diverts resources from long-term knowledge creation, which earned them global pre-eminence, into short-term strategies aimed at improving their rankings. MBA curricula are distorted by quick fix, look good packaging changes designed to influence rankings criteria, at the expense of giving students a rigorous, conceptual framework that will serve them well over their entire careers. Research, undergraduate education, and Ph.D. programs suffer as faculty time is diverted to almost continuous MBA curriculum changes, strategic planning exercises, and public relations efforts. Unless they wake up to the dangers of dysfunctional rankings competition, U.S. business schools are destined to lose their dominant global position and become a classic case study of how myopic decision-making begets institutional mediocrity.

  • 5. JC  |  6 May 2006 at 9:38 am

    This ranking is very interesting, especially in that it does not depend on the views of either students or their employers. Implicit is the admission that the function of a BSchool is to produce publishable papers. Of all the possible social justifications for the degree of Treasure and Blood that goes into the business of business education this has to be the most ridiculous and least tenable.

    If we were to imagine a new discipline such as ‘angelography’, which studies – even empirically – the number of angels that can sit on the head of a pin, and we manage to publish massively on this topic with papers read only by other angelopgraphers, we’ll find ourselves the top-ranked school. Right! But what have we done for the human condition?

    We might also argue that BSchools are a sort of finishing school where future business leaders are parked for a couple of years while they brush up their vocabulary – and teeth and claws – as they are prepared for their future socio-economic contributions. That seems an almost tenable reason for BSchools’ existence, butone that would necessaily suggest these students’ views, and those of their employers, would be crucial to their ranking.

    But the SSRN’s list specifically doesn’t do this. This strikes me as entailing an obligation on the SSRN to show how such publishing contributes in exchange for (a) the tax-payers’ money, (b) the steep opportunity costs for the students themselves, who could be earning a salary, and (c) the huge social costs of taking the BSchool professoriat, often educated with public funds, away from studying and so contributing to something really important, like transportation engineering, public sector administration, Third World agriculture and acquaculture, etc.

  • 6. Peter Klein  |  6 May 2006 at 10:09 am

    JC, I certainly agree. In defense of SSRN, though, I read "Top Business School Rankings based on downloads" as simply "the business schools with the most downloads," not "the best business schools, using downloads as a proxy for overall quality." One could legitimately ask (as you do) what, if anything, this proxy measures, without addressing the larger question of whether that thing is correlated with the overall quality or value of B schools.

    Regarding the larger question, "What should business schools do?", what are the best things written on this?

  • 7. JC Spender  |  7 May 2006 at 9:57 am

    Well, Mintzberg, H. (2004). Managers not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development. San Francisco CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, is excellent. Once you get past Henry’s stylist idiosyncracies you find a wealth of research, thought and insight in ths book.

    I’m also partial to Ken Starkey’s thoughts , e.g.:

    Starkey, K., Hatchuel, A., & Tempest, S. (2004). Rethinking the Business School, Journal of Management Studies (Vol. 41, pp. 1521): Blackwell Publishing Limited.

    He has a lot of other stuff and has just finished a long report for a UK NGO.

    The bottom line is that we have to understand some of the history of our business, for its problems are far from new. This is what I have written about.

    Also important are:
    Engwall, L., & Zamagni, V. (Eds.). (1998). Management Education in Historical Perspective. Manchester: Manchester University Press.


    Locke, R. R. (1998). Management Education. Guilford: Ashgate. (who also has a chapter in Engwall & Zamagni.

  • 8. Bo Nielsen  |  8 May 2006 at 2:17 pm

    Perhaps there is a correlation between this site and the ranking :)



  • 9. Valentina Korneeva  |  8 May 2006 at 3:13 pm

    There is a ranking system in the UK where it is decided upon how well students have graduated from the university compared regionally and across the country. I just wondered if in the USA it could be done the same way?

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