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Business School Rankings: The New Ad-space Selling Mantra

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Thumbs up Business School Rankings: The New Ad-space Selling Mantra - March 25th, 2007

Business School Rankings: The New Ad-space Selling Mantra

One thing uniform about Indian business schools, regardless of size, reputation, location, placements and other academic trivia, is that all of them are ranked amongst the top-10 by some incongruous publication or the other.

While the ranking system for universities / colleges / business schools in the West (typically represented by institutions in the US, UK, Europe) have become more and more scientific, the same cannot be said about institutions back home. The better known publications such as a US College News or the Financial Times in the UK resort to statistical tools using historical data and year-wise comparisons whilst still relying on the basic benchmarks such as faculty, research, infrastructure / facilities, student scholastic performance, admission criterion, programs of study and many such prerequisites.

Unfortunately, the ranking race is a commercial opportunity waiting to be exploited for most publications worth their salt. The race has gotten murkier with publications of all hues jumping onto the ranking bandwagon.

So a cursory glance at any publication at least through the time that students / parents are considering possible study options would reveal institutions from all corners touting their newly acquired ranking (which invariably is about how much advertising space the institution being ranked commits to purchase in the publication which ranks).

It makes for interesting reading how many institutions that have just begun have been ranked for the previous five years. While the publication / institution conducting the ranking survey is mentioned in fine print in all probability at the bottom of the advertisement, the criterion used by the publication in arriving at published rankings would be unavailable to most of us.

While the business of ranking helps add to the bottom lines of most publications, it definitely would be worrying if parents / students actually considered the rankings as credible measures of the institution's effectiveness or for that matter in making admissions decisions.

And there are publications that can make the deal sweeter by providing the institution with a good ranking as well as advertorial space next to the page in which these rankings are published. The advertorial normally quotes a Professor or a Director of the institution paying to be ranked - and in India it doesn't take tenure, teaching experience or terminal degrees to become a Professor - the moment you are employed to teach, you become one.

The last I hear from the local chaiwalla who is an authority on all things academic is that some of the well-known Directors / Professors have PR agencies working on getting their faces in the veritable Page 3 section (considered an important milestone in their academic careers). Unconfirmed reports also suggest that some institutions have established awards (in the name of self-styled stalwarts in education) which they unfailingly win year after year.

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