How realistic are B-School rankings?

How realistic are B-School rankings?

If one knows the processes and the limitations of these rankings, these are quite near to the real picture and of great help in decision-making.

Abhishek Agrawal, executive director, MDRA Abhishek Agrawal, executive director, MDRA

While the world's first business school (ESCP Europe) was founded in Paris, France, in 1819, it took 130 more years for the first business school to be set up in India (XLRI Jamshedpur, established in 1949). However, the world's first MBA degree was started at Harvard Business School, USA, in 1908 while IISWBM Kolkata (Indian Institute of Social Welfare & Business Management) is credited with offering the first MBA degree in India (since 1953), followed by FMS Delhi. Prestigious IIMs were started in 1961 (first in Calcutta, followed by Ahmedabad the same year).

Although India started considerably late, it boasts the largest number of B-schools in the world (about 4,000 out of 15,000 globally). Several among these B-schools offer more than one management programmes at the post-graduate level, thus having 5,000 plus management programmes in India.

As per a recent global survey conducted by Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) among prospective students, India is the fifth most preferred MBA destination in the world. The two big reasons cited for this were - affordability of education and availability of financial aid. The point to ponder is "quality of education" was not a reason. While Indian B-schools are being increasingly recognised globally and their alumni are getting more and higher places on global corporate boards, such accomplishments are there for few top business schools.

Also, top Indian B-schools have been getting prestigious places in global rankings recently - but there are only few. Some have also been accredited by highly coveted international accreditation agencies like AMBA, AACSB or EQUIS.

This all have led to some good choices for Indian and international students while deciding on admissions into a good management programme in India. However, management education is generally expensive and choice of B-school has a long-lasting impact on one's career and earnings. Therefore, it is very important to take latest information based decision.

Putting this in mind, the approach taken by BT-MDRA ranking methodology ensures:

>> RELEVANCY: All the parameters and sub-parameters for evaluation need to be relevant and contextual (e.g. number of faculty members alone is not a good indicator of faculty strength, it  has to be in the context of number of students as well - therefore, student-faculty ratio is taken).

>> LATEST: While many rankings rely on past year's data, MDRA goes all out to ensure that current data is used for evaluation as the management education sector in India is highly dynamic.

>> WIDTH: As many as 123 attributes of each B-school are evaluated that contribute to 16 sub-parameters and five parameters in Objective ranking. This is probably the widest and largest set of inputs used in any ranking for evaluation. Also, in terms of sample selection for perceptual rankings, the coverage is from more than 20 cities and towns cut-across the country.

>> DEPTH: It is ensured that deep down information is used to its best while scoring each of the B-schools on each of these 123 attributes. Further, these are validated through various ways including most robust physical audit. While taking perceptual ranking, not only country-wide but zonal rankings are also taken.

The kind of approach and detailing taken by BT-MDRA ranking clearly differentiates and certainly helps in putting fact before fiction. Some like it or hate it, our B-school rankings are being increasingly used for key decision makings and also at policy initiatives. While our rankings attract a lot of attention among all categories of stakeholders increasingly, one might ask how realistic are these rankings?

If one knows the processes and the limitations of these rankings, these are quite near to the real picture and of great help in decision-making. The BT-MDRA rankings give good enough picture and trend to start short-listing institutions for admissions or recruitments. However, as in case of any other product category, the decision making process has to take into account individual preferences and the goal in mind.

Some of the limitations of our rankings are:

>> PARTICIPATION OF B-SCHOOLS: As 50 per cent of the weight to total score for final ranking depends on Objective data provided by these institutions, non-participation by some good B-schools definitely affects the relative ranking. For example, this year IIM Bangalore, IIM Lucknow and IMT Ghaziabad could not participate in ranking which could bring institutions below them some level up in these relative rankings - an institution not deserving top 20 might well enter into this highly coveted league.

>> PERCEPTUAL RANKINGS: 40 per cent of the weight to total score is based on perceptual rankings. Although BT-MDRA ranking methodology ensures that only "experienced" people (deans/ directors, recruiters, final year students, alumni) participate in these perceptual rankings, undoubtedly their perception might also get influenced by visibility, branding and marketing efforts by some colleges who do not deserve a very good rank. In addition, any sample-based survey is prone to sampling and non-sampling errors during selection of respondents, howsoever small that may be.

>> NON-MEASURABLE ASPECTS: The underlying principle of any such comparison lies in comparing what can be measured. For example, an institute having better student-faculty ratio is allotted better score and higher academic qualification of faculty, more experience (both teaching and industry) etc go in their favor. However, it is not easy to answer a question like between two equally qualified faculties, who teaches better? In practice, several things are assumed - e.g. more books means more reading, better infrastructure means better and more usage of them, but these assumptions might not be true.

>> GENERALISATION: There are several sector-specific good programmes such as being offered by MICA, IRMA, IIFM, VAMNICOM, MANAGE, NIAM, etc, which have their own niche market (both students and recruiters). However, due to non-awareness and being clubbed with general management courses rankings, their relative positions stand a chance to suffer.

Knowledge of these limitations would not only help in taking decisions by stakeholders but also in our constant endeavor to make these better over years. Nonetheless, the BT-MDRA ranking methodology has extreme wide and deep coverage in terms of attributes/ parameters for evaluation, participation (the participation is by far the largest among all rankings), stakeholder selection for perceptual ranking and has unique experiential ranking element coupled with strong verification and physical audit system which definitely makes it most credible and sought-after ranking.