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    The StratEDgy blog is intended to be a thoughtful hub for discussion about strategy and competition in higher education.


What a Difference a Decade Makes

Most people in higher education love to hate the rankings.  Not me – I find them highly imperfect but fascinating. 

February 15, 2012

Most people in higher education love to hate the rankings. Not me – I find them highly imperfect but fascinating. 

Yes, of course I agree that it’s really “impossible” to rank universities and programs, since curriculums vary somewhat and cultures vary considerably and whatever school is in the third spot is highly likely to be quite different than the schools in the second and forth spots.  And yes, schools do spend a boatload of resources vying for a spot on these coveted lists. 

Still, they do provide information to students, and with a lack of any other agreed-upon standard of measurement to evaluate universities and programs and students spending huge sums of money and wanting to have some sense of the value of this investment, the rankings are probably here to stay. 

The 2012 Financial Times Global MBA rankings came out late last month.  I like the FT rankings because they have been ranking programs as a global cohort for years and if there was ever a degree that begs to be considered in a global context, it’s the MBA.

At first glance there didn’t appear to be any major surprises.  The top five schools were Stanford, Harvard, Wharton (Pennsylvania), London Business School, and Columbia.  Four of those five were in the top five in 2011.  Moving further down the list, ten of the top ten in 2012 were in this group on a three year rank (their average rank over a three year period) and nine of the top ten were in the this grouping in 2011.  So not a great deal of change there. 

However, if you look a bit further down the list to the Top 30, you start to see some newer names and it got me wondering how the list had changed, not just over the past few years, but over the past decade. 

So I looked and discovered it had changed quite a bit.  Most striking was that we went from a three-color pie chart in 2002 to a five-color pie chart in 2012, with three new colors.  Welcome, China, India and Singapore!  Three schools – Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, National University of Singapore, and Hong Kong UST – were not even in the rankings prior to 2010.  (Note: INSEAD is counted twice in 2007 and 2012 – once in France and once in Singapore.)



Also striking was the dramatic shrinking of the US slice – from 73% of the Top 30 slots in 2002, to 53% in 2007, to 45% in 2012.  And this, of course, got me to thinking about competition – something widely touted in business schools as being “a good thing,” particularly for consumers and the overall improvement of the industry and product/service offerings.  No real argument there, but tough to take when you’re being outmaneuvered by the competition. 

But really, is the decreasing dominance of US MBA programs an alarming outcome of global competition in management education?  Or a broader indication of America’s decreasing clout in the business world?  Or not an issue, since the rise in quality/reputation of schools and programs in other parts of the world doesn't mean that US institutions and programs have declined?  What do you think? 


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