The Outlook-C Fore B school rankings are out. Should you believe the reams of data and tables that have been printed? Well, it's what has NOT been printed that has me more worried...
To begin with, here is their list of the top 10 institutes:
1) IIM A
2) IIM B
3) IIM C
4) MDI Gurgaon
5) S P Jain
6) IIFT New Delhi
7) NMIMS, Mumbai
8) XIM B
8) IMT Ghaziabad
9) ICFAI Hyderabad
10) IMI Delhi
Ranks 6-10 have benefitted hugely by the absence of several key institutes:
* XLRI, IIM Lucknow - absolutely glaring omissions
* FMS Delhi, JBIMS Mumbai - still top choices, very high brand value
* IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore - the institutes any student would prefer over an ICFAI / IMI/ IMT!
* Symbiosis - SIBM, SCMHRD
That's 8 whole institutes which should have been ranked somewhere between 4-15 not accounted for at all. And by glossing over this fact the credibility of the survey gets severely dented.
Furthermore, the methodology section of the survey explains: Invitations were sent out to 950 b schools, of which 234 responded. However, "information on some institutes which did not participate directly was obtained from secondary sources available to us"
I'm guessing this means IIM A, B and C - as the IIMs had refused to participate in all B school surveys. Well then why not do the same for the other missing B schools??
The smart thing to do is include box which at least gives a qualitative opinion on "B schools which have opted out of rankings but remain popular with students". And perhaps assign a letter grade to these schools.
It appears to be a clash of egos - B school is miffed by last year's results, says "we won't participate". Magazine says "fine - hum bhi dekh lenge. We'll blank you out".
So even in the accompanying stories there is no mention of the institutes which opted out of the survey - as if they don't exist on the planet!
As for IIM A, B, C - again because they did not officially participate in the survey none of their initiatives are featured. At IIM A for example a new course called PGP X has been started - a 1 year course for executives with 8-15 years experience. This is the institute's response to ISB Hyderabad.
Oh, by the way ISB is completely missing too!
To B or not to B
Why do institutes opt out anyways? Well, there are parameters on which some are completely deficient. For example - full time faculty. The Symbiosis group of institutes for examples employs just about 5-6 full time faculty in SIBM, SCMHRD, SIIB - they have abt 20-30 visiting professors managing the rest of the coursework per term.
Neither does the faculty have any pressure to conduct research, publish papers, attend conferences or do consulting.
From the student's point of view the visiting vs full time debate does not really matter. As long as the institute's reputation and past performance generates good placements, their objective is met.
At this point it's important to understand the difference between a B school and a Management Institute.
A management institute imparts business education, but also seeks to add onto the body of knowledge that exists in the subject as a whole.
A b school on the other hand has a single point objective: teaching the subject of business management.
The trouble with the surveys is that it lumps both categories together. Not all b schools seek to be management institutes - they simply wish to churn out competent graduates. And these graduates join the B school in quest of enhanced job prospects ie placements.
A survey titled 'India's top B schools' must take this dichotomy into account. Maybe the survey should gave two parts:
a) For the students, who have a short term view: Will X or Y b school benefit me?
b) For the academics/ thinktanks who take a longer term view: Are we getting closer to making an impact in management thinking and practice on a national/ global scale?
All institutes may choose not to participate in the second bit because they don't see themselves stretching the boundaries of management thinking - or making global impact - anyways.
Yes, traditionally, management institutes have tended to also be the best B schools. But in the last decade the 'pure B school' model has also come up and needs to be evaluated simply for what it is.
Another bit that makes no sense to me is a separate table on 'Sectoral B schools' ie the ones which offer specialised courses not general management degrees. Here's the ranking of top sectoral schools:
3) DMS, IIT Delhi
4) VGSOM, IIT KGP
6) IIFM Bhopal
7) NIAEM, Hyd
8) IHMR, Jaipur
9) Delhi School of Economics
10) DMS, NIT Trichy
One glaring omission is Shailesh J Mehta SOM, IIT Bombay. But besides that - why separate these schools from the mainstream? It's not like students decide "I will join only NITIE or IIT-D DMS". They give CAT, XAT etc and then see which is the 'best b school' in the prevailing pecking order they can get into.
At MICA for example only a small percentage would have applied only to MICA. Most MICAns were aiming for an IIM but didn't get in and decided MICA was a better option than say NMIMS.
Yes, some of these schools like the IITs and NITIE take only engineers. But then all IIMs comprise (at least) 70% engineers anyways.
The Way ahead
The fact that these rankings produce a lot of hoo-ha every year has been tackled head on by Outlook in a 3 page article titled 'The Bitter Truth'. The magazine's assertions:
- The rankings are not subjective but objective
- They are transparent - detailed scores are posted at their website
- There is no linkage between the ads you see in the issue and the ranking of B schools (a claim which many still refuse to accept :)
- And lastly, that B school rankings do 'make a difference'.
For example, several Mumbai based institutes which earlied managed fine with visiting faculty are recruiting permanent staff because that improves their rankings. An example provided is that of SIES - its faculty strength has shot up from 8 to 30.
In an era of outsourcing one does not know if this is necessarily the best management practice. You can't attract the best in the business because teaching pays less (and practitioners can add a different kind of value to the classroom!). So the emphasis on 'full time faculty' needs to be debated at some point...
The impact of B school rankings on business education is currently the subject of hot debate even in the US. Businessweek magazine reports: In a soon-to-be published article, "What's Really Wrong With U.S. Business Schools," husband and wife USC B-school profs Harry and Linda DeAngelo and the University of Rochester's Jerold Zimmerman lay the blame for B-schools' woes squarely at the doorstep of media rankings -- like those produced by BusinessWeek -- and the B-school deans who pander to them.
The authors maintain that U.S. business schools are in thrall to the rankings, so much so that they're abandoning the "rigorous, conceptual framework" that students need in favor of "quick fixes" to improve their place in the rankings, but do little to help students.
"We're advertising ourselves to the world as experts in managerial techniques, and we're managing our business schools 180 degrees away from what we're teaching -- we're managing for the short term," DeAngelo said in an interview.
The authors maintain that the rankings do a poor job of examining complex academic institutions, and that they lack the kind of statistical precision needed to accurately rank individual schools, arguments that BusinessWeek disputes.
So what's his fix? They suggest increasing the importance of faculty research in the rankings, surveying alumni who graduated between 10 years and 15 years earlier on the long-term impact of their education, and replacing the rankings with letter grades shared by groups of schools deemed to be roughly equal in stature.
In the Indian context I wonder whether any of these would really work... Surveying students who graduated 10-15 years earlier for example would disqualify a huge no of schools which have started only in the last decade! And ratings or letter grades is a good idea but would not sell many copies of these magazines.
Research vs practice
Not all agree with the need to become more research based. "The point DeAngelo is missing is that a business school is a professional school," USC's Warren Bennis said in an interview. "It creates knowledge not just for the [academic] priesthood, but for the wide general public. The work of a businessman is to be a generalist -- to deal with messy data, ambiguities, and uncertainties."
Ted Snyder, the dean of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business agrees with the Outlook assertion that surveys provide deans with important intelligence about their programs that they can use to make much-needed changes to keep their programs relevant. "Rankings are part of the competitive terrain. Ranks are feedback. Rankings are not our identity."
The article concludes with the question: The media B-school rankings are the tail that wags the dog. Who's to blame for the problems of B-schools today - the tail or the dog?
That's a question we too have to answer here in India. But honestly the least mags can do is avoid statements like this one by Outlook: The IIM citadel may be under threat. New schools have a lesson or two to teach.
Yeah right. And I'm not saying that's ridiculous just because IIM A is my alma mater. You can make 'trend statements' if your surveys are published once every 5 years. Nothing really changes on a year to year basis.
Yes, it does get boring for the magazine and its editors to tom-tom the 'IIMs' year after year but if that's reality - we'll live with the boredom.