MBA tables 'unfair to Europe'

October 19, 2001

MBA league tables published by financial journals are based on flawed methodologies and unfairly show European business schools to be less competitive than those in the United States, according to the European Business Forum .

An article in the EBF , a quarterly magazine that reflects the European perspective on global management issues, questions the accuracy of the rankings, which have become dominant in establishing schools' reputations, by focusing on methods used for compiling surveys by three leading publications - Business Week , the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal .

The tables are big business and newspapers and magazines are extending them to cover universities' executive education and other business courses, the EBF says. But while they give schools publicity, they do not reliably or fairly reflect their performance, it claims.

In its case against the rankings, the EBF says devising an objective methodology is "an impossible task", with main benchmarks such as student satisfaction, salary performance and recruiter attitudes, potentially misleading.

"League tables... wrongly assume that the needs of all employers and students are the same. The 'best' school is likely to result from matching the institution's strengths and culture on the one hand with the individual's aspirations and values on the other," the EBF says.

It claims that other drawbacks are that, despite warnings, newspaper headlines are often taken out of context by students, and the tables have become so widespread and powerful that schools' strategies and operations are being distorted in a competitive market.

European schools face particular disadvantages because their diverse approaches to management education make comparisons difficult, and because of an in-built North American bias, the article says. "Questions requiring evaluation of internships, for example, are not relevant for students studying on one-year MBA programmes that are the norm in say the UK, France and Switzerland."

Nicole de Fontaines, executive director of the Community of European Management Schools, which jointly publishes the EBF , said: "It is such an event when they release surveys, but people forget the methodology and just look at the results, which is dangerous."

Recruiters considered applicants in the short-term, whereas "education should enable a person to have a career in the long term," she said. "It is important not to take one ranking but to consider several rankings, over several years."

French business school heads contacted by The THES recognised the rankings could be useful to institutions, but had reservations about the present situation.

Bernard Ramanantsoa, director of the elite Groupe HEC, said: "What annoys me is that local characteristics are not taken into account."


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