Two true statements one can make about business school rankings-they are controversial and they are important. Many educational leaders criticize the rankings because of the cost of participating, the potential for privacy breeches, and the forcing of differences among top MBA programs where hardly any significant differences exist.
It is difficult to deny that applicants are to some extent swayed by the rankings. If the sales of ranking publications is any indicator, the public's appetite for rankings and summary evaluations will not lessen in the future, and therefore I would like to see how we can make them better and more useful.
In their defense, rankings can add value to the market by providing objective evaluations of the major programs in the world. They are read by many people, they are archived for easy reference, and their survey methods are often very good with very high participation rates. In addition, I believe that the publishers of the major rankings want to get things right and are open to improvements in their methodologies.
One negative for participating business schools is that it does consume resources. To answer all the questions consistently across publications and from year to year does require significant effort. I have found that some of the research necessary for rankings is also needed for a school's strategy and operations, i.e., the normal institutional research that many schools should do anyway. In that sense, the marginal cost of participating is not as great as it may initially seem.