When BusinessWeek first named the
"best" MBA programs, no one dreamed that rankings might
radically change the way business schools operate - or that
answering surveys might be a year-round job.
Richard Kurovsky reaches into a drawer under his desk. "You've
never seen these?" he asks as he pulls out slick brochures and
other promotional mailings from one business school ... then
another ... then another ... and then yet one more.
"We get these all the time, every day," says Kurovsky, executive
director of marketing and communications for the University of
California's Haas School of Business. "There's a near obsession
among business schools with mailing these things out."
Business schools obsessed with promoting themselves - to other
business schools? Can this be the same industry that produces
suit-and-tie MBAs who have mastered such buttoned-down topics as
applied regression analysis and database management?
It sure is, and the reason becomes obvious every fall. That's when
newspapers and magazines around the world, from Public Accounting
Report to Hispanic Business to The Wall Street Journal,
publish their rankings of business schools and MBA programs. Those
rankings, which first appeared in the late 1980s in
BusinessWeek and U.S. News & World Report, have
become an industry within an industry. Their influence reaches into
every business school and program, no matter how prestigious and no
matter how well known. Deans and administrators at the University
of Chicago, a top-10 school in most surveys, pay as much attention
to the rankings as those who cling to the lists' tail end.
"They may be controversial, and they may encourage some schools to
do perverse things, but they're here to stay," says Edward Snyder,
the dean at Chicago. "For the most part, they play a useful role in
helping students make decisions. Business schools don't have a
stock price, but we do have the rankings to evaluate how we're