In fact, the "demigod-like character" of business-school rankings forces all schools to change according to the rankings' measurement criteria, says Dennis Gioia, who teaches at Penn State's Smeal College of Business and has studied the surveys and their effects extensively. "The quest to do well in the rankings now dominates business school thought and action," Gioia writes in a research report published in the Journal Academy of Management Learning and Education.
Gioia's research shows that business school resources - money and fundraising - have shifted toward MBAs and away from undergraduate and PhD programs, because the magazine rankings typically zero in on the MBA programs rather than the schools' other offerings. Often, the best instructors are taken out of undergraduate classrooms and reassigned solely to MBA programs. Researchers are given short shrift. Money and staff once used to develop new courses and improve facilities are committed to PR departments, image consultants, and pretty brochures.
Meanwhile, because the surveys weigh schools according to how they prepare students for jobs, business schools run the risk of becoming glorified vocational schools. Some teachers are told not to give low grades because student evaluations of their profs might suffer - and the schools' rankings along with them. Some schools emphasize internships, co-op programs, and "cookbook" vocational skills. They even fawn over recruiters - some offer concierge services, special meals, and valet parking to the corporate reps who interview on campus.