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The trouble with B school rankings 2006

If you are an MBA aspirant, do not blindly accept B school ranking surveys
By Rashmi Bansal

The huge interest in pursuing an MBA has made ‘B School rankings’ an annual feature of several magazines. B school rankings issues sell – but do they actually guide mostly ignorant aspirants? Do they provide credible information and help you make better choices?

Going by the Business Today b school rankings 2006, we feel the answer is a definite “NO”. The magazine, along with AC Nielsen ORG MARG has conducted a ‘perception’ survey to rank India’s top 30 b schools. Hard facts play NO role at all in this survey.

Business Today Rankings 2006
1. IIM A
2. IIM B
3. IIM C
4. Symbiosis Pune
5. IIM L
7. JBIMS Mumbai
8. IIM I
8. FMS Delhi
10. IIFT Delhi
11. IIPM New Delhi
12. IIM K
13. ICFAI Hyderabad
15. Welingkar
16. IIPM Mumbai
18. TISS
19. MDI Gurgaon
20. LIBA Chennai
21. Bimtech Delhi
22. XIM Bhubaneshwar
22. BIM Trichy
24. Nirma Institute of Management
25. IMT Ghaziabad
26. K J Somaiya
27. Christ College Bangalore
28. Amity Business School Noida
29. Osmania Hyderabad
30. ABA Bangalore *
*There is no Asia Business Academy in Bangalore. The magazine probably meant Alliance Business Academy.

The survey has evoked shock and disbelief in the b school community. Prof Madhukar Shukla of XLRI gives the BT ranking an ‘F’. JAM feels these are some of the ranking results which do not make sense:

1) Symbiosis is a good b school but I would not rank it above IIM Lucknow (# 5), XLRI (# 6) or FMS Delhi (# 8) for sure.

2) We would not rank IIPM New Delhi (# 11 ) – above S P Jain (# 14), IIM Kozhikode (#12), Welingkar (#14), NMIMS (# 17), TISS (#18), MDI Gurgaon (# 18), LIBA (# 20), Bimtech (# 21), XIM Bhubaneshwar (# 22), BIM Trichy (# 22), NIM Ahmedabad (# 24), IMT Ghaziabad (# 25), K J Somaiya (# 26) or Christ College (# 27).

3) ICFAI Hyderabad ranked # 13 too seems too high.

4) While Bimtech and LIBA are decent b schools I don’t think they are in the same league as MDI Gurgaon or XIM Bhubaneshwar. But the survey places them on almost the same rungs of the ladder.

In fact we at JAM don’t believe rankings help aspirants in the decision process. JAM will, in the near future, publish a b school rating – as we have done in the past for engineering colleges.

Why we don’t agree with the BT ranking:
Since the BT survey is based on perception, we could simply say that our objection to their rankings is based on our perception. But, they are also based on hard facts.

First of all, there is a problem with the choice of sample. The inclusion of ‘MBA aspirants’ (they constitute 25% of the survey sample of 526) is questionable. Surveying the very people who need information about b schools does not seem like a good idea.

Colleges which did not make the BT ‘top 30’ list but would definitely be on ours include:
1. TAPMI Manipal
2. Goa Institute of Management
3. IMI Delhi
4. SIMSREE (Sydenham), Mumbai
5. MICA (esp if you are interested in marketing/ advertising)
6. All IIT b schools (SJSOM, VGSOM, IIT-D in particular) – for engineers only
7. NITIE – for engineers only
8. SCMHRD (BT specifically names SIBM as # 4)
9. IRMA (if interested in rural marketing)
Order of listing is random

“Aren’t surveys meant to help the ‘MBA wannabes’ to make a rational choice? And maybe even the ‘recruiters’ to decide on the B-Schools to source from?”, asks Prof Madhukar Shukla of XLRI.

Secondly, the survey uses A C Nielsen’s ‘proprietary Winning Brands model’. But can a model which is designed to measure the Brand Equity score of conventional FMCG products or services be employed for educational institutes?

Nielsen’s own website states that Winning Brands addresses the following ‘marketing issues’:
 – Brand equity
 – Advertising effectiveness-campaign comparisons if undertaken on a continuous basis
 – Market segmentation
 – Category health analytics

JAM believes a b school is a brand, but its equity is NOT built on advertising. The equity of an educational institute rests on a combination of factors. The most important ones being:
 – Quality of students
 – Admission procedure
 – Quality of faculty
 – Achievements of its alumni

What’s more, Winning Brands uses a ‘behavioural observation’ of brand equity. Analyst Jonathan Knowles explains in layman terms: <I>Brand equity is measured in terms of a customer’s frequency of purchase and the price premium paid. Once favorable behavior is observed, the methodology seeks to analyze the attitudinal characteristics of those customers.</I>

‘Frequency of purchase’ in case of MBA is essentially once in a lifetime. There is no explanation from either the market research agency or the magazine on how Winning Brands was adapted to fit the b school category .

AC Nielsen, when contacted declined to comment.

Fine Print Issues
The ‘Fine Print’ chart reveals 3 kinds of flaws:

1. Facts are available but not known to the respondents

For example, under the parameter ‘success of placement’:

91% perceive that IIM A and B have 100% placement. The figure is 85% for IIM C, 76% for IIM L and so on.

If 24% of the respondents perceive that IIM Lucknow does not have 100% placements that brings down IIM Lucknow score, for no fault of its own. Measuring perceptions for such a parameter does not make sense at all.

The same goes for ‘high speed internet connectivity’. It either exists or it doesn’t exist. Facts need to be verified independently.

2. Some responses defy logic

Even for a quality that is very easy to rate the respondents seem to be confused.

We can understand IIM Ahmedabad scoring a low 76% for the parameter ‘institute at a convenient location’. However both Jamnalal Bajaj in Mumbai and FMS in Delhi score a mere 62%. XLRI in distant Jamshedpur is apparently more ‘convenient’ and gets 72 %!

3. Non relevant parameters provided to respondents

Under specialist units respondents are asked to rate b schools not only for being ‘known for marketing / finance program’ but being ‘known for mass media course!’

The final point is that even if you choose to undertake a perception survey you can at best expect respondents to give their broad perceptions. To expect them to evaluate 30 b schools on 27 parameters is highly impractical. Would any respondent be able to give 810 answers without a sense of fatigue?

Ethical disclosure
As readers of JAM would know, IIPM has had issues with an article titled ‘The Truth about IIPM’s Tall Claims’ published by JAM in June 2005. IIPM has since modified its advertising to remove almost all the points which JAM stated were untrue, misleading or exaggerated.

But has the institute instituted changes at the ground level? If that is so, it is indeed a heartening development. However, Business Today has not provided any information on that front.

The magazine has devoted 4 pages to SIBM – because it knows that Symbiosis being ranked # 4 will create a ripple in the b school community. By the same yardstick, if you rank IIPM # 11 above S P Jain/ IIM Kozhikode/ TISS etc you do need to tell readers why this ranking holds true.

Instead, several pages are devoted to the cult of the IIMs. These tidbits may be fun to read – but ultimately they do nothing for a b school aspirant.

Our advice
JAM advises b school aspirants to choose colleges to apply to based on:

a) Recommendations of friends and seniors. What they say carries more weight than any published b school ranking

b) Consult your coaching class staff, if you have joined one. They generally provide reliable advice.

c) Research a college you may be considering on google, or forums like pagalguy.com and mouthshut.com

You can also post your query on the Career Queries section OR email at edit@jammag.com

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