27. September 2019

Towards fair and adequate rankings

Over the past fifteen years, rankings have become a ubiquitous and often uncomfortable phenomenon of business school life. The surge of rankings has led to strong reactions. Some scholars even talk about ranking “fetishism”.

University presidents, deans and faculty often have a love-hate affair with rankings. Admittedly love is usually the weaker emotion of the two. We rarely feel that rankings do justice to our schools or programmes – unless of course, we appear on top.

As business school and university administrators, we like to think that we are the primary addressee of rankings. Ultimately, we are not. We are the ranking object. Rankings (should) first and foremost serve future students and aspiring faculty.

Tomorrow’s students and young faculty are on average relatively mobile yet face a great deal of information asymmetry. They have little information about the quality of teaching, research or executive education at different schools, and such information is difficult to collect. Both groups, therefore, benefit greatly from fair and adequate rankings offered by independent institutions.

So what makes a ranking fair and adequate? In my view, a fair and adequate ranking meets (at least) the following five criteria:

  • 1. Validity: The ranking is well-founded and measures what it claims to measure;
  • 2. Reliability: The ranking results are accurate, transparent and reproducible;
  • 3. Data integrity: The ranking respects universities’ data ownership (no business model to re-sell data without the school’s explicit prior approval);
  • 4. Independence: The ranking does not allow business schools the option to buy advertisements or audits, nor the option to manipulate their ranking results.
  • 5. Management: The ranking is well-managed, engages in a dialogue with the schools and responds adequately and timely to questions from the business school.

Most rankings will claim that they meet these criteria. My colleagues and I, therefore, rated the rankings along the above five criteria. Some rankings did not perform well.

Therefore: business school deans, junior and senior faculty, administrators, current and future students, and alumni around the world, UNITE! Let’s demand fair and adequate rankings based on the above five criteria.

Engage in discussions about rankings and the impact they bring at the upcoming 2020 EFMD Conference for Deans & Directors General.


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About the author
Prof. Winfried Ruigrok, PhD Seit 2011 ist Winfried Ruigrok Dean der Executive School of Management, Technology & Law an der Universität St.Gallen. Seit 1996 ist er Professor für Internationales Management sowie Direktor Institut für Internationales Management.Zuvor arbeitete er an der Warwick Business School (UK), Europäische Kommission (Belgien), Rotterdam School of Management (NL), Universität Amsterdam (NL) sowie für die Netherlands International Development Organisation (NL). Er arbeitete zusammen mit internationalen Unternehmen und Organisationen, u.a. Deutsche Post, Ernst & Young, Europäische Kommission, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Gore, Henkel , Hilti, KarstadtQuelle, Lonza, Nissan, Otto-Versand, PricewaterhouseCoopers, RWE, Credit Suisse, Swisscom, Swiss Railways, Johnson & Johnson und dem Kanton St.Gallen.