Business School Rankings for the 21st Century Report

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Davos, Switzerland – A new report on business school rankings is being simultaneously launched in Davos and Shanghai, with business school deans to discuss the report in Davos on January 23. The report, published under the aegis of the UN Global Compact and with the support of Aviva Investors gives an overview of the current state of the business school rankings and suggests possible changes to help align business school education with the needs of the 21st century.

Business school rankings are produced by organisations such as the Financial Times, the Economist, US News, Business Week, and Forbes. These rankings strongly influence business schools, which in turn influence their students: the next generation of decision-makers. However, these rankings have been critiqued for overemphasising graduate salaries, penalising business schools who educate graduates who work for non-profits, and not properly taking into account sustainability, ethics, or teaching quality.

The report, Business School Rankings for the 21st Century, suggests 20 actions to improve evaluation and ranking and encourage “a race to the top” in business education. Possible actions include:
•    Eliminate entirely, or reduce the weight of, the salary differential measure
•    Incorporate criteria that measure environmental, social, and/or SDG-linked factors within core curricula, research output, hiring, and special research clusters
•    Award credit to schools that train students who work for low-paying but societally valuable organisations after graduation

“This well-reasoned report serves as a call-to-arms among thought leaders in the global management education community to think about how we formulate business school rankings, with a keen eye on how they impact candidates thinking about pursuing an advanced business degree,” said Sangeet Chowfla, President and CEO of GMAC, a global association of business schools.  “Business education will greatly benefit from increased dialogue between business schools and ranking agencies with an objective to provide clearer, more actionable, information, resulting in better school selection decisions by candidates and more diverse classrooms in schools.”

The report draws on consultations with business schools, progressive businesses, rankings publications, accreditation agencies, and relevant civil society organisations. Contributors include AABS (African Association of Business Schools); ABIS (the Academy of Business in Society); AMBA (Association of MBAs); Aon; the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism; CSER (Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge); EFMD (European Foundation for Management Development); GMAC (Graduate Management Admissions Council); GRLI (Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative); Oikos International; and the UN PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education).

**Quotations from additional authors and contributors on page 2


For more information and interviews with the authors, contact:

Dr Ellen Quigley, University of Cambridge (report co-author)

David Pitt-Watson, Cambridge Judge Business School (report co-author)
Mobile: +44 7715 167 097


David Pitt-Watson (co-author): “There is an old management adage that 'you get what you measure'. Business schools’ performance needs to be measured. But there is a real concern that the current measures we use need to be rethought if our schools are to truly develop future leaders. This report aims to catalyse and support that process.”

Dr Ellen Quigley (co-author): “In this century, graduates of business schools will oversee fundamental societal changes, including the rapid decarbonisation of the economy. Our hope is that business schools will step into their role as the educators of leaders equipped to address climate change, inequality, poverty, and the other UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director of the UN Global Compact: “Significant progress has been made towards integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into business and management education. But to achieve the Global Goals by 2030, we need an even more rapid transformation in our institutions so that the business leaders of tomorrow are equipped with the skills and values needed to mainstream corporate sustainability.”

Dr Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors: Business schools are failing society if they don’t teach their students about the importance of sustainability and they fail the businesses these students will lead in the future: we’ve commissioned this report on business school rankings because we want to see race to the top on sustainability issues in academia. 

John North, Executive Director of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (consultation co-convener): "This report represents a significant milestone for key actors, initiatives and networks across the management education ecosystem as we set out to jointly explore a new frontier for business school rankings. Measures of progress that are more attuned to what the world really needs, and which the urgency of our times demands, will not come about if we follow the same formulas, measures and engagement models that brought us here."

Eric Cornuel, Director General & CEO of EFMD: "We were pleased to participate, together with other stakeholders, in this very timely discussion on the importance of ethics, responsibility and sustainability in the business education rankings, and we hope that this report will foster continued cooperation among key actors across the management development and education ecosystem. EFMD is a strong advocate of the social and environmental imperatives that must accompany business practices. Responsible management is one of the underpinning criteria in the EFMD quality improvement systems and we believe it should be embedded in business school policies and operations, teaching and research."

Andrew Jack, Global Education Editor, Financial Times: “Rankings are very important to the FT as part of our editorial commitment to business school students and faculty. We welcome debate around their calculation, have already modified ours to include factors such as social responsibility, and are  open to new ideas on ways to improve them further. This report is a good step in that direction.” 

Hanane EL Kouari – Executive Director of AABS: “Nelson Mandela said « Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world ». At AABS we believe that Africa must become a major actor of this change through promoting excellence which should be inclusive, impactful and relevant to our African context, hence our support for this brilliant report. We look forward to engaging in further discussion on improving business school education in service of the greater good.”

Frank Blasio, Director of Thought Leadership, Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism: “Business schools shape the leaders of tomorrow but are often judged on incomplete criteria. This report clearly illustrates the need to modernize business school rankings to account for the realities of the 21st century.”

Will Dawes, Research and Insight Manager, AMBA: AMBA is delighted to work with the other notable contributors from the Business School sector on this valuable review of Business School rankings.  This report provides suggestions as to why today’s rankings criteria are not always fit for measuring the real contributions a Business School programme offers its students. The challenge remains how to offer a more appropriate rankings criteria and this study provides some helpful potential solutions. Some of this could be achieved in re-balancing the weight given to future salaries, which can often be a function of external factors rather than the quality of MBA delivery and the impact its graduates are able to make on business management. 

Clémentine Robert, oikos International President 2019-2020: “Accreditation and ranking systems should highlight higher education institutions which equip students to face 21st century challenges. Those are mostly linked to sustainability and climate change in a global context.”

Florencia Librizzi, Senior Manager, PRME, UN Global Compact: “I’m very pleased to have witnessed the development and launch of the ‘Business School Rankings for the 21st century’ report. This is a very encouraging step in the discussions on how rankings can be better fit for the 21st century and therefore, promote business schools to ‘race to the top’, forming leaders with the mindset, skills and knowledge to build an inclusive and sustainable world.”