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Impact of Alumni Networks on School Rankings

Impact of Alumni Networks on School Rankings

If you are in a senior position in a school, probably nothing is more terrifying than the publication of the latest school ranking. Now it’s important to understand the impact of alumni networks on this ranking.

I thought it would be interesting to turn the tables (pardon the pun) and do a ranking of ‘school rankings’, with this post focused on business school rankings.

There are a number of publications that regularly rank business schools – the Financial Times, US News, Forbes and Economist to name a few. Each publication has its own methodology but which is the most reliable?

Well, probably the best place to start would be to ask recent customers of business schools – namely alumni – and let them decide which are the most important criteria for ranking a school.

In August 2013, Graduway conducted its Business School Graduation Survey where 1,081 recent graduates from business schools in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia were asked which factors influenced most their choice of school and then to grade their school on how well they performed against these factors in reality.

The results gave us an indication as to the best criteria, in a perfect world, to evaluate and rank schools against.

The table below compares the weighting of each criterion that the alumni in our survey suggested, with the weighting used by major publications. To provide a simpler comparison, I have aggregated all the criteria into four major criteria as shown below. Please be aware this is not an exact science and is based upon my reading of their published methodologies.

Without delving into all the numbers here, there seem to be a number of directional conclusions:

1. Most rankings over emphasize salary increases. Nearly all the rankings seem to place too much emphasis on salary increases and return on investment. In any case salary criteria often have an inherent bias in favor of schools in certain countries (the US for example) whose employment markets give bigger premiums for recently qualified MBAs.

2. Yes to career placement, but what about alumni networks? The detailed data shows that although schools do a reasonable job on career and placement opportunities, they are under-performing on alumni networking and alumni career services generally. The data really gives an accurate picture of the impact of alumni networks.

3. The quality of the faculty is not as important for alumni. Nearly all the rankings overemphasize the importance of the quality of the faculty versus the value attributed by alumni.

4. Don’t forget ‘softer’ factors. With the exception of the Financial Times, most publications do not seem to explicitly cover or give sufficient weighting to factors like flexibility, the desired location of the institution, gender balance and the ability to make their education broadening from an international/global perspective.

In conclusion, this is not an exact science when it comes to ranking and the data is not perfect. However, it feels that all the publications need to adjust their rankings if possible to be a little more balanced especially on those softer factors and factoring in the impact of alumni networks.

And finally, if you forced me to choose between the rankings………..I think based on this data that the Financial Times is probably the ranking that comes closest to what alumni have told us they want from their school.

I would welcome your feedback and be happy to share more detailed data with interested parties. I would particularly be interested in hearing which criteria you would like to see have a greater weighting in future school rankings.


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