With all the controversy around the reliability of college ranking systems, the Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes ranking tries something different. As its name suggests, Beyond Grey Pinstripes is no typical ranking. It looks at how business schools engage with social and environmental issues, rather than inputs, like grade-point averages and GMAT scores, or outcomes, like salary and student/employer satisfaction.
An article in BusinessWeek (“Stanford Tops Green MBA Ranking”) looks at some of the highlights from the recently released BGP ranking report. One of the surprises is that Stanford’s Graduate School of Business replaces Schulich’s School of Business as the greenest business school in North American because of the many courses GSB offers on social and environmental issues.
The results of the BGP rankings were particularly important this year because they shed light on the effect the economic crisis has had on the way business schools deal with ethical issues in business. Judith Sameulson, executive director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, which conducts the survey, explains, “Student demand, increased faculty readiness and administrators’ growing desire to clarify how they approach these issues as a school have brought these ideas to the forefront in the last two years.”
The report has shown that there has been a 38% rise in the number of core classes at business schools dealing with social, ethical, and environmental issues in finance. The only question is: Is 38% enough to really prepare students for the complicated issues that they will find in the field?
The BGP rankings also highlight one of the fundamental, and frequently hidden, truths of the various rankings. And it is as true of BGP as of US News or BW: If the ranking doesn’t measure or rank something important to you, it is irrelevant to you. If it measures qualities important to you in a graduate business education, then its rankings and its data may be valuable and worthwhile. However, because of the prominence of the larger rankings, be they US News, Financial Times, BusinessWeek, Forbes, or The Economist, they are considered more “important.”
Don’t be fooled by the glossy magazine on the newsstand. If you are interested in social enterprise or sustainable development, BGP could be the most important ranking for you and a treasure trove of data and opinion. On the other hand, if you are not interested in these fields or in the distinct focus of BGP, then you can and will safely ignore Beyond Grey Pinstripes.
The same should be true of all the rest of the rankings. Look at their criteria. If they match yours, use the data and consider the ranking. However, in most cases, your criteria (and mileage) will vary. Then use whatever data you can conveniently find, and disregard the actual ranking or at least take it with a very large grain of salt.