The leaders of the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) and two accreditation agencies (AACSB and EFMO) in coordination with MBA CSEA, have asked ranking institutions to stop their work and postpone the publication of their ranking lists due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to giving reasons for the delay, the letter also underscores the fact that b-schools are responding to the changing needs of industry, local communities, and students in original ways. These innovations may lead to new metrics in the ranking systems.
Also in response to the pandemic, travel and gathering restrictions, and consulate closures, many business schools have extended their application cycles. In doing so they are both responding to applicant concerns and needs while also trying to ensure that they have diverse and full classes when the 2020-21 academic year starts. There are also many concerns about employment outcomes for this year’s graduating class.
The letter was sent to U.S. News & World Report, the Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Economist, Forbes, and QS. The MBA organizations conveyed concern over the impact that the coronavirus pandemic would have on key markers used to rank MBA programs. U.S. News responded that it is reviewing its policies.
How long will the postponement be?
No timeframe was suggested in the request, but they would like to “provide business schools worldwide the opportunity to rebound in these tumultuous circumstances,” which could lead to a year-long suspension of rankings. It is very unlikely that ranking institutions will wait that long to publish their next list.
Why do these organizations want to stop rankings?
According to Linda Abraham, founder and CEO of Accepted, schools probably believe that the data that will come out of this application cycle isn’t representative or helpful to future applicants. “Rankings force schools to make those numbers public unless all the schools refuse to provide data to the rankings,” she says. “Clearly the schools don’t want those numbers known and don’t want to be ranked on traditional metrics.”
Linda discusses whether the rankings themselves are cause for concern, since all of the schools are in the same situation relative to one another. She does not feel that the rankings will change radically. “However, the stats that the rankings publicize and upon which the different rankings are based could change dramatically. Perhaps schools fear significant drops of 10, 20, or 30 points in the average GMAT score for the class entering in 2020. Perhaps a .2 or more drop in average GPA. Acceptance rates could climb. International diversity, certainly in the U.S., is likely to take a nosedive.”
A silver lining and benefit of a “no-ranking” cycle or at least round is that it frees the MBA programs to focus more on other qualities and qualifications in an application.
The fact that the GMAT, AACSB, and EFMD have written this letter reflects how important the various rankings are to graduate business education. It is, according to Linda, “a profound acknowledgment of rankings’ influence on application decisions as to whether and where to apply to business schools. Let’s face it. Schools are wrestling with a new, difficult financial reality, the need to completely change their delivery method for an unknown period of time, health concerns, possible lawsuits, and myriad of other issues.”
It’s a tough time for business schools. Their representative organizations are asking for a little breathing room while trying to prevent applicants from making decisions based on misleading information.
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