HBS Won't Submit to Some Rankings

Harvard, Wharton left out of three prominent rankings

Readers who look to business school rankings in several recent publications will find two institutions conspicuously absent.

Harvard Business School (HBS) and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania declined to submit student-evaluation information to Business Week, the Economist Intelligence Unit (which serves The Economist), and Financial Times. The result is that these two schools—usually counted among the strongest in the country—are not included in rankings that those periodicals publish.

The surveys used to compile these rankings raise concerns about student privacy and take up an extraordinary amount of staff time, HBS Executive Director of Marketing and Communications David R. Lampe wrote in an e-mail.

“Filling out this growing number of surveys has taken more than 50% of the time of a full-time staff member,” Lampe wrote.

Wharton Director of Communications Michael Baltes said the school did not want to involve its students in the survey.

“We do not facilitate the contact of students or alumni for the rankings, thus we were left out of the ranking,” he wrote in an e-mail regarding the Economist Intelligence Unit rankings.

HBS and Wharton continue to be ranked highly by publications that do not require the contested information, such as the Wall Street Journal and US News and World Report.

Administrators at both Wharton and HBS said they did not think their schools’ absence from some rankings would affect their ability to attract applicants or their stature.

Magazines such as Business Week, Financial Times, Forbes, US News and World Report, and the Wall Street Journal publish annual rankings of top schools in higher education. The lists are popular with readers, but many academics and professionals in higher education have long questioned their viability.

“We have a responsibility to protect our alumni, and the academy, from surveys based on flawed and incomplete methodology,” HBS Senior Associate Dean John A. Quelch said.

“I think there are a whole set of great schools out there that have different strengths and weakness,” HBS Professor of Management Practice Arthur I. Segel ’73 said. “You can’t start saying one school is absolutely better than another.”

Officials at both schools also raised broader ideological objections to the rankings and advocated alternative methods for students to research the schools.

Wharton Dean Patrick Harker defended the decision to withhold the information about student evaluations in a statement on the school’s website.

“We either endorse a defective, inconsistent practice, or we speak out, offer better alternatives for information, and work with the media to enable them to report with more useful, objective data,” Harker wrote.

Harker and Lampe both said their schools were working with the Graduate Management Admissions Council to construct a free, standardized database of information useful to potential students.

“This service will be more meaningful to prospective students than a simple ranking, which assumes that all schools are alike and all students are alike,” Lampe wrote.