How the biz media started B-school rankings
John Byrne, the founder of PoetsandQuants.com and the BusinessWeek editor who started the business school rankings craze back in 1988, writes about how it all began.
Byrne writes, “I created the survey on my Macintosh computer at home. I copied about 3,000 of the surveys at work, and with the help of my own family, I stuffed envelopes with the paper surveys for weeks on end. The completed surveys were returned by MBAs from the Class of 1988 at Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, and every other major U.S. business school. One by one, I tallied the results.
“What BusinessWeek ultimately published on the cover of the magazine would become one of the best-selling covers of all time. More importantly, though, it would become the first regularly published ranking of business schools in the world. Some 26 years later, the surveys still address the two key demographics: business school students and their prospective employers. There are now 50 questions on each graduate survey. Instead of mailing out 3,000 surveys to grads at 25 or so U.S. schools, the magazine sends nearly 18,000 to graduating MBAs at 101 academic institutions around the world. In 2000, BusinessWeek added a third component to the mix: a measurement of intellectual output by faculty at the schools, which now accounts for 10% of the ranking. But the ranking is still largely an attempt to measure customer satisfaction—not GMAT scores, selectivity, MBA pay packages, or the percentage of MBAs employed at graduation.
“My thinking then—and now—was that anyone could get those numbers from the schools. Anyone could put together his or her own ranking with that data. What we were doing was putting valuable information—even intelligence—into the marketplace that would otherwise be completely unavailable. That is still true today, even as many others have rushed to copy what BusinessWeek, now Bloomberg BusinessWeek, pioneered.”
Read more here.