During the recent Business School Impact System (BSIS) Virtual Symposium, Jérôme Caby, Delegate General, FNEGE, moderated the session on Rankings and Impact and he summarises his conversation with the three panellists here.
Enhancing business efficiency, growth and productivity was the traditional mission of business schools. However, their expected contribution to society’s prosperity has been recently expanded to address the current societal challenges such as sustainable development, climate change, well-being, social justice, diversity, equal access, etc. through their core activities: education and research. This enlargement requires the development of new tools to measure their impact and relevance for multiple stakeholders (students, companies, national and international evaluation bodies, etc.).
The assessment of business schools’ education and research quality is a complex topic, even for insiders. Rankings are in that respect very helpful because they offer a simplified and synthetic assessment of business schools’ education and research quality based on traditional and internal metrics. Unfortunately, so far, impact and relevance are not central to most rankings.
Impact and rankings session
During one of the sessions of the 2021 BSIS Symposium, three experts were interviewed to give their opinion on this issue: Yuan Ding, Vice-President and Dean at CEIBS, Cathay Capital Chair Professor, Thomas Dyllick, Director at the Institute for Business Sustainability and Professor Emeritus at University St. Gallen and Andrew Jack, Global Education Editor at Financial Times.
Andrew Jack agreed on the need to consider impact in rankings but stressed the difficulty to operationalise this well. The main questions are how and what to measure. He mentioned different previous attempts made by Financial Times and stated that none of these experiments were satisfactory as a result of the intrinsic limitations of these methods. Qualitative assessment is often a better way to address this issue and some best practices can be put forward to help improve business school behaviour in this area. However, we still collectively need to develop consistent methods and standards to improve the current rankings methodology and scope.
Thomas Dyllick presented the Positive Impact Rating (PIR), which is not a ranking and tries to encourage business school cooperation rather than competition. The motto of PIR is not to be the best in the world, but the best for the world. Given the diversity of the contexts and situations of each business schools, comparable and quantitative metrics are not the relevant tools for their assessment contrary to qualitative methods. PIR considers students as the main business school stakeholder and that is why business school students are the PIR evaluators. Such positioning also allows students to become change agents in their own schools.
As a business school dean, Yuan Ding stressed the importance of business school rankings for visibility reasons, especially for a young school in a new market (China) such as CEIBS. He also mentioned that faculty management is largely based on journal rankings, such as FT, and underlined their importance to attract talented faculty. However, in the framework of a two wheels strategy, CEIBS also takes into account education performance of faculty (case study writing, pedagogical innovation, etc.).
The debate also raised different additional issues. First, the research dissemination through teaching and the necessity to produce relevant applicable research as well as measuring their impact not only from a scientific perspective but also from a business and societal perspective, are put forward even if no relevant metrics are available so far (and some doubts about their future availability are expressed). Second, the importance of educating and attracting students with low socio-economic backgrounds to contribute to business schools’ diversity is highlighted. Third, the tension between external rankings and schools’ strategy and mission is underlined. Finally, the panellists expected that the current pandemic crisis would accelerate the consideration of impact by business schools.