Dec 22, 2005

Rakesh Khurana muses on rankings

Harvard top thinker Rakesh Khurana blogs about rankings. At the time of the year when all and sundry are trying to rank virtually all the things over the year, its a timely post!

Rankings are also attractive because they are simplistic and they convey a sense of order. By virtue of quantification, rankings promise comparability and standardization which are partially achieved by forcing those being ranked to be more judicious in standardizing their own internal processes. The rankings in outlets like U.S. News and World Report and BusinessWeek forced schools to standardize their measures and adopt particular definitions of particular data. Consequently, most schools now share a common definition of starting salary, acceptance rate, and employment, thereby allowing for common metrics which transcend institutional differences.

Yet, rankings provide the illusion of scientific rigor vis-à-vis a process that actually calls for careful judgment and nuanced interpretation. It is one thing to give Wharton, Tuck, or Columbia a rating as a top business school; this leaves some room for interpretation. However, to say that Wharton is number one, Columbia number 3 and Tuck number 2 indicates a level of precision that just cannot be achieved, except on the cover of a newsmagazine and then in the minds of students.

Hmm, that makes me think of Indian B-School rankings !