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Do the Financial Times rankings need a new metric?

The Financial Times rankings are a hugely important measurement for B-schools each year, with an impact that goes far beyond wounded pride.

The impressions resulting from these rankings can affect everything from recruiting and admissions to post-graduation employment statistics, and the rankings themselves are a fairly potent catalyst for administrative action or inaction.

For example, in the 2013 rankings, Harvard Business School snagged the coveted Number 1 spot from Stanford GSB.

This was far from a random takeover- HBS had taken concentrated steps and made several changes aimed at boosting their ranking.

Financial Times rankings

Undoubtedly, Stanford will now do the same and ensure a tight competition next year.  (See this previous blog post for my analysis of the 2013 rankings)

 Though the rankings can act as a catalyst to B-school reforms, several voices have been calling for reform to the rankings themselves.

MBA graduate Adam Pervez articulates that call for reform in his column for The Huffington Post.  Succinctly, his point is that the Financial Times rankings, which are largely based on alumni earnings data, should include additional metrics for career diversity.

Mr. Pervez, who works in the non-profit sector, declined to report his earnings to the Financial Times, worried that his lower salary would hurt his school’s ranking.

He points out that the Financial Times allots 5 percentages points for gender diversity and 20 for international diversity, and asks if additional points should be given for career diversity- alumni who pursue careers in the non-profit or teaching sector, “do-gooder” careers, as he calls them.

Ultimately, he argues, not allotting those percentages provides an incentive for schools to shy away from admitting entrepreneurs or others pursuing less lucrative careers.

That last point might be slightly dramatic, and I also take issue with his definition of “do good” careers.

There are plenty of ways to enact positive change in this world, within the private sector as well as the non-profit sector.

However, Mr. Perez introduces a new metric for diversity that I find very interesting.

The MBA industry has increasingly focused on racial and gender diversity in classrooms, and “career diversity” seems the natural successor to those efforts.

Today, the path for admission to a top school is less rigid than ever- I see that every day in the diverse ambitions of my clients, and I love it.

Many students are no longer choosing schools based on purely financial criteria, and are often looking for a specific program that caters to more unorthodox career ambitions.

There is a need for a rankings metric that reflects this diverse demand.

Some strides have already been made in this direction. This year, Bloomberg Businessweek launched a very interesting series ranking B-schools by a huge variety of metrics- from sustainability to IT proficiency to social enterprise.

More rankings of this type, and more in-depth, would be a wonderful resource for the industry.

Until then, Mr. Perez’s article and others like it should serve as encouragement for students seeking an MBA to further an “unconventional” career.

Even if there are not formal rankings, independent research can go a long way, and today’s climate is more receptive than ever to nurturing careers outside of traditional MBA pathways.

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