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Rankings are useful as a very rough guide to the reputation and quality of different programs. However, most people take them far too seriously. When considering where to apply it is inappropriate to take the latest ‘Financial Times’ or ‘Business Week’ rankings and limit yourself to the top five schools.

There are no accepted standards of these rankings; the same publication may reverse the rankings next year! The imprecision and variability of the rankings is one reason for being cautious in using them; another reason for caution is that one school will be able to offer a program geared to your needs whereas another will not. Yet another potential issue is that schools do not have the same reputation everywhere. A school that is highly regarded in US might be virtually unknown in Austria.

  These concerns give rise to some guidelines for using rankings:  

Look at as many rankings as possible and consider the consensus rather than any one ranking. Consider even this consensus view as only an approximation of the appropriate tier for a school. Thus, a school that is ranked about tenth to fifteenth in various rankings should be regarded as a very fine school, but whether it really should be ranked in the top five or merely the top 25 is not determinable.

Since you should be looking for the best program to meet your specific subject and other needs, with an atmosphere in which you will thrive, the rankings have only a modest part to play in helping you to find this program. They will have little to say about which school will provide the courses that will be most useful, the connections that will matter the most for the job and region in which you wish to be employed, the academic and social environment there, and other key factors.

When rankings are suitably detailed, as is true of the Financial Times and US news rankings, examine them to see what questions are raised in addition to what answers might be provided. For example, if a school’s graduates boost their salaries after (relative to their salaries before the program) less than a peer school’s graduates, you should investigate what underlies the disparity.

Check whatever rankings are done (or even republished) by reputable business-oriented newspapers and journals in whatever country you intend to study or work. For example, if you are considering attending a business school in France, find out how well it is ranked by Le Figaro, Les Echos, and other local publications. If you are considering working in France after attending a business school in the US do the same.

Go well beyond consulting various rankings. Conduct in-depth research to evaluate specific programs.


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