Rankings are influential in providing guidance for MBA candidates who are looking to choose a suitable program, and in terms of employer perception and valuation of an applicants MBA degree. The majority of the top MBA rankings focus on factors such as alumni salary, faculty publications, student assessments, program quality, and employment rates; factors which are likely important to the majority of MBA candidates and corporate recruiters. Few rankings, however, have modified their methodologies to incorporate the sustainability agenda into their ranking models; An agenda that is an increasing priority for students and faculty.
US News’ full-time MBA ranking is largely focused on a quality assessment of the MBA program. The survey is filled out by deans, directors, and recruiters based on their conception of the quality of the school and its graduates. A significant percentage of the weighting is placed on alumni salary. Students entering the non-profit sector will typically earn less after graduating, and lower the average alumni earning score for the program. Schools are thus penalized for having a high percentage of alumni interested in this type of non-profit work. This is also the case for the Economist’s full-time MBA ranking.
The Financial Times full-time MBA ranking accounts for this by eliminating these students’ salary from the averaging process; However, faculty initiatives such as loan forgiveness for students doing work in this field are not currently rewarded in any of these scoring matrices.
Rather than focusing on alumni salary, we have decided to look at faculty support in the form of loan forgiveness, grants, and scholarships for students and graduates who have decided to do work in the non-profit sector. Schools are rewarded for promoting this type of work, rather than for producing graduates in the most lucrative industries.
Another criticism of full-time MBA rankings is their reliance on subjective third party actors to rate or provide information about the quality of each program. US News’ survey asks the deans and directors of business schools, and corporate recruiters, to rate each MBA program. Similarly, Bloomberg asks company recruiters to fill out a survey concerning the quality of graduates from schools they have recruited from in the past. Focusing on recruiter satisfaction adds valuable information regarding the success of the program in preparing graduates for the job market; however, this strategy also creates significant potential for bias in the results.
Executives/recruiters may be basing their scoring on preconceived notions of the school, and/or the quality of only a handful of graduates who they have worked with in the past, rather than providing an objective source of information that is relevant to the current state of the program. Additionally, larger schools will produce more graduates, who are likely to have a stronger more visible presence in the work force.
In order to address these issues, we are relying on faculty management staff to complete the survey. The survey responses are then made public on our website to promote honesty and reduce the potential for bias. Understanding that smaller programs should be assessed on their own merits, and the difficulties that come with successfully comparing large and small programs, we have decided to produce a top 10 list which recognizes the leading green MBA programs with under 50 graduates.
Global Green MBA Vs Beyond Grey Pinstripes
The Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes survey was one of the first surveys to bring deserved attention to schools that are working to push the green agenda forward. Our methodology, originally inspired by the BGP study, has been modified over the years to improve and streamline our analysis, and to accommodate the more holistic approach institutions are now taking to integrating sustainability in all aspects of the MBA experience.
Beyond Grey Pinstripes ranked participating schools by quantifying the amount of coursework and faculty research with a focus in sustainability. While we maintain faculty research, and coursework as important parts of our scoring system, we have expanded the methodology to base scoring on a wide range of faculty- and student-led initiatives.
In our ‘Institutional support’ category, we have incorporated the following categories into our scoring matrix:
Number of external guest speakers and events, orientation activities, internships and consulting programs, loan forgiveness and scholarships, student competitions, faculty led community involvement, endowed faculty chairs, institutes and centres, and faculty research.
Beyond Grey Pinstripes requested this information, but did not allocate points for these categories and thus performance in these areas did not affect a school’s rank.
We have also developed a ‘Student-led initiatives’ category in which we allocate points for student groups, consulting clubs, faculty groups, and student committees/task forces.
With the addition of the ‘Integrated Management’ question in the coursework category this year, the survey also provides and opportunity for schools to gain points for integrating sustainability into the MBA curriculum in a systemic manner.
Outreach and Eligibility
To begin the project, researchers sent an invitation for participation to over 250 of the top ranked business schools around the world. Our outreach was based on the following rankings:
Top 100 MBA programs in the Economist’s list of full-time MBA programs, 2012
Top 100 MBA programs in Financial Time’s list of full-time MBA programs 2012
Top 100 MBA programs in Beyond Grey Pinstripe’s ranking, 2012
Top 104 MBA programs in US News’ list of full-time MBA programs, 2012
Top 63 MBA programs in Bloomberg Businessweek’s list of full-time MBA programs, 2012
Top 15 Canadian MBA programs in Corporate Knight’s Knight School ranking, 2012
Select signatories of the Principles for Responsible Management Education
These institutions hold major accreditations, and/or are renowned as leaders in sustainable business education within their region.
Data collection and Survey Design
The Global Green MBA Survey was distributed to those institutions that agreed to participate, and faculty members were given two months to complete the document. Schools that did not agree to participate in the study were excluded from the ranking entirely. The survey is used to collect data within the timeframe of September 2012 – August 2013.
The Background Information portion of the survey asks schools to list the following:
Number of fill-time students enrolled in the MBA program
Number of full-time students graduating from the MBA program
Number of teaching and research faculty
Length of program
Number of courses, credits, and credit hours.
This information was used to determine program size, and if the program would be considered for the Top 10 small programs ranking.
Each school also provided a narrative describing the how the MBA program prepares students to be leaders in sustainability, ethics, environmental stewardship, and/or CSR in the global corporate environment which is displayed in the institution’s online profile.
The survey was designed to evaluate the performance of each program in 3 categories:
1. Institutional Support
The first category of the survey evaluates the ability of the MBA faculty to encourage sustainability in the academic experience by examining activities and initiatives in the following sub-categories: External guest speakers and events, internships and consulting programs, loan forgiveness and scholarships, student competitions, faculty-led community involvement, endowed faculty chairs, institutes and centres, and faculty research.
2. Student-Led Initiatives
In this category, we evaluate how sustainability is being fostered by the student body in the form of student groups, consulting clubs, faculty groups, and student committees/task forces.
The final category evaluates the integration of sustainability into the curriculum. Schools are asked to provide a list of required and elective courses that are fully or partially dedicated to sustainability concepts, joint degrees and/or degree specializations, and to explain their approach to the systemic integration of sustainability into all aspects of the masters program.
4. Data Cleaning and Validation
Each completed survey was reviewed upon submission in order to verify that all questions had been answered correctly, that each response was supported with the requested links and documentation, and that the responses did not contain any obvious errors. Researchers also fact checked the survey information with that which is available on the program website. Any missing information or issues with the survey were noted, and the document was returned to the faculty contact to make the adjustments necessary for us to proceed with the marking process.
The names of each school and associated faculty were blocked out for the remainder of the marking process to avoid bias.
A list of keywords and terms was used to evaluate the relevance of each response to social responsibility and environmental sustainability. A point was allocated for each response that met the question criteria. Scores for each survey question were inputted into an excel spreadsheet, and final scores were calculated based on the weighting scheme described below.
Institutional Support: 30%
Student-led Initiatives: 25%
We have done our best to include a diverse range of factors pertaining to all aspects of the MBA program in our survey in order to produce a ranking that is as accurate and objective as possible. The ranking model is, however, limited to quantifiable data and is thus unable to fully capture the MBA experience. By providing the initiatives and information in each school’s profile, we hope that we have produced a tool that aids students in choosing a program that fits best with their individual objectives.
Here, we would like to note the limitations of our methodology, and touch on a number of areas we hope to improve upon on in the future.
We think it is important to capture the opinions of MBA students themselves, in order to gain a further understanding of what is important to them in a program, and what needs to be improved. We would like to add a section of the survey that is based on student responses, where we ask students to assess the program quality and express their satisfaction with the program in covering in covering sustainability-related issues. A good example of this is the Business as Unusual study.
A number of institutions have recommended that we assess alumni groups dedicated to helping students to network and find jobs in the non-profit and or/social enterprise sectors. These groups would have a significant impact on the employment rate and overall success of graduates making the transition to a career in the field of sustainability.
We would also like to look at the amount of grant money awarded to schools for sustainability-minded research and development, as we believe this may be an indicator of the quality and amount of sustainability research being produced by the institution.
The current structure of the survey only allows sustainability-focused courses that are offered on a bi-annual schedule to be included in alternating years of the survey. We would like to find a way to give partial marks for courses offered during off years.
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