Focusing On Fundamentals After A Rankings Tumble

THE METRICS BEHIND THIS YEAR’S BIGGEST RANKINGS DROP

Well, yes and no. Because the FT uses 16 different metrics from two surveys–one of EMBA alumni and one of self-reported data from the schools–it’s often difficult to say with any precision why a school rises or falls in its ranking. But what’s clear from what the Financial Times does disclose is that Jindal performed significantly weaker on its rank in having international students in the program, having enough women (the FT awards the most points to schools that have a 50/50 gender balance), and enough classroom teaching hours outside the country.

According to the FT, Jindal fell from a rank on international students to 73rd from 58th. It fell on its rank of “international course experience” to 68th from 47th, and in the percentage of women in its program to 26% from 33% a year ago. Why any of these measures are a reflection of the program’s quality is anyone’s guess. In fact, you could just as easily argue that to have too many international students in a local EMBA program would be a natural sign of concern. It could very well mean that the seats couldn’t be filled domestically so the school had to recruit non-U.S. students into its class. Rewarding a school for approaching near perfect gender balance in a class is a politically correct measure–not one having to do with quality. And an international experience–while potentially valuable and fun for students–is hardly a measure of a program’s quality, either.

The FT’s numbers also claimed that the salary increases achieved by Jindal’s alums fell from 41% last year to 33% this year. Salary growth–measured three years after graduation vs. pre-MBA pay–alone accounts for 20% of the methodology. But these numbers are gleaned from a very small sample that can easily make them unreliable. Jindal’s EMBA program, after all, enrolls only 30 students a year, and the FT includes a school if it gets just 20 responses on its alumni survey. The current salary of its alums, according to the FT, also went down, to $140,048 from $141,130.

That’s little more than a $1,000 decline and more a rounding error than anything else. Yet “current salary”–adjusted by the FT for purchasing power parity–also accounts for 20% of the methodology. The adjustment, which is itself highly controversial, tends to overstate the compensation of schools whose alumni work in emerging countries where poverty is common and often extreme. So in the dynamic of a group of global schools, small negative changes can loom large.

‘EVERY RANKING IS IMPORTANT AND WE WANT TO DO OUR BEST’

Pirkul acknowledges some of these issues, but still believes the FT survey has clout. “Every ranking is important and we want to do our best,” he insists. But he also wants to focus not on a ranking per se but on the core educational basics.

Pirkul says that when he played high school and college basketball in his home country of Turkey, he was consistently reminded of the importance of the game’s fundamentals. Five days a week of practice on basic drills often bored him and his teammates to no end. “My coach always drilled us the fundamentals,” he says. “If you don’t do that, he said, you’ll develop bad habits. That is a lifetime lesson.”

It’s a lesson he trying to keep in mind ever since the release of this bad news ranking. We lose some and we win some,” he sighs. “If you’re a good school doing good things, that’s what matters in the end.”

THE FINANCIAL TIMES RANKS EMBA PROGRAMS IN TEXAS

Texas EMBA Programs2013 Rank2012 RankSalaryIncrease
Rice University (Jones)3946$197,67256%
UT-Austin (McCombs)5654$147,76745%
Texas A&M (Mays)6558$182,04437%
Southern Methodist (Cox)7779$166,19335%
UT-Dallas (Jindal)8766$140,04833%
Baylor (Hankamer)9896$129,90852%
University of Houston (Bauer)99—–$137,95643%

Source: The Financial Times 2013 Global Executive MBA Ranking

Notes: Salary reflects current “adjusted” salary of alumni surveyed three years after graduation. Increase reflects the percentage growth in an alumni’s salary over pre-MBA pay

DON’T MISS: DOES THE WORLD NEED ANOTHER BUSINESS SCHOOL RANKING? 

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.