The Dark Side Of B-School Rankings

Yet, the authors of the paper had been at Bloch for a year, having been invited by then Dean Teng-Kee Tan and professor Michael Song. The authors had been at the same Chinese university where Song had been a part-time professor the previous four years, and at UMKC, the three shared the same office number, according to The Star. No less crucial, to get the business school it’s number one ranking, the authors had to use an unusual methodology of counting citations in scholarly articles that has led some critics to charge that the paper is “fatally flawed.” The methodology favored the Bloch School.


“They named themselves the No. 1 in innovation technology,” former Ph.D. candidate Xian Cao told The Star, “but I don’t really believe it.”

A professor who feared that speaking out would harm his career said he and his colleagues were skeptical even as the study’s results were announced. “We all knew that this was bullshit,” he told the newspaper. “We knew that UMKC was not better than MIT and Stanford.”

Another professor, Richard Arend, demanded an investigation. “Despite assurances to the contrary from UMKC and the journal’s editors, he remains convinced that the study was contrived, with help from people within the university, to deliver UMKC its top standing,” the newspaper reported.


“Science is about investigating strange outcomes,” Arend told The Star. “For example, when UMKC is ranked above more-established, better-funded, private institutions like Stanford, MIT and Harvard in an area of knowledge that they are world renowned for, there are questions.”

For its part, the university strongly defends itself against the accusations. UMKC denies it “engaged in ‘a pattern of exaggerations’ or took ‘short cuts’ on a path to achieving national and global recognition and rankings.” In a written statement provided to the newspaper, the school called Arend’s suspicions groundless and dismissed him as “a disgruntled Bloch School faculty member whom Michael Song declined to recommend for promotion.”

Yet, other professors also voiced concern.  H. Dennis Park, who left the school for Drexel University in Philadelphia, said he quit UMKC partly because of what he thought were inflated rankings. “I was a little concerned. ‘What if these things got out?’” he told the newspaper. “It is sort of like these people who were working for Enron before the disaster happened.”

Dean Tan stepped down as dean last year after a four-year stint for health reasons. The newspaper said he had been receiving a base salary of $410,000 — more than the chancellor was being paid to run the entire university — and also was promised  an annual bonus of up to $50,000 if he could boost the school’s profile, enlist community support and raise money. “Top ranking results,” Tan wrote a friend several months ago, “is the trigger of a virtuous cycle for building brand equity and excellence and sustainable resources for today’s business schools.”

Associate Dean David Donnelly has since been named dean of the Bloch School. Song denied that he inflated the accomplishments of the entrepreneurship program he founded at UMKC, and he dismissed as “nonsense” allegations that the JPIM paper was rigged to deliver UMKC the top world ranking, and he said he couldn’t recall what if any role he had in its publication.

“Did I see a version of their paper? I don’t really remember,” he told The Star.


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