FT Ranking: The big scam

Von am 6. Mai 2013

Landing a spot on one of the Financial Times rankings is viewed by many business schools as a great accolade. This particularly applies to German schools that want to become more well-known on the international stage. In order to be eligible for a place on the rankings, schools need AACSB or EQUIS accreditation – but not in every case it seems, as the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management demonstrates.

According to the FT website, international accreditation is a requirement for participation in the rankings. International accreditation refers to either AACSB or EQUIS accreditation. The Frankfurt School of Finance and Management has neither of these, yet it’s landed in 32nd place in the world in the most recent Master in Finance ranking!

The school is very proud to be included in the ranking, says Angelika Werner, press officer at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. According to Werner, the school was invited by the FT to be a part of the ranking. But of course she had presented Frankfurt School very well to the FT and Della Bradshaw, the editor behind the rankings – that´s lobby work, which can’t be argued against.

But is the FT so easily influenced that it breaks its own rules? Upon my inquiry, Della Bradshaw initially answered my email with the following question: “Any suggestions about what to tell her?” Clearly this email was misdirected and presumably intended for her colleagues. The school was looking to explain away the deception with an excuse, which I received shortly after:

“With all our rankings, we require business schools to be EQUIS or AACSB accredited. However, with the Masters in Finance we found there were several institutions that offered this degree but were not business schools. We discussed these issues with all the traditional business schools when we started the rankings and they were all supportive of the idea that these institutions – Queen Mary’s in London is another example – should be included. The aim of the ranking is to list the best Masters in Finance degrees and we think this best enables us to do that.”

So the Frankfurt School isn’t a business school? But then why is it currently in the accreditation process with the AACSB? The organization is known for accrediting business schools. The statement that all business schools agreed that schools without accreditation should be included in the ranking also seems rather shaky. Why should a school even bother to go through the long and expensive accreditation process? Because landing on the ranking is significantly more important for marketing.

In addition, Bradshaw’s response would mean that schools themselves decide who’s allowed to participate in the ranking. Particularly far-fetched is her reference to Queen Mary’s in London, which doesn’t even appear in the list! And the Frankfurt School is the only school that appears which doesn’t hold either of the required accreditations.

Now it may very well make sense to make accreditation for the Master of Finance not obligatory. So why isn’t the participation criteria in the ranking simply changed? And why does Della Bradshaw embarrass herself with such absurd excuses? Is it the arrogance of power? The FT Editor ultimately has nothing to fear. Even if some schools were to become outraged over the scam, none of them would openly criticize her – they’re too afraid of the “ruler” of the rankings.

This incident hardly marks the first time that the FT has ignored its own requirements. In January 2008, the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad made its first appearance in the MBA rankings, landing in 20th place in the world on its first go. “To be included in the ranking, business schools must be accredited by an organization like AACSB, Amba or EQUIS,” was the word from the FT. At the time, the ISB had none of these accreditations. According to the Assistant Director of Admissions & Financial Aid at the time, the school had invited Della Bradshaw to Hyderabad for three days to form her own impression of the school. But was this the reason for ignoring the own requirements? Even back then Bradshaw had a strange explanation for including ISB in the ranking: “Accreditation through an American or European organization applies to American and European schools. We do not engage in any cultural imperialism.”


Foto Bärbel Schwertfeger, MBA Journal

Über Bärbel Schwertfeger

Bärbel Schwertfeger ist Diplom-Psychologin und seit 1985 als freie Journalistin im Bereich Management, Weiterbildung und Personalentwicklung tätig.