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The Rankings Game: Managing Business School Reputation

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The environment of business education now resembles aspects of the competitive environment facing for-profit industries. A major contributor to the character of this environment in the USA are the published rankings of business school programs, which have risen in prominence over the last decade. We conducted interviews with top management team members from the top 50 business schools in the USA to assess the effects of business school rankings on the conduct of business education. These informants characterized the rankings process predominantly as a game where the players face a field that is not always level and where the rules are not only ill-specified but also subtly changing. Our examination of how business schools play ‘the rankings game’ revealed a structuration-like pattern whereby projected images by business schools and subsequent responses to those images both enabled and constrained further action by the schools as well as the magazines responsible for the rankings. This pattern has implications not only for gaining insights into the management of reputation in academia, but also for conceptualizing relationships among image and substance in a world increasingly dominated by media.Corporate Reputation Review (2000) 3, 319–333; doi:10.1057/palgrave.crr.1540123
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2000

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