Understanding Rankings

For good or bad, U.S. News provides nearly 50 different types of numerical rankings and lists to help students narrow their college search.  MBA programs have often been targeted – but U.S. News also provides rankings of the best undergraduate business programs.  The rankings are based solely on surveys of deans and senior faculty members at business programs.
There are also rankings of other specialty programs - some of which may have a degree of legitimacy.  Although we might be skeptical of U.S. News’ rankings, the organization has repute, and the methodology some transparency.  As for other ranking “studies” – more than a little skepticism is in order - especially when we’re dealing with the internet. 
A few years ago I came across a hospitality program ranking website called Best Schools.  Another one named Successful Student followed suit shortly thereafter.  There were many similarities in appearance between the two, and it seemed likely they were penned by the same hand.  A little leg work revealed that one of the sites was prepared by an individual working on a PhD in biology who was also a fellow in the Institute for the Study of Nature. 
I contacted the folks here at Purdue re what could be done about sites like these.  They indicated that 
In 2014, the individual running these sites was outed by Fortune magazine who found him to be (no kidding) a goat farmer in Tennessee, making some extra cash with these sites on the side. Looks like that’s about when he abandoned SuperScholar and started Successful Student.
They also indicated that there wasn’t much they could do.
The criteria used by these sites in their rankings are typically not provided.  Sometimes they just mimic what is already on a school’s website.  The methodology used is usually absent.  Further, it seems possible that anyone could prepare a ranking site – and there isn’t much that can be done.  (Exposing one of the problems with the internet).
As for the rankings of Hospitality Undergraduate Programs – there are a few that we know of that have gone through the blind review process, and are transparent.  They were conducted by researchers at other hospitality programs.  The data was obtained from the deans, chairs and directors of hospitality programs, and other stakeholders.  The attributes measured, and the scores assigned are readily available.  In this sense they provide a level of validity.  In both studies the Purdue undergraduate program was ranked first. 
At the graduate level both the M.S. and PhD programs were similarly recognized in a longitudinal study of graduate hospitality programs.  Again, the methodology and data collected were transparent.
I thought you might like to know as you consider your options.
-Richard Ghiselli
Department Head, Hospitality and Tourism Management

Hospitality & Tourism Management, 900 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, PH:(765) 494-4643, Fax: (765) 494-0327

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