Do rankings really make a difference to students?

  • Ayesha Banerjee, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Mar 19, 2014 10:58 IST

How attractive are university rankings to students? Should they make a choice based purely on how renowned a university or college is? Popular opinion veers towards the right fit. If you find a course of a college that offers a programme that seems to be tailormade for you, just apply, no matter what the rank.

Rankings could be important as they play a role in a candidate’s decision to apply to a school, says Pejay Belland, director of marketing, admission and financial aid at INSEAD, considered one of the top B-schools in the world. “The main rankings in which we participate have typically been the globally recognised ones such as FT, Business Week and the Economist. It’s clear that rankings such as QS and Poets & Quants are also becoming increasingly influential and we’re very proud, for example, to be ranked number one by QS,” she says.

However, advises Belland, once students have identified their top list, they need to do more research by talking to alumni, reaching out to the school and ensuring that the school(s) they  choose really fit their needs.

Rankings matter most to students when they first come to seek advice, says Arjun Seth, director of EdBrand (, who leads a group of independent college admissions counsellors assisting students in identifying ‘right-fit’ colleges or universities abroad. 

Once made aware of their options and after investing  time on online research and  talking to current students, the students are open to institutions that they may not have heard of earlier, Seth adds.

The reason why many young people today want to go abroad is that they don’t have the high scores needed to get into a college in India. Also, they are attracted to the liberal arts system in the US, which allows them the freedom to explore various courses before selecting their major. Other big draws are the student life on campus with opportunities for pursuing any interest they might have; research and internship opportunities missing in India; small class sizes and the quality of teaching in the smaller colleges; prestige of the big national universities, says Seth.

His advice to them is that the right-fit matters the most. Often rankings lead the students to a wrong path in their search for right fit colleges. To get to the top rung, a B-school should have a number of accreditations such as AACSB, Equis and AMBA, which provide it an internationally recognised seal of quality. A strong alumni network across the world also enforces the reputation of the school globally, Belland adds.

On how INSEAD does it right, Belland says the diversity of the programme both in terms of student body, campus locations, and course content is clearly interesting for international students who learn about business from many different cultural perspectives not only from the faculty but also from their peers. “We’re proud to have over 80 different countries across our two intakes, with no dominant culture. This means that wherever a student studies, whether in Asia or in Europe, the experience is a truly international one,” she adds.

“I think rankings are one component that students should keep in mind when they decide on the universities, but not the only component. To some students, geography, geographical climate, proximity to home also matters,” says Anant Agarwal of edX.


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