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WORLD BUSINESS

The buck stops here

Study shows top business schools have top deans

By Peter Walker for CNN

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Best get studying: research brings success as a dean.

FACT BOX

FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006

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EMBA SNAPSHOT

Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.

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(CNN) -- If there is one thing that keeps business school deans awake at night, it is their institution's global ranking. Now a new study gives them more reason for interrupted sleep: it indicates they are largely responsible.

The study of the world's top 100 business schools, as ranked by the Financial Times Global MBA list, finds a close correlation between a school's position and the standing of the dean, as determined by his or her own academic research record.

"Leaders are the final arbiters of quality. Therefore it is right to expect the standard bearer to first bear the standard," Patrick Harker, dean of the equal top-ranked Wharton School told the report's author.

Amanda H. Goodall, from Britain's Warwick Business School, has previously demonstrated a link between the global rankings of wider universities and the academic pedigrees of their presidents, something that could perhaps have been more readily anticipated.

But surely business schools are different, anchored in the solid world of economics and commerce rather than aloft in the ivory towers of theoretical academia? It seems not.

Goodall said she was struck by the match between a dean's academic record and their school's ranking.

"It's interesting," she said. "If you can make that correlation work for business school deans then that's quite significant, as I don't think people would have predicted it so much."

Academic citations

Goodall's study took 99 deans -- one U.S.-based school was in the process of making a new appointment -- and used an online index of academic papers to study the number of times each of them was cited in studies.

One statistic alone gives a snapshot of the link. The Institute for Scientific Information, which runs the database, names some academics as "Highly Cited," something which identifies them as being in the world's top 1 percent of academic researchers.

Three deans were in this elite group and the schools they headed also happened to take the first three places in the FT rankings; Harvard Business School and Wharton in top and Columbia just below.

The correlation was borne out more generally among the 100 schools as a whole, 65 of which are American or Canadian with 14 UK-based, 12 other dotted about Europe and nine in the rest of the world.

Goodall found a "statistically significant" relationship between the position of a business school in the FT ranking and the life-time citations of its dean, calculating that on average, six citations were needed to nudge the school up one place.

However, the correlation breaks down when applied only to the non-U.S. schools, although if examined separately, British institutions demonstrate a link.

Discounting mere coincidence, Goodall raises three possible reasons: that top schools seek out top scholars, that the best scholars are attracted to leading institutions and that top scholars actively improve a school's performance.

Emphasis on academic leadership at the top level has been "unfashionable" in recent years, the study notes, but should not be ignored.

Goodall argues that scholarship should not be seen as a substitute for management experience but an addition, noting that most senior academics have developed management skills by running research centers or heading academic programs.

"Business schools are very different from universities in some sense -- they have a much more applied nature," she said.

"But on the whole, with a university, and even a business school, the core business is academic research and research-led teaching."

Nonetheless,.the correlation for business school deans is "not as strong" as for university presidents.

"I would say that is partly a reflection of the fact that business school deans are sometimes appointed to do different things, and their priorities might be different," Goodall said.

"Engaging with business and so on is not the same thing, and some schools might decide that they don't need a great researcher but a better manager."

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