Why the Beyond Gray Pinstripes does not reflect reality of CSR education

Since 2007 has the Beyond Gray Pinstripes been one of the most important international indicators for the quality of business schools sustainability programs. The Aspen Institute have positions themselves as one of the institutions that can name the best programs in the world to chose from when students are looking for education that have a high level with CSR courses.

As stated by the institute their mission is to twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues.

Looking at the top ten schools are:

  Relevant Course Etudent Exposure For-profit Impact Faculty Reasarch
1 York (Schulich) CAN 1   40   10   1  
2 U. of Michigan (Ross) USA 8   23   1   2  
3 Yale School of Management USA 3   4   4   16  
4 Stanford Graduate School of Business USA 2   14   2   18  
5 Notre Dame (Mendoza) USA 4   5   14   3  
6 UC Berkeley (Haas) USA 7   31   5   4  
7 RSM Erasmus NED 20   3   23   7  
8 NYU (Stern) USA 5   10   14   29  
9 IE Business School ESP 9   1   14   59  
10 Columbia Business School USA 11   59   7   13  

So it should be fairly simple to find the best possible program for good CSR courses using the list. However, differences in educational systems obscure the picture significantly. As you can see is there an overrepresentation of programs from the US which would indicate that the best courses and school are to be found here. The two European schools that stand out is RSM Erasmus and IE Business School that both have relative big MBA programs both of them modeled over the US approach to business education. IE Business School has 500 and Erasmus 112 MBA students.

If we assume that students are looking for school where the quality of education is cutting edge and that this comes from research environments that are leaders within CSR there are some obvious problems with this list.

If one wants to look at CSR education there are two knowledge centers in Europe that are leading the pack. First one is Nottingham University International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ICCSR) and the second is Copenhagen Business School Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (CBSCSR) both institutions are leading within CSR but low on the list (Nottingham is 23 and Copenhagen is 62). The reason is that both schools don’t have big MBA programs but have put their efforts into the master programs and thereby have emphasis on research.

As the European university system has a long academic history where a relative large amount of students finishes with a master degree there is no tradition for MBA programs. In Denmark is the master programs free for all Danish citizens while the MBA program easily will cost you 100’000 USD. On top of that students in Denmark even get a grant for the duration of their studies which covers the costs so that they do not have to work on the side. So there is no real market for a large MBA program in this country and the Copenhagen Business School program have about 40 students a year while the one in Nottingham have about 89.

At CBSCSR there were many courses to choose from everything from Business Ethics, Supply Chain Management to Social Entrepreneurship. This makes it possible for the individual student to go beyond mainstream CSR and really dig into specific fields of interest. However, none of these were offered to MBA students at the school and thereby attracting points for the Aspen listing. The reason is that the courses are to long, each one run for about one semester while electives in a MBA normally run for an about one month. And that they have not been adopted to a MBA approach, but focuses on getting students geared for research and reflection rather than for business and practice.

In my view is the Aspen Beyond Gray Pinstripes ranking only relevant for students that are looking for US types schools and a US type education. If one wants be part of a growing research environment and be part of the newest development within CSR one would choose a school that are hosting the CSR centers and enroll in the courses that are offered through their masters programs. This will provide you with the knowledge you need within a wide range of CSR related issues and at the same time access to a well established and grown network of professionals and researchers. Of cause if you are just looking for the MBA title you have just wasted your time reading through this whole blog post.


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