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A sociology of rankings: a longitudinal examination of the Financial Times MBA rankings

Moos, Chris (2015) A sociology of rankings: a longitudinal examination of the Financial Times MBA rankings. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

Although rankings have been in existence for almost a century, scholars have only developed a limited understanding of the role of such aggregations of performance measures in organisational fields. In particular, there is little understanding of how cognitive and strategic processes at the organisational level, which underlie the measurement and ranking process, impact on macro outcomes on the level of the organisational field. This is due to the persistence of two assumptions about the impact of rankings on organisations and fields. These are, firstly, that here is a cause-effect relationship between the emergence of rankings and change processes in organisational fields, and, secondly, that those processes lead to the emergence of a single model of organising around which organisational fields and actors homogenise. Refuting these assumptions, I develop the concepts of the ranking template and frame to explain the ways in which rankings can impact on organisations and fields, given the dynamics between organisations that produce and those who are subject to rankings. In particular, I show that through ranking frames, the latter develop notions of actual and aspired ranking performances and a strategy to align the two. An in-depth analysis of a novel longitudinal data set from the Financial Times Global MBA rankings as well as data from business schools provides evidence of the multitude of ways in which rankings can impact on organisations and fields. Specifically, I show how ranking fields are made up of field boundaries, vertical segments of competitors, horizontal segments of different performance measures, as well as clusters of peers. I conclude by discussing the contribution of these findings to the understanding of the dynamics between producers and subjects of performance measures in organisational fields.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Chris Moos
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Willman, Paul and Lup, Daniela
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3256

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