GLOBAL: Ranking focuses on business high flyers

Harvard in the US, Tokyo and Keio Universities of Japan, and France's HEC business school are the top institutions in the fifth Professional Ranking of World Universities compiled by the French grande école Mines ParisTech.

But the classification, released last week, remains controversial because it is based on only one criterion - the number of graduates holding the most senior post, chief executive officer or equivalent, at a particular time in one of the 500 international companies listed in the 2010 Fortune Global 500 of Fortune magazine.

The school explains that it chose to adopt one "simple criterion" which "is meant to be the equivalent, as far as companies are concerned, of the criterion of 'alumni having been awarded the Nobel Prize or the Fields Medal', used in the classification established by Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, the former students concerned being of a similar number.

"However, unlike the Shanghai classification, this criterion points to the performance of the training courses provided by higher education institutions rather than performance achieved in research by those institutions," says the report.

"Everyone can...carry out this survey again with the same criterion and the result will not change," it says.

The ranking survey found that 15 institutions had trained four or more global business leaders, 28 had trained three or more, 58 two or more, and 210 one or more.

After Harvard, Tokyo, Keio and HEC - which lead 392 higher education institutions classified by Mines - high rankers include the UK's Oxford University and Japan's Kyoto University in joint fifth place, École Polytechnique and École Nationale d'Administration of France seventh and ninth respectively, Waseda University of Japan eighth, and Seoul National University, South Korea, in 10th position.

Mines ParisTech ranks itself 21st, jointly with Insead (France), the University of Chicago (US) and Vienna University of Economics and Business (Austria).

Classifying institutions by country, the top 10 are the US, Japan, France, China, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Spain and the Netherlands.

In 2010, Fortune's top 500 companies were run by 508 people, with eight companies having two leaders. Information was obtained on the higher education of 487 of the CEOs, with full information not available for 21 (4%) of the leaders. Interestingly, only 13 CEOs had not pursued any higher education studies.

The Mines rankings contrast with others such as those produced by Jiao Tong, which use a range of criteria including institutions' research prowess, numbers of graduates and faculty members awarded Nobel prizes and Fields medals, and how many works are published in scientific journals.

In response to the charge that since the CEOs represented in the rankings completed their studies 30 years ago and it is therefore institutions' past being evaluated, Mines ParisTech says its method is "perfectly justified, as for the Nobel laureates". It intends to "reproduce this classification every year and to analyse trends over time".

The school has promised to consolidate the results of its rankings' first five years in a few months' time.

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