New and hyped business school rankings are out. My colleagues around the corner in the TCD School of Business are celebrating a comfortable mid-table placing, and an odd honour of being second in the world for “value for money” (“This is calculated using the salary earned by alumni today, course length, fees and other costs, including the opportunity cost of not working for the duration of the course.”) And by pleasant coincidence, today’s Irish Times included an advertisement for The MBA Tour, with such classic lines as:

A select group of the best-renowned Business Schools invite you to a unique MBA event

and

For a list of participating b-schools, event schedule and to register to attend, visit …

I have no idea what a “b-school” is, despite how best their renown is ; )

Have we learned all that much from these bizarre rankings? I doubt it, and virtually every law school dean in the US would tend to agree (Good or bad company? Hmmm)

Anyway. A related question, causing much stress in the UK these days, is whether the ‘massification’ of higher education is a problem, and indeed whether the idea that ‘everyone should go to university‘ (with the polytechnic sector having fairly well disappeared (in a formal sense) in that part of the world) is a good one. BBC Radio 4’s excellent Start The Week grappled with this topic this morning (the episode title in my podcast reader was, cheekily enough, “The decline of the Left and Universities”; the lead topic was Nick Cohen‘s new book on, well, the decline of the left!). Download the MP3 (other options available via the programme website).

The guest, the ever-controversial Claire Fox, is speaking in a debate tomorrow (Tuesday). Should be a right battle alright. Unfortunately (for me) it’s in London. I do have some sympathy with her central thesis; expanding numbers and bringing historically non-university education under a big university umbrella does not necessarily lead to an improvement in either educational standards or equity of access. However, those that argue so are, in my experience of debating this at conferences etc, also of the view that if we just reduced the numbers, kicked out media studies and applied computing, and brought back gowns, all the ills of the modern world would be cured. That I doubt.

Finally. Forget yer business schools and yer massification debates; if you really want to understand what’s happening in higher education, take note of the fact that author David Lodge is 72 years young (yesterday). His wise observations of university life (bibliography) are probably more useful than the FT rankings, despite the age of some of his works. Happy birthday.