Canada Falls in World University Rankings: or Rating the Raters

8 10 2014

The Globe and Mail and other Canadian media sources recently carried stories about how Canadian universities are falling in the global rankings. (see “Canadian universities slide down world ranking scale” 1 October). The Agenda, a Canadian public affairs TV show, appears to have plans for an episode on the subject. The publication of the Times Higher Education rankings has sparked this debate.

Speaking as a Canadian-educated academic who is familiar with both the British higher education system and the management issue of creating incentives for accuracy in ratings, I find it difficult to believe that people still take these rankings seriously.

In thinking about the rankings of universities, we can divide the ranking agencies into three categories: low credibility, medium credibility, high credibility.

Let’s talk about the totally bogus rankings. There are a number of organizations and individuals who produce world rankings of universities. Some lack any credibility. Consider the Shanghai World Rankings of Universities. These are produced by a team of researchers in a dictatorship that is known for widespread corruption and internet censorship. China’s firewall prevents people in the country from accessing Western media websites, including student newspapers. Given that such websites contain a great deal of information that would be relevant to evaluating universities,  the evaluators in Shanghai are in a poor position to do rankings. Another website with world university rankings is produced by an Italian gentleman who lives in London. The said gentleman offers “consulting” services for universities that wish to move up his rankings!!! Moreover, his rankings  lack credibility since so little reputational capital is at stake.

The Times Higher Education rankings are somewhat more credible, as they are produced by big media conglomerate that has some reputational capital to loose: businesspeople pay a premium to access Times data in the belief it is accurate. We can be pretty certain that outright bribery have never influenced the position of a university in the Times HES rankings. However, even these rankings are problematic, as they appear to be skewed towards UK universities, which is natural given that the rankings are made under the supervision of Phil Baty, a graduate of one of the colleges of the University of London! To be fair to Mr Baty and other patriotic British university graduates, the UK does have a handful of good universities.  I’m proud to work at one of the British universities that provides North-American quality education.  The experience of most British students is very different however.

I suspect that the low rankings of Canadian universities are a function of lack of knowledge of Canada rather than malicious bias on the part of the people at the THES.  Although British people are well informed about the United States, they know little about Canada, in part because the BBC does not employ any full-time journalists in Canada, despite having dozens of people in the United States. Many ordinary British people are surprised when they see pictures of Canada’s urban skylines, since this visual evidence of urbanization conflicts with the prevailing stereotypes of Canada.  Academics in the UK display similar, although less extreme, knowledge gaps. A senior British political scientist once remarked to me that he didn’t know the name of “Canada’s President.” The widespread British ignorance of Canada may well reflect a rational allocation of mental effort. However, it means that Canadians should probably ignore whatever British newspapers say about Canadian universities, at least until they start reporting on, say, Canadian federal elections.

The more fundamental problem with any newspaper and magazine ranking universities is the incentive structure, as the rater faces few if any financial consequences for inaccuracy or bias. After the financial meltdown, investors became sceptical of the rankings issued by bond rating agencies such as S&P. Unlike Warren Buffett who puts his money where his mouth is, the analysts at ratings agencies gave triple-A ratings to securities without investing any of their own money. Any person can predict that the price of wheat will go up next year, but I’m more likely to pay attention to him if he’s bet some money on Chicago wheat futures.  These analogies show what is wrong with the Times Higher, Guardian, and other newspaper-generated ratings.

There are some credible ratings of universities, however. The staff of charities such as the Ford and Carnegie Foundations do categorize and evaluate universities before making decisions about the allocation of billions of dollars of funding. Since these organizations have “skin in the game”, the opinions they express via ratings are credible. The newspaper rankings should be ignored, since individuals such as Phil Baty face no penalties for error.

Learning Opportunity for PhD Students at Copenhagen Business School

7 10 2014

AS: PhD students at other universities will have the opportunity to attend an intensive, two-day workshop at CBS this autumn. The details are below.

Using Historical Approaches in Management and Organizational Research

3 ECTS Credits



November 17-18, 2014



Per H. Hansen, Tor Hernes, Christina Lubinski, Mads Mordhorst, Majken Schultz, Daniel Wadhwani, Roy Suddaby

Course Coordinator

Associate Professor Mads Mordhorst


Prerequisites & Requirements

Each participant must submit a working paper or full-length proposal for group discussion or review. The paper should be submitted to Dan Wadhwani ( by November 17th.  Students who do not have a working paper or full-length proposal may still take the course but will receive only 2 ECTS credits. Students should indicate whether they will be submitting a paper when they register for the course so that both credit and fees can be adjusted accordingly.


Course Description

In recent years, management and organizations researchers have begun to use historical sources and approaches in their study of organizations and organizing. Building on earlier pleas for an engagement with historical reasoning about organizations (Zald, 1993; Kieser, 1994; Clark and Rowlinson, 2004), these more recent developments have included efforts to develop historical approaches to studying organizational and institutional theory (Suddaby and Greenwood, 2009), strategy (Kahl et al, 2012; Ingram et al, 2012), innovation and entrepreneurship (Tripsas, 1997; Forbes and Kirsch, 2010; Popp and Holt, 2013; Wadhwani and Jones, 2014), international business (Jones and Khanna, 2006) and critical management studies (Rowlinson and Proctor, 1999), among other subfields. The turn towards history, however, has also raised a number of complex questions for researchers about the nature of historical knowledge, how it might be employed to address organizational research questions, and how to analyze historical sources and data (Bucheli and Wadhwani, 2014; Rowlinson, Hassard, and Decker, 2014; Kipping and Usdiken, 2014). This seminar will introduce participants to the core theoretical and methodological issues involved in using historical approaches in organizational and management research, and discuss the variety of ways in which history is being used in organization and management studies today.  The seminar will provide participants with both a broad orientation to the theoretical and practical issues involved in the use of historical approaches, and an opportunity to apply these approaches to their own research using smaller breakout groups and discussions.

Learning Objectives

The PhD seminar will be designed to allow participants to:

  1. Understand the nature of historical approaches and how they compare to other types of ways of studying management and organizations.
  2. Understand the range of ways in which historical sources, methods, and perspectives can be engaged, including the epistemological assumptions involved in these choices and their implications for the types of research questions that can be addressed.
  3. Apply these methodological issues and choices to their own research interests through focused breakout groups.


The seminar will provide a broad overview of the uses of history in management and organizational research, and then examine more closely three ways in which historical sources, methods, and perspectives can be used to address organizational research questions. The four approaches are as follows:

The first approach we will examine is the use of history to develop or test theory.  Historical sources can provide a foundation for developing and testing theories related to organizational processes in time, including such processes as institutionalization, path dependence, imprinting, and evolutionary dynamics. We will illustrate how this is done using leading examples from the organizational literature, and will discuss the assumptions, strengths, and limitations of such an approach.

Second, we will discuss the uses of history to identify and reconstruct important phenomena that extant theory elides. Theories are necessarily parsimonious abstractions of complex realities, and while theory-driven research has proven itself valuable in management and organization studies, scholars have also gained increasing appreciation for research based on the study of important phenomena, as the recent establishment of Academy of Management Discoverieshighlights.  We will show how historical approaches can be used to reconstruct organizational developments that theory has elided, and how this can in turn serve as a basis for alternative theoretical perspectives on organizations.

Finally, we will examine the use of history to provide insights into organizational meaning, cognition, and agency. Historical sources and approaches allow insights into how organizational actors understand their world, including their own position in historical time. We will examine how organizational scholars have been employing this approach to examine the uses of history by organizations and actors to formulate organizational strategy, engage in entrepreneurial action, and establish organizational identity.

Participants will not only have the opportunity to learn these approaches by examining leading exemplars of each approach, but also through discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of each and by application of the most appropriate approach to their own research.

Lecture Plan

Day 1
9:00-10:00     Origins and Development of the “Historic Turn” in Organization Studies

Discussion: What is history? How is it important in understanding organizations?

Primary Faculty: Mordhorst; Secondary Faculty: All

10:00-10:15   Break

10:15-12:00   Approach 1: Using History to Develop and Test Organization Theory

Discussion: How do we know the past?

Primary Faculty: Wadhwani; Secondary: All

12:30-1:00     Lunch

1:00-2:30       Approach 2: Using History to Examine New or Unexamined Phenomena

Primary Faculty: Hansen; Secondary Faculty: All

2:30-2:45       Break

2:45-4:00       Approach 3: Uses of History in Organizations and Organizing

Primary Faculty: Schultz & Hernes; Secondary Faculty: All

Day 2

9:00-10:30     Session 1: Student Presentations and Feedback

Primary Faculty: Mordhorst; Secondary: All

10:30-10:45   Break

10:45-12:00   Session 2: Student Presentations and Feedback

Primary Faculty: Wadhwani; Secondary: Al12:00-1:00


1:00-2:30       Session 3: Student Presentations and Feedback

Primary Faculty: Lubinski; Secondary Faculty: All

2:30-2:45       Break

2:45-4:00       Wrap Up

Faculty: All


Course Literature

Bingham, C. B., & Kahl, S. J. (2013). The Process of Schema Emergence: Assimilation, Deconstruction, Unitization and the Plurality of Analogies. Academy of Management Journal56 (1): 14-34.

Bucheli, M., & Wadhwani, R. D. (Eds.). (2013). Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Forbes, D. P., & Kirsch, D. A. (2011). The Study of Emerging Industries: Recognizing and Responding to Some Central Problems. Journal of Business Venturing26(5): 589-602.

Hansen, P. H. (2007). Organizational culture and organizational change: The transformation of savings banks in Denmark, 1965–1990. Enterprise and Society8(4), 920-953.

Khaire, M., & Wadhwani, R. D. (2010). Changing Landscapes: The Construction of Meaning and Value in a New Market Category—Modern Indian Art. Academy of Management Journal53(6), 1281-1304.

Rowlinson, M., Hassard, J., & Decker, S. (2013). Strategies for Organizational History: A Dialogue Between Historical Theory and Organization Theory.Academy of Management Review, amr-2012.

Schultz, M. and Hernes, T. (2013). “A Temporal Perspective on Organizational Identity,” Organization Science, 24(1): 1–21.

Fifth Canadian Business History Workshop

2 10 2014

Toronto Stock Exchange, 1878 Source: Wikimedia Commons

We are pleased to invite you to the Fifth Canadian Business History Workshop, which will feature presentation and discussion of two draft papers (circulated in advance) and a discussion of teaching business history.

The workshops have become a regular meeting of the network of Canadian scholars working on varied aspects of business history and we welcome all new participants.

This fall’s workshop will be held at Wilfrid Laurier University, 75 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario on1the afternoon of 14 November 2014. We are meeting in the Ernst & Yonge Boardroom (Room 3220 in the School of Business and Economics Building) on campus.

We will start from noon onwards with lunch, which is kindly offered by the School of Business and Economics, and the Faculty of Arts.

The schedule of the Workshop is:

Location: Ernst & Yonge Boardroom (School of Business and Economics, room 3220)

1200-1245h  LUNCH

1245-1345h  Keith Neilson (Royal Military College), “The Imperial Munitions Board (IMB) in the First World War”

1345-1400h   COFFEE BREAK

1400-1500h  Mark Sholdice (University of Guelph), “The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario and Conservation Debates in the United States, 1911-1921”

1500-1600h  Teaching Business History, Matthias Kipping (Schulich School of Business, York University), Joe Martin (Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto), David Smith (Wilfrid Laurier University)

To facilitate planning, please confirm your attendance by sending an email to David Smith (dasmith@wlu.caby 1 November 2014. Early notice would be appreciated.

If you cannot attend, but are interested in future events and news about Canadian business history, please join the Canadian Business History Group / Groupe d’historiens des affaires canadiens, accessible at

2014-15 Hagley Business History Seminars

30 09 2014

2014-2015 Schedule

Oct. 2 – 6:30 p.m. : Roger Horowitz (Hagley Museum and Library), “‘Man-O-Manischewitz, What a Wine!’ : A story of success, failure, and the dilemmas of kosher food in a Christian society.”

Nov. 6 – 6:30 p.m. : Jesse LeCavalier (New Jersey Institute of Technology), “Walmart and the Architecture of Logistics.”

Dec. 11 – 6:30 p.m. : Stephen Mihm (University of Georgia), “Loose Screws and Standard Sizes: The Many Measures of Modernity.”

Feb. 19 – 6:30 p.m. : Tiago Saraiva (Drexel University), “Cloning California: Oranges and American Democracy in the Global Mediterranean.”

March 26 – 6:30 p.m. : Mark Rose (Florida Atlantic University), “Supermarket Banks: The Consolidation of Financial Services, 1970-1992.”

April 23 – 6:30 p.m. : Chantal Rodriquez (University of Maryland), “’Unfit for Work’: Railroad Companies and the (Un)Making of Mexican Guest Worker Health during World War II.”

For more details, see here.

RMC Conference: Turning Point Year: The British Empire at War in 1917

30 09 2014

Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario

Royal Military College (RMC)

Turning Point Year: The British Empire at War in 1917

$185 regular • $125 student

Registration fee includes banquet, lunches and coffee breaks.

For further information:


Thursday 6 November:

0815-0820 – Welcome
0830-0930 –William Philpott, “Never Over by Christmas: Meeting the Challenges of Interminable War”

0930-1030 – Keith Neilson, Royal Military College of Canada, “The Blockade in 1917”

1030-1045 – break

1045-1215 – PANEL, “The Evolving Relationship of Britain and the Dominions in 1917”
Chris Madsen and Michael Moir, “The Imperial Munitions Board and Merchant Shipbuilding in Canada”
Michael Carroll, “Resolution IX and the Diplomatic Revolution of 1917”
Rachel Lea Heide, “Genesis of Canada’s Air Force: The rise of Nationalism amongst Canadian Airmen, 1917”

1215-1315 – LUNCH

1315-1415 – Matthew Hughes, Command, Strategy and the Battle for Palestine, 1917

1415-1545 – PANEL, “The Imperial War Effort in Africa and the Middle East”
Tim Stapleton, “The Africanization of British Imperial Forces in the East Africa Campaign, 1917”
Harry Knight, “War a World Away: The Arab Bureau, the Arab Revolt and the Creation of an Arab Façade”
Justin Fantauzzo, “The Finest Feats of the War: Baghdad, Jerusalem and Popular Opinion in the British Empire”

1545-1600 – break

1600-1700 – Geoffrey Grey, “The Egyptian Expeditionary Force in 1917”

1900-2200 – Banquet at Fort Frontenac Officers’ Mess

Friday 7 November:

0830-0930 – John Crawford, “’New Zealand Is Being Bled to Death': New Zealand Manpower Policy in the Toughest Year of the War”

0930-1030 – Serge Durflinger, “Vimy’s Consequence? The Montreal Riots of 1917”

1030-1045- break

1045-1215 – PANEL, “The Mobilization of Societies in 1917”
Steven Marti, “’OUR Unit’: Mobilizing Minorities in Canada, 1916-1917”
John Moses, “The Six Nations War Effort in 1917: Year of Contention”
Andrea Ellner, “Enrol Today! Women’s Auxiliary Services in Britain, the US and Germany from 1917”

1215-1315 – Lunch

1315-1415 – Ian F. W. Beckett, “General Headquarters and the British Expeditionary Force in 1917”

1415-1545 – Panel: “Supporting the War on the Western Front”
Andrew Iarocci, “’Nothing that Can Be Used Shall Go to Waste….’ Salvage, Thrift and Economy in the British Empire Armies, 1917”
Andrew McEwen, “’Just Worked to Death’: Animal Wastage in the Battle of Arras”
William Stewart, ‘Higher Standards of Canadian Infantry Replacements’: The Transformation of Canadian Infantry Recruit Training in 1917”

1545-1600 – break

1600-1700 – Mark Connelly, “British Propaganda and Newspaper Coverage of the Imperial Effort in 1917”

The Cambridge History of Capitalism

30 09 2014
For many around the world, we are richer today than we ever thought possible. Can the level of economic growth that we have seen since the mid-19th Century be sustained in the 21st century? And with that, capitalism itself?

We certainly think that the level of economic well-being enjoyed by the world’s population will continue to rise, provided political forces allow capitalism to continue making innovations in the way goods are produced and delivered to markets. But it is unlikely to maintain its current rate of growth. Miraculous growth in the Third World will certainly diminish, as these late-comers catch up with the leaders by exploiting their technologies, institutions, and governance. Population growth is also declining everywhere, and the aging associated with it will drag down growth. In addition, rising inequality in the leaders and even followers – like China and India – may reinforce anti-capitalist, anti-market, and populist feelings.

- That’s from an interview in which Jeff Williamson and Larry Neal discuss the new Cambridge History of Capitalism.

Call for Papers: Association of Business Historians

30 09 2014

Call for Papers
Association of Business Historians
23rd Annual Conference, 3-4 July 2015,
University of Exeter Business School
Business and the Periphery
The Association of Business Historians 23rd Annual Conference will be held on 3-4  July 2015 at the University of Exeter Business School on the beautiful Streatham  campus.

The conference theme will be ‘Business and the Periphery’. The conference will  explore the boundaries of business history and the conference committee will interpret  this theme broadly to welcome paper and session proposals which address historical  themes relating, but not limited, to business operating on economic, financial,  geographical, social, political, religious, technological, legal, regulatory and other  peripheries.

The conference will feature a roundtable on ‘Business History after the Research  Excellence Framework (REF)’. The Tony Slaven Doctoral Workshop will precede  the conference on 2-3 July 2015 and will be subject to a separate call, as will the
Coleman Prize for the best PhD thesis on business history completed on a British subject or at a British university.

The conference committee welcomes proposals for individual papers or complete research tracks of 90 minutes in length. Each individual paper proposal should include a short abstract, a list of 3 to 5 key words, and a brief CV of the presenter.
Proposals for research tracks should include a cover letter containing a session title and the rationale for the research track. The organisers also welcome research papers on any topic related to business history which are outside of the conference theme. If you have any questions, please contact the local organiser Mark Billings at:

The deadline for submissions is 27 February 2015. Notification of acceptance will be made by 20 April 2015. Please send proposals by email to: by post to:

Mark Billings
University of Exeter Business School
Streatham Court
Rennes Drive
United Kingdom


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