In general, and at both undergraduate and graduate levels, fields which have the reputation of being "hard" get somewhat brighter groups of students than do fields which have the reputation of being easy. This is true whether one thinks of broad areas--for example, science ranks above education and commerce--or of individual fields--chemistry, mathematics, and physics average higher than do biology and geology. Thus the physical sciences, languages, engineering, and law are all fairly close to the top of the lists, while education, business, some of the social sciences, home economics, and physical education are close to the lower end.
Reports based on interviews with faculty members of about seventy undergraduate schools lend general support to these findings. On the other hand, the opinion was expressed by both the business and nonbusiness faculty at some schools that the intellectual quality and academic seriousness of the business students were improving, and at a few institutions it was agreed that they were "catching up" or had even gone ahead of some groups in the liberal arts schools.
In assessing the steps which undergraduate and graduate business schools might take to draw more highly qualified students, it is worth asking whether careers in business have as much attraction for the most capable students, academically speaking, as careers in science, medicine, engineering, and law. The difference cannot be measured at all precisely since careers in business are so diverse; to make the comparisons accurate, business would have to be broken down into a number of categories and levels--accountants, brokerage account executives, purchasing officers, office managers, sales directors, and the like. Moreover, business is entered by so many different educational routes--high school, night school, junior college, liberal arts, engineering and business schools, among others--that the sampling problem becomes most difficult.
Moreover, even under the most favorable circumstances, the study of business is a relatively undemanding subject or can easily be made so. The upshot is that, barring unusual factors, the pressures to dilute content, reduce standards, and concentrate on practical skills win out. It takes a most exceptional school, possessing bold, imaginative leadership, plus a venturesome, dedicated faculty and strong backing from the parent university to break out of this circle of unfavorable circumstances.
These facts may be interpreted as indicating that the situation is hopeless or, alternatively, that efforts should be redoubled to reverse the natural course of events and raise standards all along the line. The latter seems the only defensible course of action. The fact that serious difficulties stand in the way of raising academic standards at many business schools should not be allowed to determine university policies. Rather, the difficulties should be faced and dealt with as effectively as possible.