Why HBS, Stanford & Tuck Shun the EMBA

If you’re looking at rankings of Executive MBA programs to decide which one to attend, the first question you’re likely to have is this one: Where in the world are the Harvard Business School, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Dartmouth’s Tuck School. Together, those institutions are three of the top six business schools in the U.S., if not the world.


It’s a good question because the decisions over many years not to have an executive program have cost Harvard and Stanford hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, funding that could be used to hire more faculty, conduct more research, and further build on the stellar reputations of these institutions. If either school had programs as successful as The Wharton School, for example, each would have brought in more than $300 million in additional funds in the past ten years alone.

For either school that would be a substantial amount of money for a business school. The largest single gift Stanford’s business school has ever received was the 2006 commitment by alum Philip Knight, founder of Nike, for $105 million. Wharton’s two EMBA programs in Philadelphia and San Francisco currently generate more than $35 million in annual revenue.

So what gives? Essentially, Harvard, Stanford and Tuck believe that an alternating weekend version of the degree for full-time executives would somehow dilute their full-time MBA programs which all have premium brand images. “There is no doubt Executive MBA programs are lucrative and not that difficult (for an established business school) to deliver,” agrees Paul Danos, dean of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. “Tuck considered such programs over the years, but we always pulled back for several reasons, including the possible dilution effect on the full-time program and the possible loss of focus.

“We did not need it from a financial point of view, and our growth strategy has come from increasing the full-time program a bit, by expanding executive education, by growing endowment and annual giving and by participating in a variety of on-campus joint educational efforts at Dartmouth and other schools<" adds Danos. "By all of these means, we have been able to improve and grow our faculty while keeping a high focus on the full-time MBA."Stanford, too, has considered the possibility of an Executive MBA over the years, always deciding against it. "At Stanford, the notion of an EMBA has come up periodically," says Stanford Dean Garth Saloner. "Our alumni have consistently told us that they believe the Stanford MBA Program, with its relatively small student body size and personal attention is a differentiating feature of the Stanford experience."

  • Toro

    John, Stanford does have a Masters in management program that costs as much as their MBA progam. The masters program is similar to other EMBA programs and other 1 year MBA programs from other schools in terms of the number of students and cost. So no loss in EMBA revenue there. However, It’s a degree that not too many people recognize.

  • Phoenix Rising

    @Toro – To begin, the article clearly discusses the Stanford MS in Management that you too the time to point out. That added NOTHING to the conversation. Then to go further, you go on to say that “Not too many people recognize” those degrees. Who are those people and do they matter? What facts do you base that comment on?

  • business

    The EMBA equivalent at Harvard Business School


  • Danny

    The brand dilution argument does not hold water in the face of business schools with excellent reputations for their full-time MBA programs that also offer Executive MBA programs.

    What the leading business schools that offer Executive MBA programs have come to realize is that the full-time and Executive MBA paths are designed for two different groups of candidates, at different points in their careers, with different career goals, and in need of different MBA experiences. Almost by definition, an ideal candidate for a full-time MBA program at a school will be weak or unacceptable candidate for that same school’s Executive MBA program, and vice versa.

    I am not sure, for example, that Tuck’s Dean Danos understands these differences based on his comment about it being easy for an established business school to add an Executive MBA program. A well designed Executive MBA program is not simply the equivalent of a full-time MBA program taught on weekends. The established managers and professionals who populate Executive MBA programs are looking for programs with a level of curriculum integration and advanced development in leadership-based skills that are not typically included in the technical and elective-heavy curricula of full-time programs.

    Delivering well-designed graduate business education to established managers and professionals through an Executive MBA program is an excellent and effective brand enhancement opportunity in the hands of business school administrators who understand the needs of organizations at every level.

  • mark

    For senior level
    roles a certificate is a pretty tough sell versus an EMBA. Almost any eMBA!

    Not impossible,
    but, inappropriately difficult given the cost and commitment. For instance when you look at Harvard’s
    program, but, one has to ‘sell’ the scope, the time, and approach; it’s clearly comprehensive, but, unfortunately
    in hiring, like other things, perception is reality, and the perception of a “certificate”,
    no matter how comprehensive is not, nor will it ever be viewed as equivalent to
    an eMBA.

    I concur with Danny, an eMBA candidate
    is a very different animal from the kids in an MBA program.

    Given the time, effort, and cost,
    the schools not conferring ANY sort of degree (Executive in Business, Executive
    in Leadership, eMBA, whatever you want to call it) are doing a dis-service to
    the folks that entrust their time and money to these instaurations.