For many business schools, the 2012 Financial Times’ Executive MBA ranking published yesterday (Oct. 14) is a terrifying roller coaster ride of results. Some 23 EMBA programs fell off the list entirely. Another 19 schools plummeted in double digits.
The biggest swan dives? Ashridge’s EMBA program dropped an incredible 32 places to rank 94th this year from 62 last year. University College Dublin’s Smurfit’s executive MBA program fell 31 spots to rank 88th, down from 57th a year earlier. The largest fall for any U.S. program occurred at Georgia Institute of Technology. Its executive MBA program dropped 28 places to finish 88th, down from 60 in 2011.
How is it possible for a program to fall that dramatically in a period of just 12 months? The high volatility in this ranking largely reveals that underlying data for many of the programs is so tightly clustered as to be statistically meaningless. That is the only explanation for why a school would fall so far in a single year.
THE UNDERLYING DATA SHOWS HOW REMARKABLY CLOSE THE RESULTS ARE
Consider the underlying data that might explain Ashridge’s dramatic fall. Last year, the salary increase for EMBA graduates three years out of the program was 60%. This year, it is 58%. The Financial Times’ survey actually showed significant improvement in Ashridge’s program from the standpoint of career progress and work experience. This year, for example, Ashridge ranked 15th among all schools for the career progress of its alumni, up substantially from its rank of 79th last year. The school improved its rank for the work experience of its EMBA students to 43rd, up from 66th last year. On “aims achieved,” the school ranked 62nd, one place better than last year.
The biggest difference among all the criteria measured by The Financial Times was the percentage of international faculty. Last year it was 36%. This year it was 24%. Only one other measurement went south: the percentage of international students in the program. Last year, Ashridge ranked 7th. This year the school ranks 35th. On these slims metrics, the school’s EMBA program fell a whopping 32 places.
ONE PROGRAM–NEVER BEFORE RANKED–DEBUTED AT NO. 4
The roller coaster ride was just as thrilling for programs that were able to take advantage of that volatility. After all, there were 23 EMBA programs on the list that weren’t there only 12 months ago, including the partnership program between Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management in Beijing and INSEAD’s Singapore campus, which actually debuted in fourth place! The program’s first class showed up during the summer of 2007, just five years ago. Another 10 schools saw their programs jump ten or more places.
The big winners? Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business gained 24 spaces to rank 56th, up from 80th last year. The University of St. Gallen saw a 32-place boost to tie Ohio State at 56th, up from 78th in 2011. And the University of Miami’s EMBA program leapt forward 18 spots to place at 76th, up from 94th.
(See the following pages for the biggest winners and losers in The Financial Times’ 2012 EMBA ranking)