A Hybrid Future For EMBA Programs?

What type of international growth have you seen in EMBA programs?

While we do add new members in North America, the majority of our growth comes from outside of North America. Last year, we added programs in South Africa, China, and Norway. Asia seems to be a market that’s ripe for growth as far as EMBA programs. Some have started today as we’re talking but some of them have simply shifted, so we’re more aware of each other. We do see a lot of interest in Asia and not just from our perspective as a member organization. If you look at some of the rankings, there are a lot of western schools partnering with programs in Asia right now. Some of it is East-West flow and some is expanded market opportunity. All of that is to say there’s a growth of business schools internationally and with that will come more EMBA programs to meet a demand for more middle managers. People have generally thought of Asia as a manufacturing sector, where you want skilled workers or laborers, so to speak, and fewer managers. That’s changing. I’m still very bullish about the EMBA space. I think there’s a need to educate leaders, and that’s going to be more true in Asia and other places that haven’t been doing that for the past 50 years.

Is enrollment in EMBA programs rising?

At least globally, the average class size has been flat the last few years; it hasn’t really changed much. Some people want to look at applications, but we’re more interested in whether class sizes are dropping dramatically–they’re not. I wouldn’t say they’re up either. In 2011, it was 42; in 2013, it was 43. Could you interview a school that’s way up and one that’s way down? Probably, but we’re just not seeing any dramatic changes in the average at this point.

What about the cost of EMBA programs? What is the average tuition and how has it changed over the past few years?  

It’s relatively steady. Costs have certainly gone up for schools running these program, but that data is not covered in the report. We do something called uniform group analysis, which is essentially a five-year snapshot of the exact same programs–that way very cheap and very expensive programs don’t skew the numbers. In 2012, the average cost of an EMBA program was a little over $72,700. In 2013, it was $73,400. To me, that’s white noise when you’re talking about the magnitude of the investment.

What about the number of EMBA programs? What kind of growth have you seen?

Our membership is at an all-time high. Brand new programs are entering the EMBA domain both in the U.S. and internationally. Even though the U.S. is a mature market, there are still schools looking to start programs here. So there’s clearly still a market, and the EMBA fills a niche.

There was talk years ago about the proliferation of MS programs and how it would hurt the MBA market. I can see that trend actually helping the EMBA market long term. For example, you get your undergraduate degree and then your MS in finance–some programs accept you right out of undergrad–and you move up the ladder. Ten years into your career, you need more than a focus in finance–you need a broader outlook. It’s unlikely that you’re going enroll in a full-time MBA program as a 37-year-old; you’re going to look for an EMBA option. Some of these trends are going to help the EMBA space. It doesn’t matter where you get your EMBA, the industry benefits overall.

Who is the typical candidate for an EMBA program? Has is it changed over the years?

It really hasn’t changed. I’ll often have reporters suggest that there’s a trend toward younger students. With the rise of entrepreneurship, there are certainly programs that accept younger candidates, but the average hasn’t changed. The average age for an EMBA student in 2013 is just over 37 years old; I can go back as far as 1998 and it was 36 then. The average years of work experience for an EMBA student in 2013 was 13.7 with 8.5 years of management experience; that hasn’t changed much over the years either. For example, in 2009 the average age was 37, and the average years of work experience was 13.1 with 8.3 years of management experience. The demographic, at least so far, looks the same; it’s flat and it has stayed flat for a very long time.

Fewer employers are fully sponsoring EMBA candidates in recent years. Are many paying partial tuition, or are the majority of EMBAs paying their own way? What’s the average amount employers are willing to pay?

It wasn’t much of a surprise that financial sponsorship hasn’t gone up. Full financial sponsorship has been going downward, but the number of students who are partially funded by their employers has stayed reasonably stable. Basically, 24% of students received full financial sponsorship, 41% are fully self-funded, and 35% are partially funded. In terms of partial funding, some corporations have a cap and others will only reimburse the tax credit amount, so it really varies.

Do you have any predictions about the impact of MOOCs on EMBA education?

At this point I really can’t say. Ask me again when the results for the next survey come out.

DON’t MISS: Our New Ranking of the Best Executive MBA Programs in North America or The ABCs of Executive MBA Programs