Our 2014 Ranking Of The Best EMBA Programs

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Sometimes, the new model is just better than the old one.

After a significant overhaul to its Executive MBA program last year, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business emerged as having the best EMBA in the world, according to the new 2014 composite ranking by Poets&Quants.

Chicago, which was second last year, nosed out the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School for first place honors. Wharton had held a tight grip on first since Poets&Quants began ranking EMBA programs four years ago.

KELLOGG, IE BUSINESS SCHOOL & DUKE UNIVERSITY’S FUQUA SCHOOL ROUND OUT THE TOP FIVE

Rounding out the top five are No. 3 Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, No. 4 IE Business School, the highest rank ever achieved by a non-U.S. school in the ranking, and No. 5 Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Though there were many changes up and down the list of the 49 ranked programs, the biggest surprise was Chicago’s emergence at the top. At a time when many institutions are lightening the workloads of their Executive MBA programs and awarding the degree for less work, Chicago continues to have one of the most rigorous and academically challenging programs in the world.

Despite predictions by some that EMBA programs may suffer due to fast growth in online MBA degree programs, applications this past year at Booth are up, says Patty Keegan, associate dean of the EMBA program. She attributes the rise to a recent program refresh and a decision to move its Singapore cohort this year to Hong Kong so the school will have a closer presence to China. “Applicants say they love the changes,” adds Keegan. “It’s clear from the beginning that this is a global program.”

The school last year increased the international exchange portion of the program to five weeks from four, doubled the number of required electives so that students can specialize in a discipline track, and tossed into the program a full menu of leadership exercises that had long been an entry hallmark of its full-time MBA experience.

FOR BOOTH: NO PARTNERS AND IT FLIES ITS PROFESSORS FROM CHICAGO TO TEACH IN LONDON & HONG KONG

Booth also added a three-month-long capstone course that will provide the opportunity for students to integrate concepts and tools from much of the curriculum in a multi-round simulation culminating in presentations to a panel of investor-judges. The simulation requires competing teams of students to maximize revenue for a fictitious company.

Booth’s 21-month program is taught at campuses in Chicago, London and Hong Kong. The school has more than 500 students studying in its Executive MBA program on campuses in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Still, Chicago maintains unusually tight control of the program’s quality. Booth doesn’t partner with other schools, preferring instead to fly its professors from Chicago to London and Hong Kong to teach. Though costly and hard to scale, the practice allows Booth to parade its most seasoned faculty before its most experienced students.

At the beginning of the program, all students take a course in analytical methods to refresh their understanding of quantitative methods and statistics so that they have the right foundation. Each course has one or two PhD students who are teaching assistants for the professors. They, too are flown to London and Hong Kong, so that they are available to students during class weeks. Both faculty and teaching assistants are evaluated by students, and the feedback is regularly used to improve the courses.

THE HIGHLY RANKED EMBA PROGRAMS ARE AMONG THE MOST EXPENSIVE MBA DEGREES IN THE WORLD

None of this comes cheap. For the U.S. class that starts in June, the tuition and fees come to $168,000, up $14,000 from just two years ago. The cost includes hotel accommodations for three weeks in Chicago, a week in London and a week in Hong Kong, but not airfare.

Though fewer corporations are footing the bills for these programs, the cost of them continues to rise. For students in the cohort that started in Kellogg’s EMBA program in January, the tuition bill will be roughly $176,600. For the latest EMBA classes at Wharton, students entering the program this month at the school’s home campus in Philadelphia will pay a whopping $181,500 in tuition and fees, up from $171,360 only a year ago. Self-sponsored students must pay the tuition—the highest of any MBA program in the world—in six equal installments at the beginning of each semester.

Rank tends to influence the price of an EMBA. The highly ranked schools often have the highest price points. Last year, for example, the average cost of an Executive MBA program was $73,400—much lower than the price tags at either Wharton, Kellogg or Booth, which sit at the top of the market. While most of these schools hand out considerable scholarship money to full-time MBAs, there’s no money available to discount the cost of these EMBA programs. In fact, for the very first time ever, Chicago’s graduating cohort in London asked that a portion of  their graduation gift to the school be set aside for token scholarships to incoming EMBA students.

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.