There’s a new winner on top of the Financial Times’ Executive MBA ranking out today (Oct. 19). It’s the joint program between Tsinghua University and INSEAD which had finished third a year earlier.
Rounding out the top five are all partnership EMBA programs: No. 2 Kellogg-Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, No. 3 Trium, a three way partnership with HEC Paris, London School of Economics, and New York University’s Stern School, No. 4. Columbia Business School and London Business School, and No. 5 UCLA’s Anderson School and the National University of Singapore.
The first standalone EMBA program on the list is INSEAD’s, which came in seventh, followed by No. 8 IE Business School, and the University of Oxford’s Said School which placed ninth. Oxford climbed 12 places from 21st last year, the largest jump of any Top 10 program on the FT’s list, to become the highest ranked Executive MBA in the United Kingdom. Cambridge Judge, Oxford’s most important rival, also jumped 12 places this year to rank 24th, up from 36th a year earlier.
London Business School, meantime, also improved its standing, moving up six places to a rank of 19th from 25th last year.
CHICAGO BOOTH HIGHEST RANKED U.S. STANDALONE PROGRAM
Among the U.S. schools. which pioneered the executive MBA model, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business narrowly edged out the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, ranking 12th and 14th, respectively. Booth fell one spot after placing 11th last year, while Wharton dropped eight places from 6th to claim the 14th position. Northwestern University’s standalone Kellogg School of Management EMBA slipped nine places to finish 22nd, down from 13th a year earlier. Both Kellogg and Wharton suffered the largest drops of any of the Top 25 schools on the ranking.
The Financial Times’ ranking, closely followed in Europe but without much standing elsewhere, is always a somewhat bizarre list, heavily populated by partnership programs due to the British newspaper’s methodology. This year 129 programs cooperated with the FT, including 16 joint programs. The newspaper said that 4,610 alumni completed its graduate survey, a response rate of 49%. Their responses to questions that ask alumni for their current salary, the increase in pre-EMBA salary three years after graduation, and whether a program achieved their career aims, accounts for 55% of the weight.
Information provided by business schools represent 35% of the ranking, while a research rank—based on the number of articles published by schools’ full-time faculty in 45 journals—accounts for the remaining 10% of the ranking. All told, 16 different metrics go into the ranking, though pay looms large, with 20% of the weight assigned to an alum’s current salary and the increase in salary.
THE QUALITY PROBLEM WITH THE FT RANKING
Many of those metrics have little to do with the quality of a program. The FT, for example, measures the percentage of classroom teaching hours outside the country in which the business school is based, and whether a school’s “board” is sufficiently “international” or “female.”
The FT’s pay metric tends to largely follow work experience. The more work experience a person has the more he or she is typically paid. Students in many of the non-U.S. programs generally are older because MBA programs in those countries have touched fewer managers and executives. So the ranking pretty much awards programs with older students as opposed to graduates who have achieved any level of success that could be attributed to the EMBA degree.
For example, out of the 100 EMBA programs ranked by the newspaper, Wharton’s highly regarded program places 86th in “work experience,” according to the FT, versus Trium which was ranked first in that category or the Kellogg-HKUST program which finished second in work experience. This year’s No. 1 winner, Tsinghua-INSEAD, was fourth in work experience.
Still, the ranking conveys bragging rights for the schools on it and most of them use their rankings to market and promote their programs to applicants.