Harvard Joins Top Three In FT Executive Education Ranking

An executive education program at Wharton


As a whole, the other big names American programs — Wharton, Chicago Booth, Columbia and MIT Sloan — were a mixed bag. In open enrollment, Sloan landed the highest quality students according to FT survey participants. However, the courses didn’t necessarily wow their students, as Sloan ranked 16th and 17th for goals achieved and skill development respectively.  Wharton and Booth produced nearly identical scores in open enrollment, though Wharton outperformed Booth in nine out of ten metrics. They also shared the same strengths in participant quality and food along with the same weaknesses in teaching quality, skill development, and follow up. At the same time, Columbia jumped seven spots into the Top 20 for open enrollment, a boon that was undoubtedly held down by a tepid score in food (35th)  — a traditional weakness at CBS.

Top American schools have also struggled to gain a foothold in the customized education market, where Duke Corporate Education has set the standard. This year, Duke ranked in the Top 10 in every category except the likelihood that clients would use the same school again (13th). Its facilities are second-to-none, covering Durham, San Diego, London, Johannesburg, Singapore, and Ahmedabad (India). In just 17 years, Duke has reached over 200,000 executives in 75 countries, a reach that makes it the blueprint for every business school looking to break into the space.

That includes Ross, Sloan, Darden, Booth, and Wharton, which rank anywhere from 20th to 40th in custom executive education. The challenge, of course, is that none of these programs stand out from the others. Notably, their scores tend to cluster together, with the highest survey score from the five programs enjoyed by Sloan (14th for both follow up and clients using the same school again).


The 2017 Financial Times rankings featured 75 open enrollment and 85 customized executive education programs. To qualify, schools must generate, at minimum, $2 million dollars in revenue from executive education annually and nominate 20 or more clients to receive an FT survey (with five returned in order to be considered). In total, 1,100 clients participated, roughly the same number as 2016. The number of actual survey respondents, however, increased slightly from nearly 5,900 in 2016 to over 6,000 this year. The 2017 survey also boasted a 58% response rate from organizations, though the individual participation rate stood well below at just 38%.

In open enrollment, respondents evaluated executive programs on 16 criteria. The first 10 criteria, whose weight varies from 6.6% (Food) to 8.8% (New Skills and Training)  account for 80% of the weight and include the following: class preparation, course design, teaching methods and materials, faculty quality, participant quality, new skills and training, follow up, aims achieved, food and accommodations, and facilities. These areas are rated on a 10-point scale where a 10 represents the best performance. The remaining 20% of the weight covers school-supplied data like female and international participation, international location, overall revenue growth, partner schools, and faculty diversity.

The customized ranking follows a similar methodology, with aims achieved and facilities swapped out for value for money and future use. In both rankings, the 2017 data accounts for 55% of a ranking, with the remaining 45% stemming from 2016 performance.


IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, wins coveted No. 1 spot in the FT’s executive education ranking for open enrollment.

In open enrollment, the big news came out of Oxford, which jumped from 9th to 4th, thanks to modest improvements in course design, skill development, food, and facilities. INSEAD made a similar climb, gong from 11th to 7th, as the school’s traditional advantages in participants and facilities were augmented by better scores in preparation, faculty, and follow up. The European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) also made an impressive by moving 8th, while the London Business School also muscled its way into the Top 10. However, the moves made by INSEAD, ESMT, and LBS came at the expense of HEC Paris, Fundação Dom Cabral, and ESADE, which all slipped out of the Top 10 in 2017. Mexico’s Ipade Business School enjoyed the biggest improvement of 2017, going from 52nd to 39th. By the same token, York University suffered the steepest fall, dropping 16 spots to 48th.

IMD’s continued dominance in open enrollment can be traced to its classroom prowess. The program ranked 1st in teaching and preparation, along with 2nd in course design and third in faculty quality. These strengths translated into high satisfaction outputs, with students placing IMD 1st in aims achieved and 2nd for skill development. IESE’s inputs like teaching (10th) and faculty quality (13th) weren’t particularly impressive. Despite this, IESE pulled out higher numbers than IMD in the skill development output. However, that number could be an extension of IESE’s command of follow up, where it also ranks 1st.

In customized education, perhaps the two most telling survey questions involved value for the money and an organization’s willingness to use a school again for education (future use). In terms of value, the University of North Carolina earned the highest scores, followed by Shanghai Jiao Tong University (a new addition to the 2017 FT ranking), SDA Bocconi, Harvard Business School, and IESE. Despite its high esteem from consumers, Kenan-Flagler only finished 15th in the Future Use category. There, the honor belongs to the upstart, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, a program that nabbed high marks in every category except Facilities (30th). IMD and IESE, to no one’s surprise, finished 2nd and 3rd respectively in Future Use, including top marks for IMD in program design, teaching and aims achieved. FT respondents also deemed SDA Bocconi to be the top program in terms of pre-class preparation, while Harvard took home the gold in two categories: faculty and skill development.

To see how your favorite schools rank in both the open enrollment and custom categories, go to the next pages.