Another Wacky Ranking From The FT

For the third consecutive year, The Financial Times named Kellogg’s joint Executive MBA program with Hong Kong’s UST Business School as the best global EMBA program in the world. The new ranking, published today (Oct. 24), has relatively few changes at the top.

The Trium Program, a three-way partnership among New York University, HEC Paris and the London School of Economics, finished in second place, up one spot from its 2010 place of third. The joint EMBA program between Columbia Business School and London Business School slipped one spot to third from second last year.

Filling out the top five are INSEAD’s EMBA offering ranked fourth and the University of Chicago’s Booth School at fifth, both pure play non-partnership programs.

The FT, which surveys EMBA graduates and asks them for compensation data, reported that the average grad of Kellogg’s program with UST is pulling down $419,416 a year in salary three years after graduation. Is that sum even remotely possible, particularly for a program that is largely composed of Chinese students? Trium grads are making $307,808, according to the FT, while Columbia/London EMBA grads are earning $259,833 after three years.

The FT ranking is known for its peculiar roller-coaster results. Last year, for example more than a fourth of the schools in the top 100 had double-digit year-over-year changes in rank. It’s highly unlikely that a school’s quality would either rise or decrease by double digits in a single year unless the results are clustered so close together they are statistically meaningless. The Financial Times, however, fails to disclose the index numbers behind its rankings so users are unable to tell how significant or not a given rank for a school might be.

In an attempt to address criticism over its topsy-turvy rankings, the Financial Times said that “among the highest 25 programs, 15 saw their classification change fy five places or fewer when compared with 2010, while the average absolute change was 4.4.”

But the number of double-digit changes in the 2011 ranking even exceed those of last year. At least 42 schools on the FT’s Top 100 ranking experienced double-digit leaps or falls, including many EMBA programs that failed to get a mention last year. A close look at the results show some unusual–and unexplainable–changes. City University’s Cass School of Business in London, whose executive MBA program was ranked tenth by the FT last year, plummeted 19 places to 29th. Columbia Business School’s EMBA program dropped 10 spots to 25th from a rank of 15 in 2010.

One EMBA program, a partnership between UCLA’s Anderson School and the National University of Singapore, was ranked the ninth best in the world by the FT. Last year, it failed to even make the top 100 which effectively means it had to rise by at least 91 places in a single year to rank ninth. How does the FT explain this? “The program scores well on the Financial Times’ international course experience rank based on the percentage of classroom teaching hours outside the country in which a program is primarily located,” the newspaper reported. “UCLA-NUS is ranked fifth overall.”

That is it. What teaching hours outside the country in which a program is located has to do with the quality of an EMBA program is anyone’s guess. More importantly, though, it’s a safe bet those hours didn’t change all that much from those a year earlier when the program failed to crack the top 100.

Yet another surprise was the debut of the Korea University Business School EMBA program at a rank of 23–above the EMBA programs at Columbia, Cornell, and Oxford, to name a few.

Explains the FT: “It enters the ranking at 23, thanks in part to the strength of salary data reported by the graduating class of 2008. On average, KUBS alumni earned $234,000 three years after graduation. This represents a 92% increase on their pay before they started the program–the second-highest rise in the entire ranking.”

There’s more. “The Seoul-based school also scores well in terms of its doctoral program,” the FT wrote. “Based on the number of doctoral graduates during the past three years, as well as the number sho subsequently took full-time faculty positions at one of the top 50 full-time MBA schools, KUBS is 15th in the FT doctoral rank.” Why a PhD program should matter in assessing the quality of an Executive MBA course is a head-scratcher.

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