IESE Repeats As Top Executive Education Program In FT Ranking

Virginia's Darden School of Business

University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business

The University of Michigan is another recognized American leader in the executive education market (in the open enrollment category, at least). Here, it ranks 5th in the world – up four spots from the previous year.  Looking for excellence across the board in an open enrollment program? Ross is your place – ranking in the top five in every ranked category except quality of participants (a close 7th) and follow up (11th). Only Harvard and IMD could match Ross in the number of top five rankings among the open enrollment group.

Similarly, the University of Virginia boasted six #1 rankings for categories in open enrollment. Not surprising for a school predicated on case-based learning and teaching excellence, Darden stood out in pre-course preparation, course design, teaching quality, and faculty quality – while also leading the pack in food and facilities. However, the follow up (networking and support after class) is apparently lacking according to students, with Darden placing 26th in the student survey. Despite being dazzled by the superiority of the materials and the instruction, professionals struggled a bit with understanding the relevance of what they learned at Darden, as evidenced by their 9th place finish in skills (i.e. ability to implement what they learned). Finishing 9th isn’t a bad ranking, of course, but indicative of a disconnect nonetheless.


Among open enrollment programs, you’ll also find American stalwarts like the University of Chicago (Booth) Stanford, Wharton, MIT (Sloan), and UCLA (Anderson) ranked in the top 20. Booth and Anderson were both top 10 programs when it came to course design and pre-class preparation. All but Anderson ranked in the top 10 regarding the caliber of classmates (with MIT and Stanford topping out at 2nd and 4th respectively). Despite Europe’s reputation for luxury and fine cuisine, Booth, Stanford and Wharton were among the top programs for food.

In fact, food was the one area where American programs truly excelled in open enrollment, with five of the seven highest-ranked programs in this area being American-based. Three American programs ranked in the top five in terms of preparation, course design, teaching, faculty quality, and participant quality. According to students, American programs struggled with applying the skills they learned and follow up from schools, with only the University of Michigan ranking in the top 10 for either category.

Duke Corporate Energy

Duke Corporate Energy


However, the results were far more dim for American schools in custom education. Just one program – Duke Corporate Energy – finished among the top 10. In fact, Duke actually ranked as the top program in this space from 2003-2014 before falling behind IESE and HEC Paris. Still, Duke remains formidable in this space, ranking in the top 10 in nearly every academic category (along with holding bragging rights for the best facilities).

In the same vein, the University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler), Harvard, Stanford, and MIT (Sloan) were also ranked as top 20 programs in custom education based on school-submitted data and student feedback. Conspicuously, Stanford excelled in areas like skills developed, aims achieved, and value for money, reliable gauges that students were quite satisfied with their experience. The point is further reinforced by Stanford being the only American program to rank among the top 10 programs for future use (i.e. likelihood an employer would use the school again).


As always, there were winners and losers in the 2016 FT Executive Education rankings. Among open enrollment programs, the University of Virginia made the biggest splash, jumping from 11th to 4th over the previous year, buoyed by a 33 spot boost in follow up. Conversely, HEC Paris tumbled six spots to 8th. Why? For one, the program fell from 1st to 5th for skill development and 6th to 16th for teaching (along with slipping three to five spots in areas like pre-course preparation, course design, facilities, follow up and aims achieved). To add insult to injury, HEC Paris – just a short car ride from the world’s cuisine capital, finished 25th for food – behind two British programs no less.

Similarly, the University of Chicago (Booth) plunged nine spots to 14th, sliding from first in course preparation and course design to 9th and 8th in those areas respectively That said, MIT (Sloan) picked up the slack, rising nine spots to 16th. Boston University made the biggest leap over the past year, vaulting from 62nd to 35th, with UCLA (Anderson) climbing 13 spots to reach 18th and Cambridge surging 12 spots to 32nd. At the opposite end, St. Gallen dropped 11 spots to 38th, with the Indian Institute-Ahmedabad (67th), University College, Dublin (69th) and Rotterdam School of Management (72nd) making the biggest debuts.

INSEAD executive education students

INSEAD executive education students

In the custom division, INSEAD and Shanghai Jiao Tong both entered the top 10 ranking, while Mannheim Business School and the University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) fell out of it. The University of Chicago (Booth) tumbled out of the top 20 to 22nd, while Stanford debuted at 16th.

While Europe still dominates the open enrollment space, North American schools have drilled into the market deeper. The 20 North American programs ranked by FT have drawn 62,441 students. Compare that to Europe, where 36 programs split 67,839 students. In other words, North American programs (at a surface level) average 3,122 students per year against 1,844 students for European programs. And the emerging markets are packed with potential, as seven FT-ranked South American business schools averaged 2,247 students in 2015 – a similar student average churned out by four ranked African programs (2,451).

At the custom end, however, Europe programs remain the undisputed champions, as 40 FT-ranked programs can boast 2,765 corporate clients between them – 69.1 per school on average. In contrast, 24 FT-ranked North American programs could count 1,498 clients in their collective rolodexes for a 62.4 per school average. While South American programs lack the scale of their European and North American counterparts, they hold a tight grip on their markets, with 4 FT-ranked program counting 740 clients between them – or nearly 106 per school.

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

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