Kellogg Tops Inaugural EMBA Ranking From Fortune

Executive MBA students in the Kellogg School of Management program. Kellogg ranked first in the inaugural Fortune ranking of Executive MBA options.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management Executive MBA program today (Aug. 31) came out first in an inaugural ranking of EMBA options from Fortune magazine. Yale University’s School of Management follows Kellogg, with MIT Sloan in third place, Wharton fourth, and Chicago Booth fifth.

But don’t take this list too seriously. The methodology to crank out the ranking is filled with holes, having little to do with the academic quality of the programs or the networking and career benefits of an Executive MBA from a given business school. This is the third business school ranking produced by Fortune this year in its efforts to cover the business education field. In July, the business magazine came out with a full-time MBA ranking and in April it debuted an online MBA ranking.

While there is no such thing as a perfect ranking, of course, all three Fortune lists have been rushed out with little real work or reporting, intellectually dishonest, and misleading. At best, they give some business school programs a bit of promotion and marketing. At worst, they can lead would-be applicants to make poor decisions.


Fortune‘s EMBA methodology is based on three elements, a so-called program score, a brand score and a Fortune 1000 score. The program measurement accounts for 60% of the ranking and is a mishmash of the average years of work experience of students, their average GMAT score, and average undergraduate GPA. Fortune, which does not detail the actual weight of each of these three metrics, itself concedes that using years of work experience is pretty useless: “At the end of the day, the work experience metric had little impact on the final ranking—given that the figure is very similar at most of these schools,” admits Fortune.

The problem with using GMAT to assess the quality of incoming students is that many EMBA programs no longer require the GMAT, or more often use the Executive Assessment or GRE for admission purposes. By its own admission, Fortunes states that only two programs–Wharton and Chicago Booth–require the GMAT, and these two programs also accept the GRE or the EA. Undergraduate grades, meantime, tell you little about the career progress or leadership experience of an incoming student which admissions weighs far more heavily in evaluating EMBA applicants. Even worse, Fortune only reached out to slightly more than 30 programs for its ranking and concedes that some of them declined to provide this basic data.

The remaining 40% of the ranking is based on even more worthless data: a survey of “business professionals” who were asked to assess business school brands–not a school’s EMBA program–and the number of a school’s alumni in C-suite jobs of the Fortune 1000. The C-suite count also is not specific to EMBA programs and largely includes graduates of full-time MBA programs. Also problematic is the Fortune 1000 list is an antiquated measure of success limited to only publicly traded U.S. companies. There are no international corporations on the list nor are there any private companies or startups.


All that said, Fortune fails to provide each program’s underlying index scores for the ranking (those scores would lend more transparency to the list by showing users how far ahead one program is from another) nor does Fortune explain how school programs compare based on the three core components of the ranking. All told, Fortune ranks 30 EMBA programs, a number of which declined to cooperate with the list. According to Fortune, “programs that didn’t complete the questionnaire were still included in the ranking. In order to do so, we collected most of their data by pulling it from their school website.”

The limited nature of the ranking also means that many excellent programs at high quality business schools are not in the ranking, from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and Washington University’s Olin Business School to UC-Irvine’s Merage School of Business and Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. In the New York metro area, Fordham University and Rutgers University are not included in the ranking.

To be fair, rankings of Executive MBA programs tend to be all over the place, anyway. While Fortune ranks Yale second on this list, U.S. News places the school’s EMBA in 21st place while The Economist ranks it fifth best in the world. No less puzzling, Wharton’s Executive MBA is ranked 24th by the Financial Times in its global ranking. And while Duke University’s EMBA program is ranked 13th on the Fortune list, it gets a seventh-place finish in U.S. News, ranks 34th in the Financial Times, and 51st in The Economist. These highly divergent results should make everyone reading these rankings more than skeptical about the outcomes.


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