Our 2013 Ranking Of The Best EMBA Programs


This ranking, like all other rankings of schools, has several built-in limitations. For one thing, the subjective choices made in choosing what goes into a ranking methodology often have more impact than a school’s actual metrics. Secondly, unlike visible measurements such as GMAT and GPA scores, decisions on methodology are far less visible to users of rankings.

One instructive example of how complicated all this becomes occurred with the publication of Poets&Quants’ 2013 composite ranking. The first version of our list showed Washington University’s Olin School in fourth place–not 13th. The higher ranking reflects The Financial Times’ impressive ninth place finish for Olin’s EMBA program in Shanghai at Fudan University. Because the FT does not rank Olin’s domestic executive offerings in St. Louis and Kanas City nor its forthcoming program in Denver, Poets&Quants decided to pull the FT ranking for Olin out of our composite list, resulting in the lower ranking for the school.


In short, a single judgment moved Olin nine places in a ranking. Yet, it is a decision that could arguably be made either way. The Shanghai EMBA is a joint program with Fudan University. Students are taught by Olin and Fudan faculty. Fudan helps to recruit candidates, market the program,  and provides alumni privileges to its graduates, A students who completes the Washington/Olin EMBA is awarded a degree from Olin and a certificate from Fudan School of Management. Olin officials describe it as a very successful partnership that has lasted 11 years with more than 600 alumni.

Because of the FT’s own methodology, however, Olin must choose which of its four existing EMBA programs to submit to the British newspaper for evaluation. Toohey says that the school chooses the Shanghai program over its St. Louis and Kanas City for marketing reasons. “There is much more marketing value for us to rank Shanghai,” says Erin Toohey, special projects manager and program analyst for the Olin School.. “The FT is a much more international ranking so it’s not going to matter to someone in St. Louis. But for Shanghai it makes a huge difference.”

It’s also true that Olin receives a higher ranking from the FT for the Shanghai program than it would get for any of its domestic programs. That’s largely because alumni salaries and work experience–two core components of the Financial Times’ methodology–are higher for the Shanghai students. Salary and work experience account for 45% of the weight in the FT’s methodology for ranking EMBA programs.

When the FT first began ranking Executive MBA programs in 2001, Olin’s Shanghai program didn’t exist. As soon as Olin could submit its Chinese offering for evaluation, it did so and in 2006 Shanghai was ranked eighth. A year earlier in 2005, when the FT ranked the St. Louis program, it was listed 12th. In all probability, Olin’s domestic EMBA programs would rank somewhat lower today due to increased competition and the FT’s bias in favor of non-U.S. programs.

Asked where Olin’s St. Louis program might rank if the school selected it for inclusion in the FT ranking, Tooley concedes “it would probably rank slightly lower. I don’t think it would hurt us that much. I don’t think it would drop us into the 20s.”

So why did we decide to exclude Olin’s FT rank from our analysis? Because it is entirely based on the Shanghai program and the methodology used to compute the ranking is largely based on student data specific to that program. In fact, 63% of the entire weight of the FT’s methodology is a reflection of class makeup (work experience, international and female diversity), the salaries achieved by graduates of the program and their career outcomes. But we would be the first to admit that his is a close call. All this reinforces what we have said time and time again about rankings: they are not perfect measures of a school or program’s true quality, but rather flawed attempts at providing some guidance.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly ranked Washington University’s Olin program higher due to The Financial Times’ ranking of its joint EMBA offering with Fudan University in China. The ranking in our table applies only to the school’s core EMBA offerings in St. Louis, Kansas City and this fall, Denver.

(See following page for our table of the top 25 EMBA Programs of 2013)

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