Wharton Tops U.S. News’ Poll Of Best EMBAs

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business again topped U.S. News & World Report’s new 2012 ranking of the best Executive MBA programs released yesterday (March 13), reaffirming its status as the best EMBA in the U.S. if not the world.

The top ten schools in the new ranking looked quite similar to last year’s list, with No. 2 Chicago’s Booth School of Business, No. 3 Northwestern University’s Kellogg School, No. 4 Duke University’s Fuqua School, and No. 5 Columbia Business School in exactly the same spots as the 2011 ranking.

The first change in the top ten schools saw New York University’s Stern School slip one place to seventh from sixth, while the University of Southern California’s Marshall School nudged aside North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School to gain tenth place. The two schools simply flipped their positions this year.

The U.S. News survey–based entirely on the magazine’s poll of deans and MBA program directors–ranks 26 Executive MBA programs this year, up from 24 last year. For yet another year, U.S. News’ list included Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, even though Stanford does not have an Executive MBA program. Oddly, Stanford’s rank fell two places, moving to 14th from 12th. The school’s inclusion is a strong reminder to users of the ranking not to take it too seriously.

The deans and MBA directors U.S. News asked to name and rank EMBA programs have no direct knowledge of these programs at other schools. They largely select schools on their overall reputations–which is how Stanford ends up on the list even though it has no EMBA program. MIT Sloan, whose relatively new and highly prestigious EMBA program had ranked 20th last year, fell off this year’s list altogether, apparently because the deans and MBA directors forgot it existed because it is so new.

This flaw was highlighted last year by New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell in a scathing critique of the U.S. News methodology for ranking colleges oveall. It is a much bigger problem here because U.S. News’s specialty ranking, ranging from this list of EMBA programs to how schools fare in individual disciplines such as finance and marketing, is completely based on the dean polls

The biggest year-over-year winners on the list? Virginia’s Darden School of Business gained three places to rank 11th this year from 14th a year earlier. Over the past two years, Darden’s relatively new EMBA program has moved seven places in all from a rank of 18th in 2010. Cornell University’s EMBA program moved up two notches on the list to 13th from 15th in 2011. Like Darden, it also has shown significant progress in recent years. In 2010, Cornell’s program was ranked 20th.

The greatest gain on this year’s list was achieved by Marquette University which jumped five places to a rank of 15th from 20 the previous year. Even so, Marquette remains below its peak ranking of 14th place in 2010.

EMBA programs that made this year’s list and were not ranked last year are those at Washington University’s Olin School in St. Louis, the University of Maryland’s Smith School, Xavier University in Cincinnati, and Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business. Xavier was one of five schools to disappear from U.S. News’ EMBA ranking last year (see complete ranking on the next page).

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