Where In The World Is Wharton?

The new Wharton San Francisco campus near the base of the Bay Bridge

The new Wharton San Francisco campus near the base of the Bay Bridge

In an inaugural ranking of the best Executive MBA programs, The Economist said yesterday (July 18) that the number one EMBA in the world is a joint program between the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Schulich School of Business at Canada’s York University.

In fact, the Kellogg School had four EMBA programs that made the top ten of the new Economist list. Kellogg’s joint program with Hong Kong University of Science and Technolgy, rated first by The Financial Times’ in the past four consecutive years, was ranked sixth. The school’s partnership program with WHU in Germany finished in seventh place, while Kellogg’s standalone EMBA program in the U.S. nabbed eighth.

The highest ranked standalone Executive MBA program was Spain’s IE Business School’s offering, which The Economist ranked second. Rounding out the top five in the new ranking are No. 3 UCLA’s joint program with the National University of Singapore, No. 4 Oxford’s Said EMBA, and No. 5 IESE Business School.


The single biggest surprise of all in the new ranking, which lists 62 programs with numerical rankings, is the absence of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which many consider to have the best program in the world. Wharton, with EMBA offerings at its home campus in Philadelphia as well as at a campus in San Francisco, is ranked best by PoetsandQuants, which puts together a composite of the most influential EMBA lists.

Though The Economist did not explain why Wharton was not on its list, presumably it was because the school declined to cooperate with the British publication. Even business schools that ultimately completed The Economist’s survey and also turned over lists of students and alumni so they could be polled by The Economist thought long and hard about whether to cooperate with yet another ranking.

Wharton wasn’t the only prestige school that didn’t make an appearance on the list. London Business School, INSEAD, Duke, New York University and the University of Southern California–all schools with highly ranked EMBA programs–were nowhere to be found as well. Sadly for the Economist, their absence greatly detracts from the credibility and authority of The Economist’s undertaking. It may well signal that other schools will decline to cooperate with the magazine’s EMBA ranking in the future.


That’s especially likely because the methodology serves up several other rather peculiar results. Columbia Business School, one of the biggest players in the Executive MBA market, is improbably ranked 19th on the list–several places behind the University of Florida’s Hough School and the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. No. 21 Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business, based in Forth Worth, Texas, is oddly ranked higher than either the University of Michigan’s Ross School or Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, respectively ranked No. 24 and No. 25.

Then, there are the huge discrepancies between The Economist list and The Financial Times ranking. While The Economist ranks the Kellogg-York program first, the FT put it 27th in its EMBA ranking last year. While Southern Methodist University’s Cox School finishes an impressive 18th in The Economist survey, it was 79th in last year’s FT survey. And while Kellogg’s standalone program slides it at No. 8 on the new Economist list, it was 23rd in the FT. These wide differences are the result of significantly differing methodologies, but they give little confidence in either rankings results.

In addition to ranking each of 62 programs by number, The Economist also placed the programs in so-called “bands” which were marked by alphabet grades from A to E. Only three programs received an A: Kellogg’s joint program with Schulich, IE Business School’s standalone EMBA, and UCLA and Singapore’s partnership program. The magazine came up with the “bands” concept because “the difference between schools can sometimes be slight. Hence, we have also placed schools into bands of those whose z-scores are statistically quite close.”


The new list is based on data collected by The Economist through two web-based questionnaires between February and May 2013. One questionnaire was filled out by business schools and included more quantitative measures, such as details of students and faculty, the number of overseas assignments required and statistics on alumni. The Economist said the second questionnaire was circulated to current students and alumni from schools’ last three graduating classes. The magazine failed to report how many students and alumni were surveyed so a response rate could not be calculated for the survey. The Economist said, however, that more than 8,400 participants responded. Among other things, they were asked to rate their classmates, faculty, and facilities. Alumni also were asked to list their pre-EMBA and current salaries.

The resulting methodology takes into account 27 different criteria, including what The Economist says is the quality and diversity of students, the quality of the faculty, the percentage of students who receive a promotion after they graduate and the average salary increase graduates can expect. The most weight–more than 30% overall–is assigned to salary statistics. In comparison, the “quality of the faculty” accounts for 12.5% of the methodology and is measured by student opinion of the faculty, the percentage of profs with PhDs, and the ratio of full-time faculty to EMBA students.

Unfortunately, The Economist failed to share the underlying data with readers. So it is not possible to gain a deeper perspective of each school’s programs from the magazine’s meager ranking table.

(See following page for ranking and how it compares with rival lists)

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