Haas & Columbia Get An EMBA Divorce

Two of the best business schools in the world today (March 23) announced a divorce after a ten-year partnership.

Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Columbia Business School said that their Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program will come to closure in February 2013 when the current class graduates.

Deans Rich Lyons of the Haas School and Glenn Hubbard of Columbia vaguely said the joint decision was reached “in recognition of each school’s goals and future direction.”

When Berkeley first agreed to offer an executive program in the early 2000s, the school decided on a partnership with Columbia because it was in the midst of a number of initiatives and administrators were concerned about stretching the school’s resources. Columbia-Berkeley enrolled its first class in May 2002, nearly a year after Wharton arrived in Berkeley’s backyard with leased space in a San Francisco office building.

Since then, Wharton has established itself as the premier EMBA program on the West Coast, despite its roots in Philadelphia. Since Wharton enrolled its inaugural class in 2001, Wharton’s West Coast campus has graduated some 800 EMBAs, significantly above the output of Columbia and Berkeley’s joint program which will have graduated some 600 EMBAs by the time it concludes its program next year.

The Haas School said it now plans to launch a stand-alone MBA for Executives program in 2013, in addition to its full-time MBA and evening & weekend MBA programs. That decision to go it alone most probably led to today’s announcement to break up the partnership. Dean Lyons told Poets&Quants that the partnership “served both sides very well and was still attracting top students. But like all partnerships, (it) wasn’t evolving as quickly as either side of the partnership was evolving.”

The joint program between Columbia and Berkeley took a steep fall in The Financial Times’ ranking of EMBA programs last year, plummeting to a rank of 22nd from 13th in both 2010 and 2009. Haas has done much better on its own, gaining a rank of second for its evening and weekend part-time MBA program in the most recent U.S. News & World Report ranking. Haas full-time MBA program was ranked ninth in the U.S. in the Poets&Quants’ 2011 list.

The program had been truly unique. It brought together two leading faculties from two top-ranked business schools in two of the world’s great business centers—New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area—to create a single unique program. The only EMBA partnership between two top-ranked U.S. business schools, classes for this program met 18 times in California and seven times in New York, with the option to spend a term in New York. At $150,000 a pop, it has also been among the most expensive MBA in the market. Outside of Wharton’s San Francisco and Philadelphia EMBAs, and Kellogg’s program at Northwestern University, this had been the fourth most expensive MBA in the world.

The schools said that current students in the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program will continue taking classes at both schools’ campuses. As with prior graduates of the joint program, the Class of 2013 will be awarded MBA degrees from both Columbia and Berkeley and will become part of the alumni networks of both schools.

Prospective students who have been admitted to enter the Berkeley-Columbia Program in May 2012 will be offered three options: 1) enter any of Columbia Business School’s EMBA programs, 2) enter the Berkeley Evening & Weekend MBA Program at the Haas School, or 3) enter the new Berkeley MBA Program for Executives when it begins in 2013.

The Berkeley-Columbia EMBA Program is taught equally by Berkeley-Haas and Columbia Business School faculty in classes held on both the Berkeley and Columbia campuses. The Berkeley-Columbia EMBA program spans 19 months with classes starting in May and ending in December of the following year. Commencement takes place in February.

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