The Most Innovative Global MBA Programs

Want a truly global education in business? Then, go work for a global company. That idea isn’t nearly as farfetched as you might think. A recent report by a task force of the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business found that there is a sizable gap between what the real world needs and what management educators do when it comes to globalization.

But there are, in fact, some pioneering global MBA programs that been able to help train a new generation of leaders in what it means to be truly global. Indeed. Some of the most path-breaking innovation in management education is being accomplished in these mostly new global MBA programs for executives. They provide what most MBAs don’t: a thoughtful understanding of how the global economy works and how organizations can best organize and operate in it.

Not all global MBA programs are equal. Some schools tack a few global courses onto their curriculum and call it “global.” Others move their classrooms to foreign soil, outsourcing space from a local school. They may focus only on developed economies, not the emerging nations and markets. And some of these programs can lack the diversity of participants that make for a truly global conversation in the classroom.

Here are our picks for the most innovative Executive MBA programs for future and present global leaders. We purposely steered clear of so-called bilateral programs, partnerships between two schools on two different continents. Why? In part because those programs tend to focus on one region or another—not the more expansive global world.

As Peter Rodriguez, associate dean for international affairs at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, puts it: “A lot of schools said, ‘Let’s teach students about China. A smaller group might be focused on three countries, usually the U.S., China, and somewhere else. There were still fewer programs that focused on a true global economy.” Moreover, many of these two-school Executive MBAs have little integration between one school’s part in the program and the other.

There’s no doubt that many of these two-school programs are superb, such as the highly regarded Northwestern University partnership with Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology, but they just don’t fit our definition of being truly global.

We looked over programs at the best schools that brought a great mix of diverse students together in multiple locations. Some of these schools bring students and faculty to several continents. OneMBA, for example, leads students to study on four continents alone. Many of them are run and controlled by a single school, including Duke’s two EMBA offerings, Chicago’s London/Singapore/Chicago program, and INSEAD’s EMBA experience in France, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi.

These programs can be costly. Our favorites range in price from a low of $75,000 for Purdue University’s International MBA that has five two-week residencies held in six countries on three continents to a high of $152,500 for Duke University’s Global Executive MBA experience which includes five residencies and visits to seven different countries.

Our choices for the most innovative global programs (in alphabetical order):

Chicago Booth Executive MBA – The most amazing attribute of this experience is that it is the mainstream EMBA program at Chicago. A unique strength of the program is that it boasts three campuses on three continents–downtown Chicago, London, and Singapore, making this a true global adventure that helps you build an enduring international network. The 270 admitted students–90 from each of the three locales–begin the program together in late June at Chicago’s Hyde Park campus.

“The very first day, we bring them to Rockefeller Chapel, our dean welcomes them, and then we have them envision themselves here in that very same space 21 months later walking down the aisle receiving their degrees,” says Patty Keegan, associate dean of the EMBA program at Chicago. “It’s a terrific ceremony. Then, they go to school. They take a leadership course, financial accounting and microeconomics that week. We end the week with a terrific cruise out on Lake Michigan for bonding until everyone returns to their home campus.”

Format: During the 21-month program, students take 15 of the 17 courses together with their colleagues. Each student then selects two electives from a limited menu that has included such topics as entrepreneurship, private equity, options and futures, advanced marketing, and creative leadership. Students may also earn a concentration in finance or strategy through two additional courses during the week before graduation for an extra fee of $6,000. If you decide to earn a concentration, an additional week of classes are required.

During the second summer of the program, students from the three campuses work and study together as part of four one-week international exchange sessions. A total of four weeks–25% of the program–is spent working with students from the other two campuses. There are two sessions in Chicago and one each in London and Singapore. Don’t think you’ll be on vacation in Europe and Asia. During those sessions, classes meet Monday through Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. with a break for lunch and some study time.

Cost: $142,000, not including airfare

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