Why HBS, Stanford & Tuck Shun the EMBA

If you’re looking at rankings of Executive MBA programs to decide which one to attend, the first question you’re likely to have is this one: Where in the world are the Harvard Business School, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Dartmouth’s Tuck School. Together, those institutions are three of the top six business schools in the U.S., if not the world.


It’s a good question because the decisions over many years not to have an executive program have cost Harvard and Stanford hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, funding that could be used to hire more faculty, conduct more research, and further build on the stellar reputations of these institutions. If either school had programs as successful as The Wharton School, for example, each would have brought in more than $300 million in additional funds in the past ten years alone.

For either school that would be a substantial amount of money for a business school. The largest single gift Stanford’s business school has ever received was the 2006 commitment by alum Philip Knight, founder of Nike, for $105 million. Wharton’s two EMBA programs in Philadelphia and San Francisco currently generate more than $35 million in annual revenue.

So what gives? Essentially, Harvard, Stanford and Tuck believe that an alternating weekend version of the degree for full-time executives would somehow dilute their full-time MBA programs which all have premium brand images. “There is no doubt Executive MBA programs are lucrative and not that difficult (for an established business school) to deliver,” agrees Paul Danos, dean of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. “Tuck considered such programs over the years, but we always pulled back for several reasons, including the possible dilution effect on the full-time program and the possible loss of focus.

“We did not need it from a financial point of view, and our growth strategy has come from increasing the full-time program a bit, by expanding executive education, by growing endowment and annual giving and by participating in a variety of on-campus joint educational efforts at Dartmouth and other schools<" adds Danos. "By all of these means, we have been able to improve and grow our faculty while keeping a high focus on the full-time MBA." Stanford, too, has considered the possibility of an Executive MBA over the years, always deciding against it. "At Stanford, the notion of an EMBA has come up periodically," says Stanford Dean Garth Saloner. "Our alumni have consistently told us that they believe the Stanford MBA Program, with its relatively small student body size and personal attention is a differentiating feature of the Stanford experience."

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