Analysis: Duke strengthens its claim to the throne

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00

As the Financial Times marks the 10th anniversary of its 2008 executive education rankings, so Duke Corporate Education in the US can celebrate its sixth consecutive year at the top. And the figures show that Duke has scored a resounding win.

In 2006, IMD of Switzerland – which has been lurking in second position for six of the past seven years – showed distinct signs of catching up. It would have needed only a 6 per cent increase in its score in that year to draw level with Duke.

Then, in 2007, Duke CE roared ahead to beat its Swiss rival by 23 per cent on total points. This year it has done it again with a nippy 19 per cent lead over IMD and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, the business schools in joint second place.

This year’s table provides clear evidence of an unassailable lead: Duke CE comes top in nine of the 16 ranking categories. No other school manages more than one top rank. One company, that was giving feedback about a different business school on another continent, felt moved to share why it felt Duke CE stands out: “Duke showed to our delight that they could completely change their methods for us.”

To determine their ranking, business schools are asked to nominate their most important executive education clients from the previous year. Companies and organisations nominated in this way are then interviewed by telephone and asked for their feedback. They are asked to rate the business school in four broad areas: relationship-building and design of the customised programme, its delivery, value for money and their future use of the same school. They are also asked to rate the importance of the various categories.

Unsurprisingly, the interviewees felt that, above all, it is crucial for the programme to achieve its aims. Therefore, it seems logical that programme preparation, development and design appear next in importance.

Although teaching faculty comes fourth, it is top of the list of areas business schools did well in, according to their clients. This must be cheering news for academics and institutions who have been criticised for being too academic and theoretical, out of touch with the “real” business world and for failing to provide relevant research.

One interviewee described what they were looking for in terms of faculty provision: “The difference between [institution A] and [institution B] is the faculty. [Institution A] used one professor for four days whereas [institution B] has eight different professors who could talk about a lot of topics.”

Interviewees were also impressed with teaching methods and materials, and the facilities for study provided by business schools. Harvard Business School gained the top mark this year for teaching accommodation, library and IT facilities.

For those business schools worried about the storms in the financial markets and their economic after-effects, the data gathered for this survey might provide some reassurance that companies are not about to clamour for price reductions or to stop sending students altogether.

When the 742 nominated companies and organisations were polled for the ranking in March this year, value for money had not shot up the list of critical factors for executive education. Moreover, 65 per cent of those interviewed said they expected their investment in executive education to rise over the next three years – the corresponding figure in 2007 was 62 per cent.

However, regionalised data show perhaps the first signs of stress in certain areas. Only 60 per cent of companies in North America – where home repossessions and unemployment are stinging more than in Europe – felt that their investment would increase, as opposed to 65 last year.

On the other side of the Pacific, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction – and swiftly.

Last year, only 61 per cent of interviewees based in the Asia-Pacific region felt they would be spending more money on this type of training in the future. This year, this figure has gone up to 80 per cent, with one interviewee attributing this to the “expansion of Asia”.

Some business schools seem better placed to take advantage of this development than others. Several notable European and US schools, including the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and Insead, have established campuses in Singapore. An institution such as the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has the double benefit of a global brand and intimate knowledge of the local market.

Nonetheless, of the 65 schools included in the 2008 ranking, only one, HKUST, is based in China. There are also three Australian and four South American schools, South Africa is well represented with three, and the rest are mainly based in Europe or North America.

There are three new entrants to the ranking this year: Eada of Spain, South Africa’s USB Executive Development Ltd and Grenoble Graduate School of Business in France.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.