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The 2011 Financial Times ranking of schools offering customised executive education programmes marks the 12th anniversary of the classification.

While Duke Corporate Education retains the number one position for the ninth consecutive year, and HEC Paris remains in second place. Brazil’s Fundação Dom Cabral makes an impressive jump from eighth place in 2010 to finish third.

FDC’s ascent into the top three of the league of 65 is the culmination of steady progress over eight years. The school, located in the state of Minas Gerais in the south-east of Brazil, first entered the customised programme ranking in 2004, at number 39. About 50 schools were ranked that year. Having consolidated its position in 2005, it broke through into the top 20 in 2009, when it was ranked 16th.

The rise of FDC in the ranking – a league table based on survey data gathered from both business schools and their clients – is testament to the high regard in which customers hold the bespoke programmes it has developed over the past three years.

Impressively, FDC features in the top 10 for each of the ranking criteria decided by programme purchasers. This includes second-place positions for the quality of its facilities, the level of follow-up given to programme participants, and the value-for-money measure. Of the 33 companies that gave feedback on FDC’s customised programmes, 85 per cent said they would definitely use the school again, with the remaining 15 per cent “very likely” to do so.

It is worth remembering that, for some criteria, the difference in scores between higher- and lower-ranked schools in the tables can be quite small. This is particularly true of the measures derived from the feedback of business school clients. For example, when asked to rate the design of the commissioned programme on a scale from one to 10, where one was poor and 10 was excellent, the lowest average mark was 6.3, compared with the highest rating of 8.2 and a median of 7.2. This means schools in the top half of the ranking were rated between 7.2 and 8.2, while the remainder received scores lower than 7.2 but above 6.3.

The placement of a Latin American school in the top three for the first time is part of a broader trend across the FT executive education rankings. In 2000, when the inaugural tables were published, just two Latin American schools were listed (IAE Business School, Argentina, and Ipade Business School, Mexico). The number has grown to 11 this year, with four schools listed in both the custom and open league tables. Brazil leads the way with four schools in total, joined by institutions in Argentina, Colombia and Peru, as well as Ipade and Costa Rica’s Incae Business School.

Data gathered by the FT from business schools point to a younger but growing executive education market in Latin America. Schools based in the region reported that more than 75 per cent of programmes delivered in 2010 were new, catering to either existing clients (44 per cent of the total) or new clients (31 per cent).

In contrast, schools in Europe and North America tended to rely more on existing clients and programmes for most of their business – 51 per cent and 58 per cent of all programmes, respectively, were repeats of existing courses.

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