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For the 16th year, the FT has ranked the world’s leading providers of executive education programmes, non-degree courses for companies and working managers.

The first ranking evaluates the top 70 open-enrolment courses: courses on specific topics such as leadership that are directed to all professionals regardless of the company they work for. The second ranking is of the top 80 business schools that offer customised programmes tailored to the needs of the organisations that commission them. A third ranking combines the two to appraise the top 50 schools in the executive education field that feature in both the other rankings.

Participating schools must be internationally accredited and have earned revenues of at least $2m in 2013 from their open or customised programmes, respectively. This year, a total of 95 schools took part.

The open-enrolment ranking is compiled using data from providers and individuals that completed their nominated management programmes in 2013. Schools submit one or two general courses of at least three days in length, and one or two advanced courses of at least five days.

At least 20 per cent of these programmes’ participants must complete the FT survey, with a minimum of 20 responses, for a school to feature in the final ranking of 70 providers.

About 6,500 participants answered this year’s survey, a 40 per cent response rate, rating elements of their programme on a 10-point scale. Responses by advanced and general-level participants are collated separately and then combined with equal weighting to calculate the first 10 ranking criteria.

These criteria, which include the quality of course design and teaching and the extent to which expectations were met, inform 80 per cent of the ranking. School data are used to calculate the remaining criteria.

The ranking of customised course providers is compiled using data from the business schools themselves and from organisations that commissioned courses in 2013. These clients, nominated by the school, complete an online questionnaire about their programme. For a school to remain eligible for the final ranking of the top 80 providers, at least five of their clients must complete the FT survey.

Clients select one of three options to categorise their programme’s design type: Strategic – delivered to top management and designed to influence a company’s direction; General – delivered to management on operational aspects of a company; or Functional – related to a specific function, such as marketing.

Client responses are weighted according to programme type. Strategic programmes have the highest weighting and so the greatest impact on the ranking. Responses are also weighted by the seniority of the individual responsible for specifying the course, the size of the client organisation, and the number of schools with which that client has commissioned customised courses in the past three years.

The survey was completed by 1,100 business school clients this year, 55 per cent of those invited. Each rated their programme on a range of indicators using a 10-point scale.

Their answers directly inform the first 10 of the ranking’s criteria – from course preparation to value for money and future use – which account for a combined 80 per cent of the ranking’s weight. The last five criteria, calculated from information provided by schools, evaluate the extent to which they are internationally diverse in terms of course provision and nationality of clients and participants, as well as faculty diversity.

For both rankings, information collected in the preceding two years is used, where available, to calculate criteria informed by client and participant responses. If a school has participated for the past three years, the weighting is 40:33:27, with 2014 data counting for 40 per cent. If two years of information is available, the weighting is 55:45, with 2014 data carrying 55 per cent.

The weights accorded to the first nine criteria in the custom and first 10 in the open rankings are determined by the level of importance clients and participants attach to each in their 2013 surveys. Ranking weights for these criteria thus vary slightly from year to year. The weights of criteria informed by school surveys remain unchanged from year to year, however.

Z-scores – formulae that reflect the range of scores between the top and bottom school – are calculated for each criterion. These scores are weighted, as outlined in the keys, and aggregated. Schools are ranked according to these final aggregated scores for both rankings.

Schools that feature in both rankings are eligible for the combined overall ranking. The top 50 schools are calculated according to an equal weighting of the total scores achieved in both rankings, rather than an average of ranking positions.

Judith Pizer of Jeff Head Associates acted as the FT’s database consultant

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