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China is the surprise story this year. Four of the world’s top 20 EMBA programmes are in this burgeoning market, the first time Chinese schools have ranked so high in any FT business school survey.

Three are centred in Hong Kong, including the programme run by the Ivey school at Canada’s University of Western Ontario, and one in Shanghai (the Ceibs programme). The top-ranked programme in Asia, however, continues to be the University of Chicago EMBA in Singapore.

Both Hong Kong UST and the Chinese University of Hong Kong score highly because their programmes are populated by international managers, often in the banking and industrial sectors. More than half of the HKUST alumni who responded to the survey, for example, are from North America or Europe, and usually paid expatriate salaries in US dollars. This means the final reported salaries are extremely high - HKUST has the highest reported salary of all with $238,750. Also high is the percentage of non-Chinese students, indeed these two have the highest proportion of international students of all programmes in the rankings.

The HKUST programme is run jointly with the Kellogg school at Northwestern University. This has been a particularly good year for Kellogg, which has moved into second in the overall table with its domestic programme, behind the perennially top ranking school, the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania. Kellogg has also seen its joint programme with WHU in Germany move up to 16.

Kellogg’s Chicago programme has been successful this year because of the very high salaries reported. It is only one of three schools - the other two are HKUST and Wharton - where alumni earn an average of more than $200,000 five years after beginning their EMBA programmes. Moreover, Kellogg is one of only four schools in the top 10 to see its salaries rise as a three year average. One reason for this is the predominance of its alumni from Kellogg in manufacturing and general management - about half the total. The two US schools with a high proportion of respondents on Wall Street have both seen salaries drop this year. In this year’s survey 29.7 per cent of Columbia’s alumni, and 36.2 per cent of Stern school’s alumni, worked in finance and banking.

Although Columbia has dropped to seventh this year, the top nine are a very tight group and the difference between them is negligible. Columbia would have needed only a few points to have retained last year’s fourth position, now occupied by its New York rival.

One reason for the drop is that Columbia scored less than its US peers on the aims achieved section. This asks alumni to rank what they want from their EMBA programme and whether they were successful. For Columbia, 76 per cent wanted to increase earning power, but expectations were often not met. Alumni ranked the school 71 in this sub-category, even though their average salary precentage increase was 64 per cent, above the sample average.

The move into second place by Kellogg’s domestic programme makes it the fastest rising programme in the FT’s top nine schools, pushing its local rival, the University of Chicago, into third place. However, if the alumni responses from Chicago’s domestic alumni are separated from the total group (the sample includes alumni in Barcelona and Singapore too) the salary data is much closer to that enjoyed by Kellogg alumni.

Alumni who graduated from the domestic Chicago programme in 2001 (our sample class) report an average salary of $194,555 and a salary percentage increase of 59 per cent.

In Europe, London Business School and Instituto de Empresa tie for eighth position overall. The Madrid-based school earns its spurs because of the high salary increase its alumni report - at 121 per cent it is by far the highest on the table and is only 28 percentage points below the salary increases enjoyed by alumni from IE’s full-time programme. By comparison London Business School’s full-time MBA alumni have a salary increase more than double that of the EMBA alumni.

One reason for the increase is that half the alumni who reported salary increases in excess of 150 per cent were from emerging markets. Additionally, 70 per cent of IE graduates have changed jobs since starting their programme, compared with 55 per cent in the sample as a whole.

London Business School forfeited some of its momentum in the research category this year, having lost some star faculty, including Sumantra Ghoshal who died in March.

As in previous years, two factors are main indicators of success. The first is location - schools in big cities such as New York, London, Chicago and Madrid - dominate. The second category of highly ranked programmes are those modular programmes that attract overseas applications by running their courses in block sessions, often on different continents. These include Duke’s Global Executive MBA, and the programmes run by Purdue and IMD.

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