It is tough at the top, but the business schools at the summit of the 2011 executive MBA ranking have seen off the competition for the third year running. The leading handful of programmes has maintained its top-five status – and the number one EMBA remains the same.

Topping the table of 100 global management programmes for senior executives is the collaboration between the Kellogg school, near Chicago, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, which chalks up a hat-trick of titles in the process.

The Trium programme, a link-up between HEC Paris, the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Stern School of Business at New York University, takes second spot, ­relegating the Columbia and London Business School offering to third place.

Based on a survey of schools and another of alumni of the EMBA class of 2008, the ranking gives an overview of the career progress of graduates, gauges the diversity of schools and assesses the research capabilities of each institution. The stability of the ranking is not restricted to the very top. Among the highest 25 programmes, 15 saw their classification change by five places or fewer when compared with 2010, while the average absolute change was 4.4. Of the 23 that were also ranked in the top 100 in 2010, 19 were similarly placed among the top quartile that year.

Yet the top tier is not impregnable. The two remaining entries in the top 25 make impressive debuts this year.

A joint entry from the Anderson School of Business at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the National University of Singapore is the highest, entering at number nine.

The UCLA-NUS Global EMBA is based in four locations over a 15-month period. While the programme is taught mainly at the home campuses of the two institutions, students also spend time in Shanghai and Bangalore. The the programme scores well on the Financial Times’ international course experience rank. Based on the percentage of classroom teaching hours outside the country in which a programme is primarily located, UCLA-NUS is ranked fifth overall.

Meng Tan, an American graduate from the class of 2008, particularly valued the international aspects of the UCLA-NUS experience. “My EMBA programme helped me build a strong foundation to pursue many business opportunities in North America and greater Asia,” he explains. “The east-west programme structure delineated the style and culture of how companies operate in different parts of the world. I have a competitive edge.” Tan is now based in Los Angeles, where he works as a business development director for Dragon Heart Medical, a producer of medical supplies.

The Korea University Business School EMBA is the other debutant in the top 25. It enters the ranking at 23, thanks in part to the strength of salary data reported by the graduating class of 2008. On average, KUBS alumni earned $234,000 three years after graduation (see methodology, page 30). This represents a 92 per cent increase on their pay before they started the programme – the second-highest rise in the entire ranking.

The Seoul-based school also scores well in terms of its doctoral programme. Based on the number of doctoral graduates during the past three years, as well as the number who subsequently took full-time faculty positions at one of the top 50 full-time MBA schools, KUBS is 15th in the FT doctoral rank.

The high placings of these debutants reflect two continuing trends. The first is the increasing dominance of international, collaborative EMBAs, with programmes offered in more than one location, often involving two or more business schools. Among the 100 programmes in the 2011 table, 19 are taught in more than one country; 11 of these span two or more continents.

The second development has seen the emergence of schools from outside north America and Europe. Of the ranked programmes taught in a single location, 14 are outside these regions.

The international spread of the ranked programmes is more than matched by the students. Graduates surveyed by the FT came from 99 different countries. On average, there were six different nationalities per programme among the alumni who completed the questionnaire.

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