For the 15th year, the FT has ranked the world’s leading providers of executive education programmes – non-degree courses for corporations and working managers.

The first ranking is for business schools that offer customised programmes, tailored to the requirements of the individual organisations that commission them. The second ranking evaluates open-enrolment courses that address specific topics or managerial levels, and that employees of any company may attend. A third ranking combines the two to appraise the top 50 schools in the executive education field.

To participate, schools must meet strict criteria: they must be internationally accredited and have earned revenues of at least $2m in 2012 from their open or customised programmes respectively. This year, a combined total of 91 schools took part.

The ranking of customised course providers is compiled using data from the business schools themselves and from organisations that commissioned courses in 2012. 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 70 providers, at least five of their clients must complete the FT survey.

Clients categorise their programme’s design as “strategic”, “general” or “functional”. Strategic is defined as delivered to top management and designed to influence a company’s direction. General is delivered to management on operational aspects of a company. Functional means related to a specific function, such as marketing.

Client responses are weighted accordingly, with strategic programmes accorded the largest weighting, and therefore having the greatest impact on the ranking. Responses are weighted according to the seniority of the individual responsible for specifying the course, the size of the client organisation and the number of schools with which the client has commissioned customised courses in the past three years.

The FT survey this year was completed by 971 business school clients – 48 per cent of those invited. Each rated their respective programme according to a range of indicators on a 10-point scale. Their answers directly inform the first 10 of the ranking’s criteria – from course preparation to the likelihood of future use – which account for 80 per cent of the ranking’s weight.

The remaining five criteria, calculated from information provided by schools, evaluate the extent to which schools are internationally diverse in terms of course provision and nationality of clients and participants, in addition to faculty diversity.

The open-enrolment ranking is compiled using data from course providers and individuals that completed their nominated management programmes in 2012. 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.

Almost 5,900 participants answered this year’s survey – 34 per cent of those eligible – 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.

As in the customised ranking, these criteria – which include the quality of teaching and extent to which expectations were met – inform 80 per cent of the ranking. School data are used to calculate the remaining criteria.

For both rankings, information collected in the preceding two years is used, where available, to calculate criteria informed by client and participant responses respectively. If a school has participated for the past three years, the weighting is 40:33:27, with 2013 data accorded 40 per cent. If two years of information is available, the weighting is 55:45, with 2013 carrying 55 per cent.

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

Z-scores – formulas that reflect the range of scores between the top and bottom school – are calculated for each criterion. These scores are weighted, according to the weights outlined in the keys, and added together. Schools are ranked according to these final scores for both customised and open-enrolment 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 Z-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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