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For the first time in six years, a new challenger has topped the FT’s ranking of executive MBA programmes.

The 2014 ranking of 100 programmes for working senior executives is headed by Trium, run by HEC Paris, the London School of Economics and Stern School of Business at New York University. The top five places continue to be dominated by intercontinental EMBAs.

Trium jumped three places to overtake the joint programme taught by Kellogg School of Management near Chicago and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, which had been top of the ranking for five years. It is the first time Trium has headed the ranking and it is only the fourth programme to do so in 14 years.

Trium is ranked first for the work experience of its alumni before the programme, second for aims achieved and third for international course experience. The programme is second for average salary ($307,003) of alumni three years after graduation, just behind the Kellogg/HKUST programme.

Trium’s alumni value studying alongside senior and international classmates. “It allowed us to exchange [ideas] among ourselves and derive as much additional knowledge as [we gained] from the course itself,” says one.

The ranking is based on surveys of schools and alumni who graduated in 2011. This edition gives a snapshot of alumni’s situation compared with when they started the programme.

Salary three years after graduation and salary increase are the main criteria, each accounting for 20 per cent of the ranking’s weight. Most schools in the top 25 score well on at least one of these criteria. The top 10 schools would mostly also rank in the first 10 if salaries and their increases were excluded. The only exceptions are Nanyang Business School and China Europe International Business School, both underperforming in the doctoral and research ranks.

The ranking includes schools from 26 countries, including 35 in the US, 10 in the UK and nine in China. Renmin University of China School of Business in Beijing rose furthest, climbing 18 places to 43rd. Four schools made it into the ranking for the first time. These are led by Cambridge Judge Business School at 36th. France’s Grenoble Business School is ranked 70th, Turkey’s Sabanci University School of Management is at 99th, and Brazil’s Coppead is at 100th.

Management and leadership skills are just one aspect of EMBAs. “It actually made an entrepreneur of me,” says one graduate. Nearly a third (31 per cent) of graduates have set up their own company, or are about to, since enrolling on their EMBA four or five years ago. FT data show that 91 per cent of the businesses are operating today.

Most entrepreneurs (78 per cent) used savings or relied on friends and family to raise all or part of their start-up funds. Angel financing was also a source for a quarter of entrepreneurs.

An EMBA also boosts corporate careers. “The skills I acquired were key to my promotion,” said one graduate. A fifth are now chief executives, managing directors or board members three years after graduation. Average salaries were up 52 per cent from $114,000 before the programme to $175,000 five years later.

Top programme: Trium

First taught in 2001, the Trium programme is run jointly by three very different business schools. NYU Stern is a specialist in finance, the London School of Economics in political science and economics, and HEC Paris in general management and high-level executive teaching.

The programme is not for the travel-shy. The cohort of 85 students study two modules in emerging markets as well as courses in London, New York and Paris. The average age of students on the 17-month programme is 40.

Although this is the first time the programme has taken top spot in the FT EMBA rankings, it has never been placed outside the top four in the nine years it has been assessed.

Top for research: Wharton

With 240 full-time professors – one of the largest groups of business academics in the world – the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania has top-ranked researchers across all departments. Originally known as a finance school, Wharton focuses on research that is data driven, be it in the fields of accounting, operations or marketing.

Ranked number six in the table overall, Wharton is the only top-10 school that teaches its EMBA on two campuses in the US – Philadelphia and San Francisco. The programme also stands out from the rest of the competition in that it requires all EMBA students to complete the same number of contact hours as the school’s full-time MBA students.

Top for international experience: Duke

The Fuqua school at Duke University was one of the pioneers of the multi-country programme, launching its Global Executive MBA in 1995. Today, the business school maintains its global edge, with 73 per cent of the programme’s course credits earned in modules outside the US.

Based in Durham, North Carolina, the Duke MBA – Global Executive, ranked 19th in 2014, enrols some 50 executives a year, each with an average of 15 years of work experience.

With tuition fees of $166,000, the programme is one of the most expensive in the FT rankings. However, the fees include books, class materials, accommodation and meals at the five residential sessions.

Highest new entrant: Judge

Entering the FT EMBA ranking for the first time at number 36, the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge is the highest-ranked of four new programmes in the 2014 ranking.

Launched in 2009, the Cambridge EMBA is one of the newest programmes in the ranking. Yet unlike many new EMBA programmes, it is not taught in multiple overseas locations. Instead, tuition is delivered in Cambridge over 16 residential weekends and four week-long blocks over a period of 20 months. The school believes this better meets the needs of busy executives.

Cambridge also plays up its traditional college system: participants on each weekend residency will listen to keynote speakers while dining in one of the university’s historic venues.

Highest riser: Renmin

The Beijing university business school Renmin, 43rd in the ranking, is the highest riser this year, up 18 places from 2013. One of 14 programmes taught in China ranked in 2014, the Renmin EMBA was one of the first to be authorised there.

The Renmin degree has a long history of working with North American business schools, initially with the State University of New York at Buffalo. Today the programme draws much from Henry Mintzberg’s Masters in Practicing Management programme, designed by the Canadian management thinker to emphasise the practical aspects of global management.

All but five of the 214 students are Chinese, but they must speak at least two languages before they graduate.

Most female students: BI/Fudan

Given Norway’s pioneering stance to promote women in business, in particular requiring a 40 per cent quota of women on corporate boards, it is perhaps no surprise that the BI/Fudan programme has a higher percentage of women on its programme that any other EMBA ranked by the FT this year.

Fifty-nine per cent of the students on the degree, taught jointly by the Norwegian business school and Fudan, are women.

The BI programme is one of three degrees taught on the Fudan campus in Shanghai. Ranked at seventh in the world, the programme taught by the Olin school at Washington University in conjunction with Fudan is the highest ranked of the three.

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