The executive education rankings decoded

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The annual Financial Times report on non-degree executive education programmes, now in its 12th year, includes three business school rankings: first, schools that offer open-enrolment programmes; second, providers of customised programmes; and last, a combined ranking (see page seven).

Open programmes are available to employees from any company or organisation. Those ranked here run for at least three days. Customised programmes are tailor-made for organisations that want to offer specific training to their employees.

This year, 65 schools are ranked in the open-enrolment group and 65 in the group for customised programmes. To be eligible, a school must have had income of at least $2m from the programme type during the previous year.

The customised ranking is compiled using data from two sets of online surveys – one for schools, another for clients. The client survey is distributed in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Business schools are asked for details of a number of top clients, who are then invited to complete an online survey about the school that nominated them.

Different aspects of the programmes are rated on a 10-point scale, where one is “poor” and 10 is “excellent”. Clients can also give feedback on a second school they have used in the previous 12 months.

There are three main programme types in the customised ranking. These cover three categories that are, in descending order of weighting:

● strategic: designed to determine and influence the strategy of a company;

● general: delivered to management on operational aspects of a company; and

● functional: relating to a specific function – for example, marketing.

Different weightings are also assigned to the survey according to the seniority of the person responsible for specifying the programme, the size of the company and the number of business schools the client has used for customised programmes.

More than 800 business school clients completed the survey this year. The data gathered are used to assess the first 11 criteria on the table. These make up 80 per cent of the school’s final score. The other five criteria in the customised ranking are compiled using the statistical data supplied by the business schools.

The open-enrolment ranking is also calculated using data from two sets of online surveys: one completed by participating schools and another by participants of open programmes.

Participant questionnaires are distributed in English, French, Spanish, German or Italian to two groups: those who took part in senior management programmes and those who participated in general-level management programmes. More than 5,500 senior and general participants replied to the 2011 survey.

After the online questionnaire closes, data gathered from the senior and general-level participants are collated. Calculations for the two data sets are completed separately and the results are combined using a 50:50 weighting.

These results are used to compile the first 10 criteria of the open ranking and account for 80 per cent of a business school’s final score. The data from the school are used to calculate the other six criteria.

For both rankings, calculations for the first section of the table include data (collected from participants or clients) from previous years, where applicable. The weightings are 55:45 if a school has participated for two years. If it has taken part for three years, the weighting is 40:33:27.

To create the final rankings, results from the various calculations are converted into Z-scores. These take into account the differences between each business school and the distribution of scores between the highest and lowest scorers. The schools’ Z-scores for each of the criteria are then weighted.

The weightings for the first section of the table are determined by the level of importance that respondents attach to each criterion. Those applied in the second section (statistical data collected from the schools) are decided by the FT.

The sum of the weighted Z-scores determines a school’s overall position. The overall ranking is calculated on the basis of the average Z-score for schools that appear in both rankings.

Additional research by database consultant Judith Pizer of Jeff Head Associates

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