The Financial Times Executive Education rankings, now in their 15th year, rate the top 70 providers worldwide of both open and customised programmes in 2013. In each ranking, last year’s winner held on to the top spot: IMD in the open category and Duke Corporate Education in the customised table.

Executive education provides non-degree programmes for working managers. Programmes are either available to all (open) or tailor-made for an organisation (customised). The FT rankings are based on the satisfaction of participants and client organisations, diversity of participants and faculty, and the schools’ level of international engagement.

Duke Corporate Education tops the customised ranking for the 11th year running. HEC Paris, runner-up for the fifth year, has narrowed the gap, ranked top in four corporate criteria, but Duke’s strong international exposure and partnerships keep it in the top spot.

Duke’s corporate customers especially value the relationship they build with the school. “The partnership with Duke is very important to us,” says Kimberly Gacso, an executive director in charge of leadership development for Boehringer Ingelheim, the pharmaceuticals company, in the US. “It really cares about the outcome of the programme and works on it until we have reached all our goals.”

IMD, in Switzerland, repeated its success of last year in the open ranking with the best overall score from the participant survey. It was ranked first for aims achieved and quality of facilities and in the top five in six categories. IMD came first in a strong field, with much change at the top, notably Insead (up to fifth), the University of Michigan: Ross (10th) and the University of Pennsylvania: Wharton (11th).

IMD’s participants particularly value the self-assessment process. “The programme was a deep personal journey on which I developed new insights about myself and my effectiveness as a leader,” says Bryan Guido Hassin, chief executive of clean technology start-up Smart Office Energy Solutions in Texas.

Data from the ranked schools show a rise in demand for short-term programmes. The number of participants in open courses increased by 5 per cent compared with the previous year, while clients seeking customised training programmes rose 4 per cent.

Week-long open courses let managers target training needs in programmes fitted around work. Longer three- or four-week programmes have broader, in-depth content and more opportunities for teamwork and networking. Corporate customers can target specific development for managers at work, on campus or online via customised programmes. Training is fitted around work and directly applicable to it.

Executive programmes can also be a cheaper alternative to degree programmes. While not strictly comparable, it is telling that the number of participants attending open programmes offered by UK schools increased 11 per cent in 2012 on the previous year while the number of MBA graduates fell 10 per cent.

On average, revenues for open courses increased 5 per cent. Some 37 per cent of corporate customers who responded to an FT survey expect their future spending on customised programmes to increase and about half expect it to remain unchanged.

Finally, most participants or clients rate very highly the programmes they attended. Ninety per cent of corporate customers will very likely or definitely use the same business school again.

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