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The Financial Times ranking of executive MBA programmes for 2010 marks the 10th anniversary of the classification. The rise of this year’s top three courses, none of which featured in the inaugural table in 2001, is testament to the rapid growth and diversification within the EMBA market over the past decade.

Co-operation is the common theme among the first three. Third place is occupied by the Trium programme, a joint offering from HEC Paris, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the Stern School of Business at New York University. Trium participants complete six study modules, moving between the three campuses, in addition to time spent in two emerging-market countries.

The partnership between Columbia and London Business School is at number two. The structure of this EMBA programme is similar to that of the Trium degree, with participants alternating between the two campuses throughout the course. It also offers electives, assignments and seminars in other locations, including Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Leading the table is the link-up between the Kellogg School of Management and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Most of the teaching is carried out at the HKUST campus, although a two-week stint at Kellogg’s Allen Center in Evanston, Illinois, is a mandatory part of the degree.

Things were rather different back in 2001, when multischool, multicampus programmes were in their infancy. Indeed, when the first ranking was launched in October of that year, the very future of such programmes seemed to be in doubt; after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the prospect of travelling internationally became less attractive.

Yet, data collated from the FT rankings show that any impact felt by business schools was only short term. In fact, since then, the EMBA programme has gone from strength to strength. Between 2001 and 2010, the number of courses included in the FT league table has doubled, from 50 in the original classification to 100 in 2010. This reflects the continued demand for programmes aimed at experienced managers who need to juggle their studies with full-time employment.

While the US remains the predominant location of EMBA programmes in this ranking, the number of courses offered in more than one location has grown (see chart below). These multicampus programmes are delivered in two ways: the first involves studying at more than one business school in different countries, as with the Trium programme. The second – adopted by Insead and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, among others – entails schools setting up campuses in more than one location.

In 2001, all 50 programmes ranked were single-school, single-location options. By 2003, multilocation programmes started to enter the ranking. This delay was in part explained by the criteria for inclusion: each programme must have been running for four years, and it must have graduated its first class at least three years before the publication of the ranking. Four of the 75 courses listed that year were taught in two or more locations. This number has continued to rise ever since, reaching 17 this year.

The rise of the international EMBA has led to a widening gap between the top and bottom programmes in the ranking.

Earnings stand out as a key differentiator. In 2001, when the class of 1998 was surveyed, the top-earning alumnus group was from the Wharton School’s EMBA programme at the University of Pennsylvania, reporting an average salary three years after graduation of just more than $200,000 (measured in purchasing power parity equivalents). This left these students better off by roughly $150,000, compared with the lowest-earning graduates, and contrasted with a median of $125,000.

By 2010, the earning difference between top and bottom has widened considerably. Graduates of the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA enjoy the highest salaries – on average, slightly more than $392,000, or roughly four times the average at the bottom of the scale. Meanwhile, the median alumnus wage average is almost $151,000, which means salary averages for half of the programmes ranked are lower by at least $240,000 compared with that of Kellogg-HKUST.

Data gathered on the alumnus salary increase (a measure of the difference in wage between starting the degree and three years after graduation) show a different picture. While the EMBA has never afforded the same salary boost as the traditional MBA – largely due to the seniority and wage of participants on entering the programme – graduates can typically expect a sizeable increase in remuneration after completing the degree.

In the 2001 ranking, 39 of the 50 graduating classes surveyed (78 per cent) reported average salary increases of 60 per cent or more. The median alumnus group salary increase was 76 per cent. Since 2001, the median increase has dropped, reaching 55 per cent this year. The graduating classes of 61 of the 100 programmes listed in 2010 reported an average salary increase of 60 per cent or less.

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