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One of the overwhelming trends of the past decade in the executive education market has been the flight by corporations from open enrolment programmes to customised programmes, in which business schools develop programmes specifically for one company. The past year has seen a huge growth in this, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the numbers reported by schools in this year’s corporate education survey.

The 58 schools participating in the rankings this year ran 6,357 different corporate programmes over the past year, about 28 per cent higher than the 4,956 programmes run by the 56 participating schools in the 2004 rankings. (In the 2003 survey the 51 participating schools ran 4,165 courses.)

Schools that have seen a dramatic rise in the number of different custom programmes are not confined to particular regions, though two of the schools with the biggest increases are those with arguably the most international reach.

Duke Corporate Education, with centres in North Carolina and London (through its joint venture with the London School of Economics) ran 453 programmes, according to this year’s survey, against just 81 two years ago - an increase of 459 per cent.

Insead, with its two campuses in France and Singapore, has seen a 61 per cent increase in the number of different programmes since the 2004 survey and a 95 per cent increase since 2003.

Their obvious popularity means that both Duke CE and Insead rank in the top five schools for customised education this year.

The 45 global schools which have participated in the custom rankings for each of the past three years have seen an average 25 per cent growth in the number of programmes over the past year. Between the 2003 and 2004 rankings they saw a growth of 9.1 per cent in the number of programmes.

All the indications are that business schools are developing deeper relationships with existing clients. Of the 45 schools that have participated for the past three years, a growing proportion (58 per cent ) of their business is repeat programmes for existing clients (compared with 55 per cent in 2004 and 47 per cent in 2003.) A further 21 per cent of their business is new programmes for existing clients, up from 18 per cent last year.

The remaining 21 per cent of business was new programmes for new clients (down from 27 per cent in 2004 and 30 per cent in 2003).

According to the custom programme purchasers surveyed for the FT ranking, there will be continued growth in the customised executive education market over the next three years. More than half (57 per cent) of these respondents said the amount that their company invests in custom executive education will increase. Moreover, 62 per cent of custom programme purchasers in large companies (those with 50,000-plus employees) said they expected a spending increase.

What is also clear from the responses of companies this year is that, despite a rocky start, e-learning is proving increasingly popular. It is largely being used in conjunction with face to face teaching in a “blended” approach to training.

More than half the clients interviewed (265) said they already used distance learning and 76 per cent of those said they used e-learning as an integral part of residential courses. Of the respondents, 175 (66 per cent) said their companies would use this kind of study more frequently over the next three years. Only 2 per cent said they would use it less.

This year the top of the custom table has remained remarkably stable, with Duke CE topping the table for the third year in a row and IMD in number two slot for the second year.

The biggest risers at the top of the table this year are MIT’s Sloan school of business and the University of Chicago, ranked jointly at number 10. Both are relative newcomers to the executive education market, indeed MIT enterered the custom section of the FT rankings for the first time in 2004 and Chicago in 2002. However, both are big brand-name schools in the MBA market and have the professorial muscle to deliver such programmes - MIT, for example, ranks fifth in the world for the quality of its faculty in this ranking.

The strength of European schools in this segment of the executive education market is borne out by the number ranked in the top-50 table - 20 schools in total. Three of these, IMD, London Business School and Insead, rank in the top five and there are four European schools in the top 10.

Twenty-two US schools rank in the table, with four from Central and South America.

The growth of the custom business in South America is apparent from the responses received by custom clients in the Financial Times survey. Of the 21 companies in this region surveyed, 18 (86 per cent) said their companies planned to spend more on this kind of executive education in the next three years. The remaining three said they expected the level of business to remain stable.

Seven schools have entered the custom ranking for the first time this year, four from the US and the other three from Chile, Norway and Canada.

All in all, this has been a bumper year for those in the custom executive education business.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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