Maybe you’re considering to pursue an Executive MBA to change or expand your career, have friends or colleagues who have touted the transformative benefits of the courses, have always desired to apply to an MBA program but could not find the time to do so, or are looking to launch your own concept. Whatever’s the case, usually you’ll begin by looking at a ranking. If you’re in the US, you’ll probably first turn to U.S. News, while in Europe and Asia, you might be brought to The Financial Times. However, a ranking alone is a poor source for identifying ideal programs. Let’s take a look at a portion of the latest rankings from the top 3 global agencies:
As you look at these rankings side-by-side, the first point that might stand out to you is how few of the executive programs appear in more than one. Among those ranked top 10, there is not a single EMBA program that appears on every ranking and only 3 programs that show up across two rankings; those 3 are Northwestern Kellogg (Economist: 2; US News: 1), Berkeley Haas (Economist: 1; US News: 7), and IESE Business School (Economist: 7; Financial Times: 7). If you were to look at the full rankings, you would discover a number of additional shared programs, but they fall well outside the top 10; for instance, Kellogg/York, which rests in 9th place according to The Economist, appears in 49th according to The Financial Times.
Why are the differences among rankings so great? These lists are far more art than science. The measures, methods and weights of all ranking components, even when changed marginally, lead to significant disparities in the outcomes of participating schools. Not only that, but the rankings experience large volatility year-to-year, with schools dropping or rising dozens of positions, which isn’t true-to-life as quality among EMBAs rarely changes meaningfully on an annual basis. Moreover, many EMBA programs simply experience “rankings fatigue,” leading them to avoid the cumbersome process of gathering and submitting extensive amounts of verified data to every agency that asks, resulting in many notable exclusions from each list.
However, rankings do serve an important role in admissions. They are great for understanding your universe of options and gleaning the background data they provide on schools, such as salary information, alumni location, industry backgrounds, program impact, etc. To accurately select an executive MBA, you need to look deeper into your possibilities. Are you willing to move to multiple locations (ex: EMBA-Global Asia takes place in Hong Kong, Shanghai, NYC and London) or do you prefer to study more locally (ex: Yale takes place in Connecticut, USA)? Does it have a large cohort (ex: 236 at Wharton) or a small one (ex: 40 at UCLA-NUS)? Does it offer courses in luxury, such as HEC, or in fintech, such as Oxford? There are many questions about the program, its students, its partners and its post-EMBA added value that you’ll need to answer before you can arrive at a ‘ranking’ that works for your future.