Winners & Losers in the FT’s New EMBA Ranking

For the second year in a row, Kellogg’s joint Executive MBA program with Hong Kong’s UST Business School came out on top of The Financial Times’ new 2010 global EMBA ranking released Oct. 26th. U.S./European partnership programs also claimed the number two and number three spots in the survey. Columbia Business School’s joint EMBA with London Business School was second, while New York University’s EMBA with HEC Paris and the London School of Economics was third.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School gets four places in the top 25 of the FT list. Besides the number one ranking of its partnership with Hong Kong’s UST, its EMBA program with WHU-Otto Beisheim School in Germany places 14th; it’s standalone EMBA program at home captures the 20th spot, while its joint program with York University’s Schulich School in Canada is ranked 23rd in the world.


The FT list, its tenth annual ranking of EMBA programs, was filled with many wild and unexplained changes in rankings. Some 20 schools, for example, sufferred double-digit declines in their year-over-year rankings, while eight schools registered double-digit increases. In the accompanying analysis published with the rankings, the newspaper does not explain any of these significant changes. Such volatility can generally be explained because the differences in a school’s given rank is often statistically meaningless. The Financial Times gives some hint of this in a tiny footnote to its survey.

“Although the headline ranking figures show changes in the data year to year, the pattern of clustering among the schools is equally significant,” admits the FT in the footnote. “Some 270 points separate Kellogg/Hong Kong UST Business School at the top, from the school ranked number 100. The first nine business schools, from Kellogg/UST to Duke University form the top group of schools. The second group is headed by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which would need to increase its score by 9 points in order to move up a group. Top of the third group is the Rice University: Jones which is 6 points behind Boston University School of Management. Some 45 points separate the top and bottom schools in this third group. The fourth group is more spread out, separated by 70 points.”

Translation: many of the schools are given a ranked number, even though in a good deal of cases there is no statistical basis for the difference between one EMBA program and another. The FT’s methodology makes this ranking as much about how politically correct or “international” a program is rather than the true quality of the program. Among other things, It uses such factors as a school’s diversity–in female faculty, staff and board members–to judge the “quality” of a program.

Major players in MBA education dominated the top ten with one surprise exception. After the top three EMBA programs that all are joint ventures of top U.S. schools, the EMBA programs at INSEAD, Chicago, London Business School, IE Business School, Wharton, Duke, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong round out the top ten. The biggest surprise in the group was Chinese University which moved up nine places to 10th place from 19th.

Some 17 of the 100 EMBA programs are joint programs with two or more schools or are programs offered in different countries. When the FT first began ranking EMBA programs in 2001, all 50 listed were single-school, single-location options.


A major component of the FT’s methodology is compensation, specifically the difference between an EMBA’s salary before and three years after graduation (for a fuller explanation of the newspaper’s methodology, see below). “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 FT reported. “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…The biggest salary increases were reported by those who changed employer but stayed in the same industry; they achieved an average increase of 61 per cent, reaching a salary of $174,300 three years after graduation.”

The newspaper also reported that the gap between the earnings of graduates of the top programs versus the bottom programs has widened considerably. The rise of the international EMBA has led to a widening gap between the top and bottom programmes in the ranking. In 2001, when the class of 1998 was surveyed, the top-earning alumnus group was from the Wharton School’s EMBA program 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.”

This year, in contrast, grades of the top-ranked Kellogg/UST program enjoyed the highest pay–on average, slightly more than $392,000, or roughly four times the average at the bottom of the scale. The FT said the median alumnus wage average is almost $151,000.

The newspaper also reported that nearly half of the responding alumni to its survey–48 percent–had changed employer since graduating in 2007. “Self-funding students were the most likely to move on after completing their degree, accounting for almost two-fifths of all those that did so,” the FT said. “More than a third of students had all their fees paid by their employer. While most opted to stay in the employment of their benefactor, more than a third of those whose fees were paid in full changed employer within three years of graduation.”

The biggest losers in this 2010 ranking? Rutgers University’s EMBA program in New Jersey plummeted 27 places, to 73rd from 46th a year earlier, while Georgia State University’s EMBA offering fell 23 spots, to 78th from 65th in 2009. Villanova dropped 20 places to 75th, from 55 in 2009. Some 13 of the schools which fell in the rankings by double digits were U.S. schools.


SchoolDifference in Ranking2010 Rank2009 Rank
Rutgers B-School-277346
Georgia State Univ.-237865
St. Gallen (Switzerland)-135946
Georgia State Univ.-137865


The biggest winners? The University of Maryland jumped 14 places to 36th this year, from 50th last year. Arizona State University rose 13 places to 28th, from 41st in 2009. Cass University in the U.K. gained 11 spots to earn a tie with Chinese University, moving from 21st place in 2009.


SchoolDifference in Ranking2010 Rank2009 Rank
Arizona State+132841
ESCP Europe+101525
Kozminski (Poland)+108191


Ultimately, of course, the biggest winners this year are schools that failed to make the top 100 list of the best EMBA programs in 2009. There were 15 schools that fell into that category. The highest ranked of them all was Cornell University whose EMBA program landed 24th on the FT list, followed by Oxford at 32, Boston University at 40th, and Melbourne University at 48th. The University of Buffalo’s EMBA program in the U.S. and Singapore made the list for the first time, ranking 51st.

The methodology of the FT survey is based on two surveys–one from 121 participating schools and the other from 3,771 responding alumni from the Class of 2007. No response rate was given for the latest alumni survey. The FT combines two previous years of alumni surveys in calculating its ranking. The alumni surveys measures salary pre-MBA and post-MBA salary increases, “aims achieved,” “career progress,” and “work experience.” Alumni responses account for half the weight of the ranking.

The school data used for the ranking by the FT measures such several factors that have little, if anything, to do with the actual quality of the education received by graduates. For example, the newspaper measures such things as the diversity of the faculty, staff, board members, and students at each school, “languages,” the “international reach of the EMBA,” as well as the amount of research published by professors from each school.

The FT list differs dramatically from other prominent EMBA rankings. The Wall Street Journal’s most recent top 25 list is largely U.S.-centric with only non-U.S. schools. It ranked Wharton’s EMBA program first, followed by the EMBA offerings at Washington University’s Olin School and Thunderbird. BusinessWeek, whose top 25 list also is largely U.S. based, ranks Kellogg’s EMBA program first, followed by Chicago, Wharton, Duke, and the University of North Carolina.



FT 2010 School & RankWSJ RankBW RankU.S. News RankFT 2009 Rank
1. Kellogg/USTNRNRNR1
2. Columbia/LondonNRNRNR3
5. Chicago16235
6. London BusinessNR24NR8
7. IE Business School247NR6
8. Wharton1316
9. DukeNR4412
10. Chinese Univ. H.K.NTNRNR13
10. City Univ., CassNRNRNR15
12. IMDNR6NR13
13. Berkeley23NR714
14. Kellogg/WHU-OttoNRNRNR15
15. Columbia94511
16. ESCP EuropeNRNRNR20
17. New York Univ.714617
18. Washington Univ.2STNR13
20. Kellogg51219
21. Purdue/Tias/CEUNRNRNR20
23. Kellogg/YorkNRNRNR22
24. Cornell8STNRNR
24. RotterdamNRNRNR27


Source: The Financial Times

ST: The school’s program was named in the “second tier” by BusinessWeek in its latest 2010 ranking of Executive MBA programs.

NR: The schools program was not ranked.

  • Kellogg MBA

    Pardon me but I don’t think the FT rankings include part-time MBA programs in their list. I think the crucial point of difference here is between EMBA and MBA. They are a different category by itself with regards to quality of faculty, age and experience of candidates, etc.

    In fact, EMBA programs are inherently part-time in a way given that they cater to senior executives who maintain high profile jobs while attending classes.

  • Kellogg MBA

    Pardon me but I don’t think the FT rankings include part-time MBA programs in their list. I think the crucial point of difference here is between EMBA and MBA. They are a different category by itself with regards to quality of faculty, age and experience of candidates, etc.

    In fact, EMBA programs are inherently part-time in a way given that they cater to senior executives who maintained high profile jobs while attending classes.

  • I had no idea that the FT is combining both EMBA programs and part-time programs. Indeed, as you point out, they are very different experiences. True EMBA programs are of the highest possible quality, with extremely high standards for admission, and with some of the very best faculty a school can put in a classroom. Part-time programs often put adjunct teachers before students, have significantly lower standards of admission, and are not the premium offerings of a business school. To combine the two in a ranking makes no sense at all. I agree with you: we need more rankings like we need another hole in our heads. But I should point out that at least in the U.S., there already exists separate rankings for EMBA programs and for part-time MBA programs. They are done by my alma mater, BusinessWeek. Here’s the latest EMBA ranking from BW and here is the latest part-time MBA ranking.

  • Dear John

    Looking at the way the FT ranks so-called execitive mba’s it strikes me that they combine what are essentially two very different sets of programmes:

    On the one hand real executive MBAs with significant experience and responsibility requirements, mostly modular and international, emphasiszing typically leadership development and, on the other hand, part-time MBAs for people who do a fairly regular MBA on a part-time basis, whether during evenings or weekends. The epithet executive here does not really apply, though the quality as MBA programme may be as high as that of the sister full-time programme.

    Several schools have both types of programmes, at very different price points, contact days and target audiences.

    If we didn’t allready have more than enough rankings, I would call for for another more segmented ranking….

  • Rehan, thanks for bringing the error to my attention. I’ve corrected the error.

  • John,

    Just wanted to point your attention to a small misprint.

    TRIUM Global EMBA: an alliance of HEC Paris/LSE/NYU was ranked 2nd by FT in 2009 instead of 3rd as stated above.

    Best Regards,
    Rehan – TRIUM Class of 2012

  • Thanks Marc for making those smart observations.

  • Marc T

    Hi John,

    A couple of points to make which would apply irrespective of MBA or EMBA.

    One of the key differentiators and one that I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) is not usually shown in any rankings is the average age of the students.Some schools will show very high proportional increases in salary because they would cater to younger EMBA students while others will show lower increases in salary simply because those people start from higher initially.

    Secondly, geography has a very important role in those rankings. Schools with a clear affiliation with a higher paying specialty would tend to show higher salaries post graduation. For example, Columbia or Stern.

    Thirdly, placement in specific industries also play a big part. What was the first and second insdustry which hired the bulk of the graduates from that program? One would, to the point of your John Hopkins MBA article from the other day, not be surprised to see lower salaries in schools mostly placing its former students in governmental organisations or with a higher proportion of NGOs. Conversely i would expect schools with more than 50% combined between finance/consulting to show much higher salaries.

    I believe those data points would prove very useful to potential students.