HKUST (left) and Kellogg School of Management, which jointly run the top EMBA © South China Morning Post/Sipa US/Alamy Stock Photo

The share of employers contributing to the cost of senior managers studying for executive MBAs has dropped to just over half, according to the 2023 FT EMBA Ranking. The joint Kellogg-HKUST programme, based in Hong Kong, and Ceibs in Shanghai retain first and second places in the latest table.

EMBAs — often studied by executives while working in senior roles — have traditionally been seen as a way to strengthen managers’ skills and aid their retention. But the share of alumni who said they had received financial support from their employer has been steadily declining over the past few years.

Since 2016, the proportion of EMBA alumni who said they had received full support has dropped from 29 per cent to 23 per cent in 2023; and those who were partially funded from 34 per cent to 29 per cent; while those with no support at all has risen from 38 per cent to 48 per cent.

Greg Hanifee, associate dean of degree programmes at Kellogg School of Management, in Illinois, says: “The days of the fully sponsored student have dwindled, with companies cutting costs or deciding the EMBA is not a retention tool. That means the expectations by students on excellence in delivery are at a premium because of the demand for return on investment.”

Hanifee adds that the Kellogg-HKUST programme, created 25 years ago, reflects strong demand from students for a “global mindset”. “It’s counterintuitive given what’s happening in the world today as nationalism rises, but it’s all the more important.” (See Deglobalisation and the global degree.)

FT Executive MBA Ranking

Read the EMBA ranking and report

Among the 100 EMBAs in the final ranking, nine were run jointly by more than one school, with some in two or more countries, with degrees offering insights in locations including the US, mainland Europe and China.

The top-ranked programme is run by Kellogg and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School. It scored highest for salaries reported by alumni three years after completing their degree, at $652,326 following adjustment for international purchasing power parity. Alumni of Ceibs — the joint EU-Chinese controlled China Europe International Business School — received the next-highest average salary, at $529,822.

Business schools choose whether or not to be ranked by the FT, and to be eligible must be approved by one or both leading accreditation agencies — AACSB or Equis — while their alumni must provide sufficient responses to be statistically significant. (See methodology.)

A man with glasses and greying hair, wearing a suit and tie, looks into the camera
Kellogg’s Greg Hanifee

The ranking gives the highest weights to alumni salary and salary increase, but also includes relative performance on a range of other factors. These include: gender and international diversity of students and faculty; academic research; and carbon emissions in the schools’ operations.

Financial support provided by employers has been consistently higher for male than female alumni, with 53 per cent and 50 per cent respectively receiving full or partial funding this year. The overall fall in funding may partly reflect recognition by employers that many of those taking EMBAs seek to shift organisation or career, as well as broader efforts to cut expenses.

The most significant reasons given by more than half the alumni for studying were management development, to expand their network and to increase earnings. But about a quarter gave a change of career or employer as an important motivation, and only slightly fewer cited starting their own business.

Alumni at ranked schools rated their EMBAs highest overall for the quality of teaching around corporate strategy, general management, finance and organisational behaviour. They gave the lowest scores for courses on fintech, law, IT and ecommerce.

US schools performed strongly in the assessment of academic research — measured by the number of articles faculty had written in leading journals over the past three years. Eight of the top 10 schools in the category were in the US, led by Chicago Booth School of Business and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Outside the US, only London Business School and Canada’s Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto made the top 10.

IE in Spain and Koç University Graduate School of Business in Turkey were the only two EMBA providers with an equal split of full-time male and female faculty, with women on average comprising one-third of teaching staff across the 100 ranked programmes. Women comprised on average 35 per cent of students, with only Ceibs and Yale School of Management achieving parity. IMD, the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland, had the highest share of faculty with citizenship outside its home country, at 98 per cent.

SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy, followed by BI Norwegian and IE Business School in Spain, were ranked top for carbon footprint — an assessment of a carbon audit and a net zero emissions target — across the school or its affiliated university. IE Business School was top and France’s ESCP Business School second for the extent to which they incorporated environmental, social and governance topics in their core courses.

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