Financial Times Executive MBA Ranking 2021

According to the Financial Times, these business schools offer the top 10 Executive MBA programs in the world:

  1. HEC Paris (HEC Paris International EMBA)
  2. Kellogg / HKUST Business School (Kellogg-HKUST EMBA)
  3. China Europe International Business School (Ceibs Global EMBA)
  4. Columbia / HKU / LBS (EMBA-Global Asia)
  5. HEC Paris / LSE / NYU: Stern (Trium Global EMBA)
  6. ESCP Business School (EMBA)
  7. IESE Business School (Global EMBA)
  8. Columbia / LBS (EMBA-Global Americas & Europe)
  9. Arizona State University: WP Carey (Arizona State University WP Carey / SNAI EMBA)
  10. Shanghai Jiao Tong University: Antai (SJTU Antai EMBA)

In the next few sections, we’re going to take a closer look at the criteria used to compile the FT EMBA Ranking. If you would prefer to head straight to our analysis of the 2021 list, scroll to the bottom of the article.

What is the Financial Times Executive MBA Ranking?

The Financial Times Executive MBA Ranking is an annual list of the top EMBA programs in the world. Executive MBAs are targeted at more experienced professionals than traditional MBA programs. This means they also tend to be more flexible than MBAs and can be fitted around a candidate’s work commitments.

Javier Estrada is the Academic Director of IESE Business School’s Global EMBA, which placed 7th in this year’s ranking. He says there is a sliding scale in terms of age and work experience for their MBA programs.

“As you go from the MBA to the Executive to the Global Executive MBA, the average age and the average years of work experience increase,” he says. “So the MBA [is] roughly 27-28 years of age and the Executive MBA is close to 32, 33, 34. The Global Executive MBA is about 40 years of age and about 15 years in terms of experience.” (01:22)

To be eligible for the ranking, the program must have a minimum of 30 students enrolled and be accredited by either AACSB or EQUIS. Unlike other rankings, which automatically consider accredited schools, schools must apply to enter the Financial Times ranking. This year, 136 different programs entered the ranking.

The Global EMBA at IESE Business School is one of the few programs at the top of the ranking that isn’t run in conjunction with another school. However, this doesn’t impact the international experience of the program. Javier tells us that their students have the opportunity to study electives all over the world.

“One of the reasons we call it global is not only because we have people from all over the world, but also because we take them to many different places and we always try to expose them [to the local business environment],” he tells us. “We go to two places in Europe, at least Barcelona and Munich. We go to North America, to New York [and San Francisco]. We go to Asia (Shanghai). We go to Latin America (São Paulo). And we try to give people a broad perspective of how to do business in different places.” (10:05)

What are the criteria of the ranking?

The Financial Times sends out two different surveys to compile the results:

  1. An alumni survey, which makes up 55% of the total weight.
  2. A survey to participating schools, which makes up 35% of the total weight.

The final 10% is compiled using the FT Research Ranking, which measures the research output of each school.

There are a total of 17 ranking indicators. They can be loosely grouped into the following three categories:

Salary and career progression (50%)

The Financial Times Executive MBA Ranking 2021 places the most weight on indicators related to salary and career progression. They are Salary Today (20%), Salary Increase (20%), Career Progress (5%), and Work Experience (5%). All of these indicators come from alumni responses to the FT survey.

Diversity and international experience (27%)

Around one-quarter of the ranking is based on the diversity and international experience of participating programs. The indicators that fall under this category are the proportion of Female Faculty (4%), Female Students (4%), Women on Board (1%), International Faculty (5%), International Students (5%), and International Board Members (2%). 

Programs are evaluated based on International Course Experience (5%), which is the proportion of classroom hours spent abroad. The ranking also takes into account the number of Extra Languages (1%) required of students upon graduation. All of these indicators come from the survey sent out to schools.

Other (23%)

The remaining indicators cover a variety of different areas. There is the aforementioned Research Output (10%) of the school, the proportion of Faculty With a Doctorate (5%), and the proportion of courses dedicated to Ethical, Social and Environmental Issues (3%). Finally, students are asked to rate the extent to which the EMBA helped them achieve their aims (5%).

The biggest winners & trends in the FT EMBA Ranking 2021

This year’s ranking is dominated by joint programs, which take up eight of the top 12 spots in the list. But even the EMBAs run independently tend to work closely with other schools. Javier explains IESE’s partnership with the Chinese business school CEIBS:

“If we partner with CEIBS, which we always did up until COVID, then we have three more [electives],” he says. “CEIBS is the China European International Business School. And so we have some sort of agreement with them, in which they offer three electives, which they open to our students. And we offer three electives, which we open to their students.” (03:17)

Chinese business schools have six programs in the top 20 of the ranking, making it one of the top global destinations for EMBAs. Of these six, the program at Fudan University School of Management was the biggest mover, rising eight places to rank 13th on this year’s list.

In general, there’s a fairly even geographic spread of EMBA programs in the ranking. Europe, North America, and Asia are all well-represented throughout the list, while countries such as Poland, Turkey, and Russia all have schools in and around the top 50. This contrasts with other rankings, which tend to be dominated by European or North American programs.

This trend is indicative of the global and collaborative nature of EMBA programs. Partnerships between schools are necessary to provide students with the global exposure they demand from their EMBA. Because EMBA candidates are experienced, senior professionals that pay a high price tag, they have high expectations of the program. Javier says IESE is aware of this. 

“Knowing that you have in front of you people that have a very high opportunity cost in terms of time…that’s something that always resonates with us, and we try to deliver things that are consistent with that [high cost],” he says. (19:16)

Yet as long as EMBAs continue to deliver – average alumni salaries rose again in 2021 – there will always be a place for them in the global business education landscape. 

Do you want to find out if an MBA is right for you? Check out “What is an MBA?