2016 Financial Times EMBA Rankings

The 16th edition of the Financial Times Executive MBA rankings was released last month. The Financial Times states: “[The ranking] rates the best 100 programmes worldwide for working senior executives. It is based on a survey of business schools and another of their alumni who graduated in 2013. The data measure how successful alumni have been in their career in terms of salary, seniority and achievements since graduating.” (1)

What we have found is that this survey is fundamentally flawed as the information that is gathered to facilitate the ranking is highly biased. The overproportion of men doing these courses skews the figures on salary attained, post seniority and achievements. One therefore has to wonder whether the methodology and heavy weighting of salary that the FT uses is fair in determining which school has the best EMBA programme. This is also raises the question – what is the best way for women to choose a course?

Women and the EMBA

Much has been written about the participation of women in EMBA programmes.  Women comprised a mere 36% of EMBA applicants in 2013 (2 ). Research from the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School sheds some light on why women are more hesitant to apply for EMBA programs than men. They found that there are many barriers to female students applying for these degrees which range from financial concerns and stage of life commitments to the admissions test itself ( 2). The EMBA is generally taken at a later stage in life due to the necessity of prior work experience for this executive course. The average age for men starting an EMBA is 38, and for women 36 (3). This is often an age when many women are starting or rearing families, as well as maintaining a career, which can make finding time to study and spending periods away from home problematic.

This Year’s Top MBA Programme

Of the top 10 schools ranked here, only Washington University’s Olin has an EMBA programme with a female student cohort of over 30%,  and only three schools have a female faculty of 30% or above ─ IE Business School, Nanyang Business School and Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Antai. Additionally, all the schools on the list have boards that are at least 95% male.

In this year’s top 100 ranked schools, only 12 of the schools have a female body of more than 40%, whereas a staggering 60 have less than 30%.

Female students

Above 40%


30 40%


Below 30%



Kellogg School of Management and the Hong University of Science and Technology’s joint programme takes the top spot in the 2016 ranking.

“The programme is aimed at very senior executives. It is ranked fourth for work experience and its alumni have the highest salary on average three years after graduation at nearly $470,000, a 55 per cent increase compared with their pre-EMBA salaries.” (1)

A large proportion of this programme’s ranking score is based on salary today and the salary increases of the alumni of the 2013 class. In fact, 22% of the overall scoring is given to these two factors. We also see that 80% of their current admissions are male.

The Kellogg-HKUST EMBA programme is an 18 month course, so students that graduated in 2013 started in 2011, and that class reported 83% male enrollment. We cannot help but speculate as to whether if there is an underlying relationship between the proportion of males on this course (and other male dominated courses) and the high absolute salary reported this year for its alumni.

In conclusion, the overall scenario for EMBA programmes seems neither balanced nor gender equal.  Men overwhelmingly make up the majority of the student cohort and there are few female professors or women on business school boards. Students taking this course are in the middle of their career cycle, often at a time when organisations are looking for the latest leadership talent. But are the men and women on these courses experiencing a diverse range of leadership potential? And are the companies who send their executives on these courses giving their employees the best experience of a gendered and diverse workplace? We think not.


(1) Financial Times, taken from https://www.ft.com/content/134cfbac-817f-11e6-8e50... on 07/11/2016

(2) Poets & Quants, taken from http://poetsandquantsforexecs.com/2014/07/23/the-e... on 07/11/2016

(3) Financial Times, taken from Infographic https://next-geebee.ft.com/image/v1/images/raw/htt... on 07/11/2016

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