Each year, the stalwart of business education, the Financial Times, updates its rankings of executive education programs. This year, the rankings show that executive education is widening its global reach, and that business school brands continue to be important. Overall, 70 schools are ranked this year, up from 65 in 2011. For the overall rankings (which are based on the strengths of both a school's open enrollment and custom programs,) European schools once again dominate the top of the list: Spain's IESE takes the top spot, followed by HEC Paris and IMD. Harvard and Thunderbird are the only American schools in the top ten (ranked four and nine, respectively.) The rest of the top ten includes ESADE, the Center for Creative Leadership, Saïd (University of Oxford,) Brazil's Fundação Dom Cabral, and Insead.
The overall rankings are a combination of a business school's strengths in both its open enrollment course offerings and its customized programs. Since the focus of this site is open enrollment courses, we'll drill down into the big movers in the open enrollment rankings. The top ten in this list has seen a bit of a shake-up, although it remains very similar to last year. Switzerland's IMD has jumped three spots to take the top spot from IESE; and Harvard remains steady at number two. Thunderbird is ranked number three, while the the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business hangs on to spot number five. The University of Chicago's Booth School of Business has found itself at spot number six after a ten-spot jump from number sixteen. London Business School has fallen to number eight (after holding place six for two years straight;) and INSEAD has found itself in the open enrollment's top ten ranking for the first time this year, grabbing spot ten.
It's not entirely obvious from the top ten, but overall, the open enrollment list is fairly global, with almost 30 countries represented – including Korea (KAIST Business School at spot 28;) Nigeria (Lagos Business School, ranked 54;) and Argentina (IAE Business School, number 38.) Many programs also span borders through international partnerships: The Stockholm School of Economics, ranked 42 this year, has outlets in Latvia and Russia; while ESSEC Business School (ranked seven) is based in both France and Singapore.
Two schools have made their debuts in this year's open enrollment ranking: the National University of Singapore Business School, at number 64; and Canada's University of British Columbia: Sauder at number 61.
How the rankings work
For the rankings, the FT compiles data from two separate online surveys: one from the schools themselves and one for course participants. According to the FT, the participant survey makes up 80% of a school's overall ranking, and this year, approximately 6,300 participants responded. The results from these surveys inform a wide range of criteria used to rank the programs, including:
Course design: how well courses are designed, and how flexible they are in catering to different audiences.
Materials: the relevance and appropriateness of class materials, and how well they incorporate academic research and real-world relevance.
Aims achieved: how well the courses met the expectations of participants.
Participants: the quality of participant interaction; the appropriateness and mix of attendees.
Faculty diversity: the mix of faculty gender and nationality.
Revenue: how much income a particular school brought in over the course of the year.
Facilities: the overall quality of the facilities, including accommodation.
These rankings are certainly a valuable and rigorous measure of academic and institutional quality. However, it should be noted that rankings like this shouldn't be considered the end-all of executive education course selection. Often, potential participants find that the courses they need may not be found at one of the top ten schools. For example, if you're looking for a course specifically designed around social media, you might have to go down to IE Business School (ranked 24) to find the course “Social Media Management: Strategies and Practices for the New Social World.”
Geography is another big factor in school selection which can't be determined by rankings. Even though Spain-based IESE is ranked number four, an executive from San Francisco will most likely not be able to take a course there, if he can go to 11-ranked Stanford in Silicon Valley.
For more information about the Financial Times' executive education rankings, please see their coverage.