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The Best Business Schools For Executive Education In 2019

Find out which schools performed best in the latest Financial Times executive education rankings

Mon Jun 3 2019

Executive education is the biggest growth market for many business schools. But the growth in demand for lifelong learning—or acquiring skills and knowledge throughout a career rather than just at the start—has opened the floodgates to competition and challenges in the market for training corporate executives.

That has been good news for the producers of rankings, such as the Financial Times, which published its 2019 executive education ranking today.

IMD of Switzerland and Stanford of the US were ranked as the world’s top providers of ‘open’ executive education programs that are available to all working managers.

IESE Business School of Spain is the best provider of ‘custom’ programs tailored to organizations’ individual needs, according to the FT.

The newspaper also produces a third ranking that combines the top 50 schools for executive education based on the custom and open-enrolment tables. IESE came ahead of IMD, HEC Paris and Stanford in the combined ranking.

The rankings are based largely on a survey of about 1,000 corporate clients of business schools that are accredited and make at least $2 million in revenue. The clients are asked to assess course design, faculty, teaching methods, and...


Top dogs

IMD is top of the open program ranking for the eighth year on the bounce, but this time it shares the pedestal with Stanford, which is in joint first place. IMD performed well for the diversity of its faculty, whose quality is ranked second highest.

Stanford topped the chart for the first time in the FT executive education ranking’s 21-year history. Stanford scored strongly in the participant survey, having achieved the highest rank for the quality of its students and their aims achieved.

In the custom ranking, IESE in Barcelona is number one for the fifth straight year, thanks in large part to its positive reviews from client companies. IESE came top for preparation and new skills and learning. It came second in several other categories including value for money, faculty diversity and international participation.

But it was London Business School that came top for overseas programs—or programs implemented for clients in more than one country—and the school performed strongly overall, ranking seventh for custom programs. LBS also ranked third for its partnerships.

Movers and shakers

Several schools rose highly in the FT’s open ranking, notably Columbia Business School of New York City which went from 22 in 2018 to nine this year and Washington University’s Olin business school, which went from 32 to 12. Olin was also rated as top overall for course design in the open ranking.

The custom list also produced some stand-out performances. Sabanci University School of Management in Istanbul rose 20 places in the custom ranking. Other schools making big jumps include the University of Arizona’s Eller business school and CEIBS of Shanghai, Insper of Brazil and France’s SKEMA Business School, which all rose around 20 spots each.

Sydney’s AGSM is the highest new or returning entrant, ranking 43rd this year in the custom ranking, while Copenhagen Business School and the Indian School of Business also returned to the FT’s ranking this year.

Read: What Next For Executive Education?

exec-ed-fut© IMD Business School via Flickr 

In a fast-changing digital economy, it makes sense that schools would focus their efforts on becoming ranked or better ranked for executive education. The growth of the executive education market is being driven by the constant need to acquire new abilities and stay up-to-date in uncertain times.

Unicon, a network of business schools around the world that offer executive training, reckons that its 100 members generate $2 billion in annual fees, a figure that has grown by about 6% annually for the past few years. Alongside business schools are online learning companies such as Coursera and consultancy firms like McKinsey and PwC that are muscling into the corporate training market.

A 2018 survey by the UK’s Chartered Association of Business Schools found that executive education programs were seen as second only to new online degrees as a source of revenue growth over the next decade.

If business schools can stay on top of the competition from new entrants, executive education may be their biggest growth opportunity.

Where’s Harvard?

One thing you may have noticed (like Sarah did in the comments box below) is the absence of Harvard Business School from the Financial Times ranking, after being highly-ranked in previous years.

We contacted Harvard to ask why. Here’s what they said:

The privacy of our alumni and participant’s data is of the utmost importance to HBS Executive Education. We, along with other schools, chose not to participate in the Financial Times rankings this year as they were in the midst of evolving their data collection process and methodology in response to new privacy regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). As always, we remain committed to delivering the premier executive education experience offered around the globe.

So it seems Harvard pulled out of the rankings due to concerns over the Financial Times’ data protection procedures. This might explain why their absence was not well-publicized by the FT.

This is not the first time Harvard has pulled out of a ranking. When the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education published its first MBA rankings last year, Harvard was among several schools to decline taking part.

If you’re researching rankings when considering a business school, you need to know which schools aren’t featured in a ranking—and why—just as much as who’s in it.