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EMBA Vs Short Courses: What Is The Future For Executive Education?

The EMBA has long been a popular program for experienced professionals, but some experts say it's time to look towards a new model of executive education

Wed Sep 18 2019

According to London Business School professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, half the children born today have a 50% chance of living to 105. A century ago, their chances would have been around 1%. 

This is a staggering jump, and as our lives are getting longer, so are our careers. Not only are workers having to adapt more frequently to new technology, but they also need to develop this adaptability over a longer period.

In the past, senior leaders have turned to executive education programs to provide these kinds of skills, with the Executive MBA being the go-to. 

However, as technology progresses, the old guard of traditional programs is starting to look just that—old. Experts say it’s time to look towards a new model of executive education, but what exactly would that look like?

A safer investment for employers

0001459b6614f0595f087a64be831ba959dcd05d.jpg Cedric Borzee embarked upon his EMBA at ESSEC Business School in 2016 and, having worked in the education space with distance learning provider CrossKnowledge for two years by this point, he was able to see some of its downfalls. 

While he did come out with a sharpened business skillset, Cedric says that the experience made him doubt whether the traditional EMBA format was a worthwhile investment for today’s employers.

“I would question sending people [to these courses] and then not reconnecting them with a larger or more mainstream leadership program where they can [reinvest] that energy back into the organization using internal platforms,” Cedric confided to BusinessBecause at the MERIT Summit in Vienna in January this year.

“External programs are great for learners, but for the organization, it’s a lot of knowledge that they miss if those people move on—that can be a risk.”

With more and more options available to employers for upskilling their senior staff in-house, program directors will need to address this issue if they want to remain a competitive option.

Active learning

The second thing that Cedric believes EMBAs need to update is the program format. He says that traditional EMBA programs, in which students spend long days in the classroom taking in lectures, leave a lot of room for students to disengage with the teaching—and he’s not the only one who thinks so.

A recent Carrington Crisp study found that almost a third of organizations believe providers other than business schools offer executive training programs that are better-suited to their needs, with many seeing business schools as being stuck in the past. 

In fact, a quarter of organizations surveyed said that they felt that b-schools were ‘too theoretical’ in their approach, or that they were out of touch with current business challenges.

But despite the apparent schism between short courses and EMBA learning, experts say that the future of exec ed doesn’t have to be a battle to the death.

A blended approach

Though it's tempting to put the two formats in opposition to each other, it's not a straightforward case of executive education programs versus the EMBA.


“We don’t believe the two programs are in competition, but rather that they fulfil two different educational requirements and are very complementary,” says Matthew Walkley, corporate relations manager for executive education programs at Cambridge Judge Business School (pictured right).

Where executive education programs offer participants a chance to fill specific gaps in their skillsets in a short time frame, EMBA programs require a longer time investment in exchange for more holistic, transitional change to individual careers. 

Instead of viewing short courses as competitors, EMBA programs of the future should work alongside them to serve the needs of their students—namely, “the growing understanding from executives that they constantly need to be honing their skills to remain relevant,” according to Matthew.

A new proposition

The big change, then, when looking into the future of executive education, will be to its value proposition. 


“Before, we used to have a need to learn something to be able to do something," explains Giuseppe Auricchio, executive director of learning innovation and online learning at IESE Business School (pictured right). "But I think more and more [nowadays,] the need is for learning over a lifetime."

The result is that, according to Giuseppe, learning providers will not only help students learn over the course of many years, but they will teach them how to learn: how to become an adaptable thinker.

Doing this will require all of the changes listed above: “Its practice needs to become blended, with multiple contexts and multiple methodologies integrated in a continuous learning journey," he advises.

“The value proposition needs to be a partner for life for an industry—[educators need to ask,] how can I satisfy your learning need over a lifetime?”

Student Reviews

ESSEC Business School




On Campus

The best intercultural university

There are more than 50 nationality in the grade, so there are opportunities to interact with people from all around the world. In terms of academics, the BBA course offers diverse courses for the 1st




On Campus

Creativity, adaptability and entrepreneurship

The Master in Management program at the ESSEC Business School allows the students to choose their courses accordingly to their preferences and their professional targets. We can also go through international exchange and take part in internships with companies that are also partners with the school. The school is also next to the city of Paris.




On Campus

Top business school in France

Doing PhD in essec took some time, to be precise about five years. But the experience was very good and cost effective too. There are opportunities for the student for teaching assistantship and that helps both financially and in career. In the final year I could manage to teach marketing to M1 students and this helped shape my career




On Campus

Great college

The program is well suited for early professionals with an engineering degree preferably or a degree in economics. I would suggest taking the ceasure irrespective of the experience level as it helps you take your time to adjust to the job market.





Good school in France

I am currently enrolled in M2 in Essec business school. I am specialising in marketing management. The Grande Ecole programme is valued in France and my school ranks very high up. There are a lot of opportunities for internships and CDD.




The program curriculum

BBA program. The program is really practical and useful, provide us many international opportunities. Like internship and humanitarian experience, and the flexibility is also really cool, we can choose different campus and tracks as we want.




International Course

This school is very international and business oriented. Highly recognized by the companies The campus has been renovated and is very functional and modern from now on. Excellent atmosphere. Reputation of essec is a plus




Friends, Career opportunities.

The program I did gave me the opportunity to start in Singapore. I got the chance to know all the students that started there and we bonded and made some friends for life. The career opportunities that ESSEC also gave me were unbelievable.




Practical and useful

I think the best thing about Essec is that it's not focusing on academics rather it emphasizes on future job mindset and professional experiences.. The classes are interesting and we have plenty of workshops attributing to different sectors.. The campus is very nice with a good cafe and wonderful library. The only problem is the location of the campus. It's quite far from Paris.




On Campus

Amazing experience! Must try

I think its a very amazing school with great and experienced faculty. Also the alumni network is very solid and useful. The school has a great balance of studies and work experience which is really essential for a student.




On Campus

GBBA: Diverse, Enriching, and Career-Boosting

My experience at ESSEC Business School has been outstanding. The Global BBA program offers a rich academic curriculum and diverse learning opportunities. I appreciated the chance to study on different campuses, including an international exchange, which broadened my perspective. The social environment is culturally diverse and vibrant, enhancing both my personal and professional growth. The administration is attentive, constantly offering new academic and student life opportunities. The campus facilities and classrooms are excellent. I highly recommend ESSEC for its excellence, global exposure, and career opportunities.




On Campus


The English track BBA program at ESSEC is simply exceptional. Courses are taught by internationally renowned professors who are experts in their field. The subjects taught cover a wide range of disciplines from marketing to finance, strategy and entrepreneurship. The English track is a major asset because it allows you to develop perfect mastery of professional English, essential in today's globalized business world. Some students love student life at Essec, which is one of the best in France, but it all depends on taste.




On Campus

Great program, incredible school

I love almost everything about this school, from the student life to the academic program and the opportunities it provides. I'm currently at the Paris campus, in Cergy, and I'm really enjoying it. The BBA program is very rich and diversified, you can start with geopolitics and then finance, what I mean is that there's a great balance between the subjects in this program. I was also lucky enough to spend a semester at the Singapore campus, and I loved that experience on the other side of the world. ESSEC is also known for its dynamic and rich student life, with access to several parties a week and the various associations within the school. If I could recommend just one school, it would be this one - I'm 100% satisfied.