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FT Executive Education Rankings: Spain On Top As Corporate Demand Rises

Spanish business school IESE has topped the latest executive education rankings released by the Financial Times. Corporate contracts continue to show signs of a post-crisis revival.

Barcelona-based IESE Business School has topped the latest executive education rankings released by the Financial Times. The Spanish school beat HEC Paris of France to the top spot, a position it last held in 2012.

The FT combined separate rankings for both open enrolment programs and custom programs — the latter tailored bundles of courses sold to corporations — to produce an overall winner.

IESE’s strong total rank stems from its top position in the ranking for customized courses, putting an end to 12 years of dominance by US business schools. Duke Corporate Education held the top custom spot for more than a decade; before that Columbia Business School.

The rankings, now in their 17th year, rate the best 75 open, non-degree programs and the best 85 customized programs globally. They are based on students’ and clients’ satisfaction, the diversity of participants and faculty, and the business schools’ international exposure.

IESE performed consistently well across all 15 criteria. The school is in the top-10 for all measures, and is ranked first for faculty diversity; second for preparation; and third for value for money.

Mireia Rius, IESE associate dean of executive education, said the results reflect the school's globalization. “This internationality gives us a cross-cultural vision of the environment in which executives work today,” she said.

Continuing a theme for executive education, there were gains for other European business schools in the custom ranking. French school ESCP Europe enjoyed the greatest rise, leaping 28 places to take 28 in the table.  

Comparatively Wharton, a top US school, recorded its worst performance, plunging 21 places to 47, and Olin Business School at Washington University fell 31 places to 55, the biggest custom drop. Ivey is the top-ranked Canadian business school.

The ranking of 75 open enrolment programs was led by Swiss business school IMD for the fourth consecutive year. HEC Paris moved up one place to second; IESE is ranked third.

IMD is one of only four schools in the top-10 for both sets of rankings. IMD’s success this year comes despite the perception that IMD’s programs are expensive, caused in part by the surge in value of the Swiss franc, after the country’s central bank scrapped a currency peg earlier this year.

Business schools’ executive education programs have experienced a revival since the aftermath of the financial crisis when companies were under pressure to cut costs.

A record 80 executive education suppliers were ranked in the FT’s ranking last year.

Although competition is increasing, data this year show some schools have seen growth. Harvard Business School increased revenue from $147 million in last year’s ranking to $165 million this year. MIT Sloan posted revenue of $21.1 million this year, up from $18.8 million in 2014’s ranking. Kenan-Flagler reported revenue of $21.7 million, up from $19.5 million last year.

Corporate customers were also satisfied — two-thirds said they would use the same program again at the same school.

Emerging markets have been a source of growth for business schools’ executive operations and this is reflected in the strong showing of Asian and Latin American business schools in the FT rankings.

INSEAD, which has a campus in Singapore, is placed this year at 11 in the custom ranking. China Europe International Business School, based in Shanghai, is at 24 in the open enrolment ranking, up five places from the year before.

Antai College of Economics and Management at Shanghai Jiao Tong University was the highest custom entrant at 15.

Melbourne Business School, Mt Eliza is the top-ranked Australian school in the custom ranking. AGSM of Sydney is at 55.

Kaist College of Business continued a run of form over the past decade in the FT’s open enrolment courses. The South Korean institution climbed four places to 20.

Fundação Dom Cabral of Brazil showed one of the biggest improvements, jumping 11 places to 12 in the open enrolment ranking. But FDC, also of Brazil, is regarded as the powerhouse of executive education in Latin America. FDC shot up 11 places to 12 in this year’s open enrolment ranking.

Elsewhere for Europe, Spain’s ESADE Business School is ranked at 12, ESSEC Business School of France at 25, and EMLYON Business School is at 50 in this year’s custom ranking.

Italy’s MIP Politecnico di Milano and French institution Grenoble École de Management are also in the custom ranking.

Faculty are rated as the best asset in both the open and customized programs. But follow-up after courses is the weakest area for both types of courses. Formal support in open programs was given the lowest rating — 7.6 out of 10.

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