Top of the Top: Which Are the Top 3 Executive MBA Rankings?

Rankings can be useful, but they should not be decisive when picking a school or a programme.

Top of the Top: Which Are the Top 3 Executive MBA Rankings?

Different factors come into play when you are selecting the right business school for a year or two of transformative executive learning. Executive MBA rankings are a valuable resource for initial orientation, but only when you evaluate how the methodology of each ranking works out for you.

Premier EMBA provides an overview of the three most popular Executive MBA lists available.

Get one step ahead: Gain insight and network with insiders from top-ranked EMBA programmes worldwide.

The Financial Times Executive MBA ranking

Type: annual

Reach: worldwide

Released: October-November

FT 2020 EMBA ranking highlights

In order to be included in the Financial Times Executive MBA ranking, programmes must be accredited by either AACSB or EQUIS. The EMBA must be cohort-based, with students enrolling and graduating together and with at least 30 graduates every year.

The newspaper compiles the ranking by means of two online surveys. One is sent out to the participating schools and the other to alumni who graduated from programmes three years ago.

Alumni are asked about their current salaries, salary increases, career progress, work experience and aims achieved. Together, these responses account for 55% of the weighting in the ranking. The financial aspect carries significant weight: the first two criteria about alumni salaries each account for 20%.

Business school responses shape 10 criteria, including faculty and student gender diversity, international diversity and corporate social responsibility. Business schools account for 35% of the weighting in the final ranking.

The Economist Executive MBA Ranking

Type: biennial

Reach: worldwide

Released: June

Much like the Financial Times, the Economist collects data by means of two surveys. One survey is filled out by business schools and includes more quantitative measures, such as details of students and faculty, the number of overseas assignments required and statistics on alumni. The second survey is sent out to current students and alumni from schools’ last three graduating classes. Around 8,500 of these questionnaires were completed for the 2020 ranking.

Programmes are ranked according to two broad categories: personal development/educational experience and career development. Both categories carry equal weight. Additionally, the Economist weights business school data from its previous ranking released two years ago at 30%, with 70% given to the latest data.

U.S. News & World Report Executive MBA ranking

Type: annual

Reach: US

Released: March

The ranking provided by the U.S. News & World Report only ranks US schools. The methodology U.S. News applies to its EMBA rankings differs significantly from the way both the Financial Times and the Economist compile their lists.

U.S. News first sends surveys to all full-time US MBA programmes accredited by AACSB. As part of this questionnaire, business school deans and directors also give ratings to programmes in different areas, including Executive MBA programmes. The EMBA ranking of U.S. News does not involve alumni responses.

How to assess reputation and quality

Rankings can be useful, but they should not be decisive when picking a school or a programme. Rankings alone cannot determine which programme is the best for you because they all use different methodologies. This is why everyone aspiring to an EMBA and, for that matter, all applicants, should always try to understand how a ranking is compiled in order to find out whether what it measures is important for them. 

Results of rankings can be misleading, so they should be treated with caution. Accreditations are a much better way to assess the quality of a business school. Accreditations serve as guarantees that a programme adheres to high academic standards. The top three international MBA accreditation bodies are AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS. Some programmes are accredited by more than one of these prestigious organisations, the “Triple Crown” accreditation being the most coveted. For the best outcome, pick an accredited programme that also corresponds to your business needs and ambitions.