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The Rise of the Joint Executive MBA

Joint executive MBA programs climbing the rankings

The rules of business and international competitiveness are evolving, with markets and products increasingly battling for influence on a global scale. Universities and business schools form part of the fabric of this progressively interconnected economic order. And as each academic institution vies for a higher spot in national and international rankings, they pull together resources and strategies to excel beyond what's been benchmarked, and to push innovation to the next level.


MBA candidates looking at executive MBA rankings will notice that many of the business schools topping the charts are offering programs that are the product of collaboration between separate leading institutions. This article aims to look at why joint executive MBA (EMBA) programs stand so high in international rankings and at how they may benefit their students.

Building EMBA program partnerships to pave future successes

Business schools working together means, in very simple terms, that physical, economic and human resources are shared. Joint executive MBA programs will therefore (most) likely be offered across the partnered business schools' international campuses, providing greater geographical scope, not least because these campuses are often set up near strategic industry hubs.

Business schools pulling together to collaborate on a joint executive MBA program will often have the benefit of more substantial streams of external funding as well as improved opportunities for professors, students and graduates to cooperate on pioneering research and projects. This, in turn, can provide the vital input that keeps learning and teaching at the cutting edge. Fostering the exchange of ideas across global boundaries is also likely to help professors and their EMBA graduates to develop the skills and competencies they need to act across cultural divides, enabling them to more effectively devise solutions that can help transform global industry and markets.

The partnership between the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Kellogg School of Management (offering the Kellogg-HKUST Executive MBA) is an example of an international collaboration that has produced a top-ranked joint EMBA program. With EMBA electives in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the US, the program promotes itself from an 'East meets West' angle. It also utilizes the merged expertise of its high-profile academics and experts to produce, what will likely be a broader range of specialized business expertise.

Not every partnership has to merely be a two-school alliance however. The TRIUM Global Executive MBA program is offered between three top business schools in Europe and the US, namely; the Leonard N. Stern School of Business (NYU Stern), the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and HEC Paris School of Management (HEC Paris). Participants in this 17-month program have an average of 15 years of prior work experience, and an average age of 40. Its courses offer a three-way concentration on innovation, entrepreneurship and geopolitics and are taught across five different international locations.  

It appears that many, if not most joint executive MBA programs, are promoted on the basis of their international reach and outlook. TRIUM, for example, states a dedication to providing, “world-class professors, leading thinkers and access to resources and materials,” adding that, "these tools will provide you with the insights to ask the right questions in a world of uncertainty informed by changes in the geostrategic, digital, entrepreneurial, and global environment."

It most certainly is a world of uncertainty, with recent political shifts across the US, Europe, and swathes of the world starting to move away from greater political and economic cooperation, and towards greater fracture. Nevertheless, the growth of the joint executive MBA seems to be a positive counter-move. Of course, this is in no way intended to negate the value of the many top-ranked executive MBA programs offered by a single institution. Reputable business schools such as INSEAD, the Olin School of Business and Nanyang Business School offer prestigious single-institution EMBA programs which (more than) successfully hit nearly all performance measures. Perhaps these cases prove that the pooling of resources is not always called for to compete on the world stage, or at least, not just yet.

How do students benefit from a joint executive MBA program?

There is no straight answer to the question of how students benefit from a joint EMBA program. The pooling of resources and the bringing together of 'top minds' will inevitably give an MBA program (executive or otherwise) added leverage. A good starting point when aiming to choose the best EMBA program is to refer to rankings. EMBA program rankings represent a cross-comparison of business schools and their courses, but are still a relatively general 'summing up' of an institution and what it can offer. There needs to be some deeper delving, and decisions will of course be subject to individual preferences.

Joint executive MBA programs offer the advantage of being able to join the alumni network of two or more institutions, for example, but then, an executive MBA alumni network from, say, a school as prestigious as Oxford University's Saïd Business School, might be seen by many as representing equal value. Potential executive MBA students, whether interested in joint programs or not, are going to need to make strategic choices based on personal needs or preferences such as:


  • Whether the school(s) offers the desired specializations or concentrations
  • Whether the business school(s) has the industry connections sought
  • Ability to incorporate national/international placements into an existing career
  • Ability to meet the admissions criteria of the business school(s)
  • Opportunities for networking (through existing inter-school networks and alumni networks)
  • Cost of the program
  • The time it will likely take to make a return on investment
  • Expected salary post-graduation

The list above is not exhaustive. What is to be acknowledged, however, is that joint executive MBA programs have become more competitive than ever before, and is a trend that is perhaps worth following. Successful international cooperation, resulting in the pulling together of global expertise will inevitably push the boundaries of innovation. Ever-larger alumni networks and campuses that extend across continents present business opportunities which reach beyond borders, both physical and cultural. Some universities and business schools have the resources and size to expand on their own, and some expand their reach through joint offerings. The person to decide which business school and which executive MBA is the best fit, is ultimately you.

Karen Turtle
Written by Karen Turtle

A content writer with a background in higher education, Karen holds an MA in modern languages from the University of St Andrews. Her interests include languages and literature, current affairs and film. ​

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