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World EMBA Rankings: Methodologies Compared

How do the EMBA rankings offered by the Economist, the FT and QS compare?

International rankings are becoming increasingly relevant in a world where academic globalization has taken a firm hold and in which universities and business schools draw on every resource available to them to compete for the world's best talent. Candidates searching for optimal executive MBA programs have, until now, been able to refer to two chief sources for international EMBA ranking information; the Economist and the Financial Times. However, QS has now developed a third set of global EMBA rankings. Each of the three rankings use their own distinct methodology, meaning that a business school taking a top position in one ranking is unlikely to hold the exact same rank in another.


For a view of how different results are achieved, below is an overview of the different methodologies used by the three major global EMBA ranking providers.

The QS Global EMBA Rankings

QS evaluates business schools and their executive MBA programs on the basis of 10 separate indicators. Thought leaders in business and management together with international employers provide the most weighted input, at 50%. Each academic or employer source rates which schools, in their view, offer the best in terms of research and teaching excellence (through the Global Academic Survey), as well as employability (using the Global Employer Survey). 

The remaining 50% of the ranking utilizes data on an EMBA class' composition, as well as information on salary uplift and promotion. For schools to be eligible for the EMBA ranking they must have recognized accreditation, at least one graduating EMBA class, and members of each participating business school's respective EMBA cohort must have significantly more work experience than the average seen for traditional MBAs.

Below is a rundown of the 10 criteria (numbered 1-10) and their five related categories (listed from ‘A’ to ‘E’):

A: Employer index (25%)

1) The employer index draws from a survey in which employers are asked which business schools they are most likely to hire from.

B: Academic index (25%)

2) The academic index draws from a survey in which academics rate international and domestic institutions for research excellence. Survey responses are evaluated together with an analysis of faculty citations per paper. 

C: Executive profile (20%)

3) Years’ of prior work experience (5%).

4) Management experience (5%).

5) C-suite experience (5%).

6) Previous salary (5%).

D: Career outcomes (20%)

7) Salary uplift (10%).

8) Promotion (10%).

E: Diversity of class (10%)

9) Number of nationalities (5%).

10) Female representation (5%).

To produce the final rankings, scores across each of the indicators are added to generate an overall score, with results split regionally to provide the QS Global 100 EMBA Rankings by Region. Executive MBA programs offered jointly between institutions are filtered out, and are given their own independent ranking - the QS Global Joint EMBA Rankings 2017.

Unique to the QS Global EMBA Rankings is the emphasis on which business schools and executive MBA programs are rated most highly by employers when it comes to hiring.

The Economist's ranking of executive MBA programs

The Economist’s ranking, similar to QS's, is based around two separate surveys. One survey is sent to business schools, and the other to current MBA students and alumni from each business school's last three graduating classes - here gauging the student perspective rather than the employers'.

24 criteria are measured overall, with eight indicators subsumed under the ‘career development’ category which you can see below. A closer look at the measures for salary and career progression show a number of data points comparable to those used by QS.

Source: The Economist

Source: The Economist

The second ‘personal development and educational experience’ category constitutes the second half of the Economist's EMBA ranking weighting. There is again some crossover in criteria when comparing these 16 indicators to QS's. Gender diversity, work experience and internationalism are three such examples. Neverthless, this category mostly measures student and alumni feedback, and the results provide a very valuable view of their firsthand perspective of a faculty and the quality of a program.  

The second ‘personal development and educational experience’ category constitutes the second half of the Economist's EMBA ranking weighting

Source: The Economist

The Financial Times EMBA ranking

The Financial Times (FT) also sends two surveys, and similar to the Economist, recruits input from participating business schools and from alumni. Participating schools must hold recognized accreditation, their classes must be cohort-based (meaning that students enroll and graduate together), and each cohort must consist of a minimum of 30 students. If less than 20% of a business school's alumni respond to the alumni survey, the school is removed from evaluation.

The FT uses 16 indicators in total, and these fall under three main categories, with weightings as shown below:

Participating schools (35%): Female faculty (3%), female students (3%), women on board (1%), international faculty (5%), international students (5%), international board (2%), international course experience (5%), languages (1%), faculty with doctorates (5%), PhD graduates (5%).

Alumni criteria (55%): Salary today (20%) and salary increase (20%), career progress (5%), work experience (5%) and aims achieved (5%).

FT research rank (10%): The number of articles produced by full-time faculty in 45 internationally recognized academic and practitioner journals (weighted according to faculty size).

Again, many of the indicators here overlap with those assessed by QS and the Economist. Different weightings are applied, however. Here, for instance 40% of the total score is dedicated to salary measures.


A brief summing up

Each of these three global EMBA rankings carries its own distinctive value. If you are thinking of doing an executive MBA, crosschecking where a program features in each ranking can help when you’re in the process of narrowing down the list of business schools you're considering attending. The more you narrow your options, the more interested you're likely to be in drawing out the details. The QS Global EMBA Rankings will, for example, give you that very valuable employer index. You might also want to take into account that a cohort’s prior management and c-suite experience is accounted for in its ‘Executive Profile’ category. In the Economist's rankings, you get a larger focus on the student and alumni perspective, and if salary is a key interest, the FT's 40% weighting will be an important consideration too. 

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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