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Methodology: QS Global EMBA Rankings 2017

The methodology behind the QS Global EMBA Rankings 2017.

The inaugural QS Global EMBA Rankings combine input from thought leaders in business and management alongside the perceptions of global employers that recruit from the world’s best EMBA programs, and are further enhanced by program-specific indicators. The results bring together over 200 schools and programs each of which were surveyed between November 2016 and January 2017. A total of 120 programs were ranked with all opting to take part, 20 of which are joint EMBA programs.


In order for a school to be eligible, two preconditions must be met:

  • Schools must have at least one graduating class
  • Schools must have accreditation from one of the following awarding bodies: AACSB, AMBA, EQUIS or EPAS

While these preconditions are essential, it can nonetheless be difficult to define exactly what should be classified as an ‘executive MBA’. For example, the Thunderbird School of Global Management’s ‘Executive Master of Global Management’ is undoubtedly an executive MBA, but is not named as such. Similarly, the ‘Post Graduate Programme in Management for Senior Executives’ that is offered by the Indian School of Business is still effectively an EMBA. One guarantee of a program being the equivalent of an EMBA in spite of any issues with the program’s name or description is its registration with the Executive MBA Council.

The EMBA terrain is known to be a flexible and innovative space within higher education and, therefore, some level of ambiguity is inevitable. As such, schools who submit data for these rankings were also able to choose whether their programs were classed as executive MBAs, although these preferences were, of course, subject to our own verification. The principle behind the ‘sense test’ for this form of classification was also derived from the following precondition:

  • The program should recruit students with considerably larger amounts of work experience than the average seen among traditional MBA programs

EMBAs that meet the preconditions can still feature technical aspects that make their classification potentially problematic. For example, one school may offer EMBA classes across multiple campuses. In cases such as these, the classes are considered as being one entry for the purposes of the ranking. This includes schools such as Wharton and Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Data is collected from two QS surveys; the QS Global Employer Survey and the QS Academic Survey. The responses from these surveys span a total of five years, although responses from more recent years receive greater weighting. In addition to these surveys, schools were asked to submit data relating to their EMBA program covering a variety of topics.

Each of the two QS surveys accounts for 25% of the overall ranking score. A program’s ‘Executive Profile’, which includes participants’ average years’ work experience, managerial experience, c-suite and average pre-EMBA salary are weighted at 20%. ‘Career Outcomes’ are also weighted at 20% and consists of salary uplift within a year of graduation, as well as the proportion of students who were promoted within a year of graduation. The remaining 10% of an overall score is determined by a program’s ‘Diversity of Class’, which encompasses the representation levels of women and number of nationalities among a program’s students.

Employer index (25%)

Each employer is asked to list, unprompted, the international schools from which they have recently attempted to recruit MBAs. Each time a school is selected by an employer, it receives one vote. The total number of votes for each school that are made in this way is referred to as the ‘total unprompted votes’.

From a list of 500 business schools that have been categorized by region, employers are then asked to identify the schools which they consider attractive for the purpose of hiring MBA graduates. In order to be included on the list, a school must have been recommended by an employer in the previous year of research. Each time a school is selected, it is given one vote, and the total for each school is referred to as the ‘total prompted votes’.

The total prompted and total unprompted votes are added together to create the ‘total employer votes’. In order to ensure balanced results that are not subject to influence from the economic cycle, an average of the total employer votes is taken from the current year’s research and the four previous surveys.

Employers must have over 50 employees for their responses to qualify. Over the course of this year’s survey, QS received 1,995 new responses from employers who actively hire MBA graduates. Combining these with the equivalent survey responses from the four previous years gives us a total of 12,125 MBA employer responses.

In the case of joint programs, where the scores from a number of schools are considered, the highest-performing school receives an inflationary adjustment to account for the strengths this institution brings to the joint program partnership. 

Overall, the best-performing school(s) is given an index score of 25 and the average total employer votes for the remaining schools are indexed against the best performing school(s). This score is known as the school’s ‘index of employer votes’.

Academic index (25%)

Respondents are first asked to identify their areas of expertise – i.e. the countries, regions, and up to five faculty areas with which they are most familiar. For each of the five faculty areas, they are then asked to list up to 10 domestic and 30 international institutions that they consider excellent for research in that area. They are not permitted to choose their own institutions and only responses related to the fields of business and management are used.

QS combines academic survey responses received over the last five years and, where any participant has responded more than once in the five-year period, their previous responses are discarded in favor of the most recent response alone. Responses from 2011 and 2012 are then given a weight of 25% and 50%, respectively, while the remaining years each carry a full 100% weighting.

For the purposes of these rankings, QS was able to draw from the responses of 8,376 academics with expertise in the fields of business and management taken between the years of 2011 and 2015. Academic survey responses are coupled with an analysis of faculty citations per paper (as opposed to citations per faculty member) and the h-index (Hirsch index) measurement of publication productivity and impact. The citations data used comes from Scopus, and also spans a five-year period. A weighting is applied to the citations indicator in order to best reflect prevalent publication and citation patterns. In addition, schools publishing fewer than 30 papers are penalized by 25% here to avoid any disparities in the results.

For joint programs, where the scores from a number of schools are considered, the highest-performing school receives an inflationary adjustment to account for the strengths this institution brings to the joint program partnership.

Overall, and as is the case with QS’s employer survey, the best-performing school(s) in the academic survey is given an index score of 25 and the remaining schools are indexed against the best performing school(s).

Years of work experience (5%)

The class average for the number of years of pre-EMBA work experience held by participants is taken from data supplied by business schools, or from publicly available sources where this presented a plausible alternative. The highest average amount of work experience, which indicates the relative maturity and experience of an EMBA class, is given an index score of 5; the remaining schools are indexed against the best-performing school(s). Where data is not available, the average within the region is considered.

Management experience (5%)

The class average for years of pre-EMBA management experience is taken from data supplied by business schools, or from publicly available sources where this presented a plausible alternative. In order to account for any inaccuracies in data reported to us, the maximum class average for years of pre-EMBA management experience is set to 80% of the class average for years of pre-EMBA work experience as a whole (as seen in the ‘Years of work experience’ indicator’). The highest average, indicating the executive experience of a class, is given an index score of 5; the remaining schools are then indexed against the best-performing school(s).

C-suite experience (5%)

The proportion of an EMBA class with c-suite experience is taken from data supplied by business schools, or from publicly available sources where this presented a plausible alternative. The highest proportion, which indicates the relative ability of a school to attract senior leaders, is given an index score of 5; the remaining schools are indexed against the best-performing school(s).

Previous salary (5%)

The average salary of students prior to their enrolling in a school’s EMBA program derives from data supplied by business schools, or from publicly available sources where this presented a plausible alternative. All salaries were then converted to US$, using exchange rates applicable at January 1 2017.  The highest salary, which indicates whether a school has sufficient prestige to attract successful students, is given an index score of 5; the remaining schools are indexed against the best-performing school(s).

Number of nationalities (5%)

The number of different nationalities among a business school’s executive MBA students is taken from data supplied by business schools, or from publicly available sources where this presented a plausible alternative. A maximum adjustment of 15 nationalities is applied to rebalance the effect of larger EMBA programs which can therefore typically attract more nationalities. The school(s) with the highest number of nationalities, which indicates their programs’ ability to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds, is given an index score of 5; the remaining schools are indexed against the best-performing schools(s). Where full data is not available, the proportion of international students in an EMBA class is used as an indication of a program’s international diversity and global outlook.

Female representation (5%)

The proportion of female students enrolled in an EMBA program is taken from data supplied by business schools, or from publicly available sources where this presented a plausible alternative. Here, a 50% proportion (or greater) of female students in an EMBA class results in a maximum score. Those schools achieving a maximum score for their executive MBA program, indicating diversity and openness of admissions, are given an index score of 5 and the remaining schools are then indexed against the best-performing schools.

Salary uplift (10%)

The average growth of student salaries 12 months after completion of an executive MBA program is taken from data supplied by business schools, or from publicly available sources where this presented a plausible alternative. The proportional increase is calculated using data from the ‘Previous salary’ indicator. The highest proportion of salary increase, which indicates a good ROI (return on investment) for the EMBA program in question, is given an index score of 10; the remaining programs are indexed against the best-performing school(s).

Promoted (10%)

The proportion of EMBA students receiving a promotion within 12 months of completing their executive MBA program was collected from data supplied by business schools, or from publicly available sources where this presented a plausible alternative. The highest proportion, which indicates the ability of a program to have a tangible impact on the professional lives of its students, is given an index score of 10; the remaining schools are indexed against the best-performing school(s).


All indicator scores are then added together to produce an overall score, which is ranked and then split into the following categories, by region or type of program:

Written by Staff W.
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