The Rise of the Joint Executive MBA

Joint executive MBA programs climbing the rankings

The rules of business 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. 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, such as London Business School, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business and HEC Paris, are also 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 esteem 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 top-ranked program in this year’s QS EMBA Rankings: Joint Programs is a perfect example of the global nature of the joint EMBA. It is offered by three business schools- Columbia, Hong Kong University (HKU) and London Business School (LBS)- spanning three continents, giving students an American, European and Asian perspective. An impressive 41 percent of the program’s current students are women, while 24 different nationalities are represented across the intake- surely reflective of their international approach to EMBA teaching.

The Columbia/HKU/LBS program takes between 16 and 20 months to complete, depending on elective choices. It is split into 19 four- or five-day concentrated teaching periods, approximately once a month, spread over five terms. The core courses are primarily taught in Hong Kong, with blocks also taking place in London and New York (with the added opportunity to undertake electives in other countries).

Click here to see which joint EMBA programs made the top 10 in this year’s rankings.

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.

How do students benefit from a joint executive MBA program?

The pooling of resources and the bringing together of 'top minds' will inevitably give an MBA program (executive or otherwise) added leverage. Joint executive MBA programs offer the advantage of being able to join the alumni network of two or more institutions. 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 right industry connections for you
  • 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.


This article was originally published in January 2017 and was updated in April 2018 to include new rankings data.

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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