Wharton takes top exec MBA honors

(Poets&Quants) — For the third year in a row, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School tops the Poets&Quants’ ranking of the world’s best executive MBA programs. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management came in second and third, respectively, in the 2013 composite ranking, just as they had in the previous two years.

Also making the top 10 are No. 4 Columbia Business School, No. 5 New York University’s Stern School, No. 6 UCLA’s Anderson School, No. 7 the University of Michigan’s Ross School, No. 8 Cornell University, No. 9 the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, and No. 10 the University of Southern California’s Marshall School.

The new ranking by Poets&Quants measures the overall reputation of these programs by combining the four latest ratings on EMBA programs from BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, and U.S. News & World Report. By blending these rankings into a composite list, the methodology tends to diminish anomalies that often show up in any one rating system. The new ranking also takes into account a blizzard of metrics to measure the quality of the programs, from surveys of student satisfaction to rises in income attributed to the degree. Each of the four major rankings are equally weighted in this 2013 survey.

Wharton topped our list for the third consecutive year due to the caliber of students in its two programs in Philadelphia and San Francisco. Both cohorts boast median GMAT scores of 700 out of a total score of 800 at a time when many EMBA programs no longer require the exam.

Even beyond the impressive GMATs, Wharton’s executive students have stats that easily make them among the best participants in any EMBA program in the world. The home campus cohort in Philadelphia, 118 students in the class of 2014, already earns an average $166,000 in salary and bonus, has an average 10 years of work experience, and 39% came to the program with advanced degrees. And 43% of the class is employed by companies paying 50% or more of the program’s cost.

The San Francisco cohort of 102 students in the class of 2014 have an even higher average salary and bonus: $170,000. They average 11 years of work experience and 36% already hold advanced degrees. Only 27% of the class work for companies that are paying 50% or more of the cost of the program.

Current students have plenty of praise for the Wharton experience and the value of its brand. As Lindsay Stewart, an EMBA student in Wharton’s San Francisco program puts it, ““I’ve taken only six hours of marketing, but I know enough to understand that brand matters. Plain and simple.” It’s why, she says, she only applied to Wharton.

That prestige brand doesn’t come cheap. Wharton’s Executive MBA students pay the highest tuition of any EMBA program in the world. The 2012 tuition for the two-year program in San Francisco is $175,678, while the tuition for the Philadelphia program is $171,360. Those costs do not include airfare for a required international trip. The No. 2 EMBA program at the University of Chicago costs $154,000 and includes hotel and meals for two residential weeks in Chicago, a residential week in London, and a residential week in Singapore.

Despite the costs of such programs, especially at the preeminent business schools, deans predict that executive MBAs will grow in popularity, if only because students in them don’t incur the opportunity costs involved in quitting a job to attend graduate school full-time. “That is why I am a big fan of EMBA programs, because the biggest part of the cost of a full-time program isn’t the tuition,” says Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard. “It’s the foregone income. EMBA solves that. When you are in an EMBA program, you can take what you learned on Saturday and bring it to work on Monday.”

Schools that moved upward in the new 2013 ranking tended to get better ratings in the past year from U.S. News and World Report or The Financial Times. BusinessWeek last ranked EMBA programs in 2011, so its list had the same impact on the Poets&Ranks ranking as it did last year. The same was true of The Wall Street Journal, which last ranked such programs in 2010.

Each ranking organization uses a different methodology to measure a school’s executive MBA program. BusinessWeek, for example, excludes partnership EMBA programs among multiple schools. The Financial Times does not rank programs under five years of age, and BusinessWeek also uses the “age of a program” as a ranking hurdle. Three of the four listed sources rank these programs globally in a single list. U.S. News only ranks U.S. programs.

These differences obviously will affect a composite ranking like Poets&Quants’. As a result, some very good programs are excluded from our list or, in the case of some partnership programs, they are ranked lower than they might otherwise have been. Two obvious examples: the Trium EMBA program, a joint venture between NYU’s Stern School, the London School of Economics, and HEC Paris; and MIT Sloan’s relatively new EMBA program. The Financial Times ranks the Trium program third best in the world, but it is unranked by BusinessWeek, U.S. News, and The Wall Street Journal, whose ranking predates the program. MIT is ranked only by U.S. News, at 17th best in the U.S., largely because MIT graduated its first EMBA class in 2012.

Only schools whose EMBA programs are recognized by at least two of the four most influential rankings are included on the Poets&Quants’ ranking. Imposing this rule eliminates potential anomalies that often appear in a single ranking system. Some 52 programs met this requirement, while another 64 schools were only ranked by one organization and therefore failed to make our list. Because The Financial Times ranks 100 EMBA programs and BusinessWeek ranks 66 programs, those rankings tend to have more influence than U.S. News or The Wall Street Journal, which both rank only 25 programs each.

The highest ranked non-U.S. school on the Poets&Quants’ list is IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, which held on to its No. 14 spot from last year. INSEAD in France and Singapore and IESE Business School in Barcelona and Madrid came next with ranks of 22 and 23, respectively.

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly ranked Washington University’s Olin program higher due to The Financial Times’ ranking of its EMBA offering Fudan University in China.

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