While MBAs are a launching pad for acquiring important skills early in business and management careers, executive MBAs are a refueling station for reflecting, retooling, refining and recalibrating career paths. Rarely have these processes been more necessary.
The pandemic has forced many executives to reorganize work practices, management approaches and the products and services they provide, while facing significant pressures on their personal lives in the face of Covid-19 and its consequences on health and education.
As a result, there has been a temporary decline in demand for EMBA programs from many business schools as managers have focused on disrupting their own organizations, employees, and families during the pandemic. Data from the FT’s 2021 ranking and report suggest that alumni salaries have held up, but there has been a slight reduction in the number of students enrolled in recent months. This comes against the backdrop of a shift in the type of EMBA desired by those who are still keen to study.
The coronavirus has made many people think more about their values and think about changes in leadership, inspiring new interest in leaving current roles and organizations and, in a significant minority of cases, creating their own start-ups.
Many who want to study say they want to learn more about real-world digital skills. This includes knowledge of technologies such as artificial intelligence and social media platforms such as TikTok, which are now increasingly important to businesses and consumers.
FT Executive MBA 2021 ranking – top 100
Find out which schools are in our ranking of EMBA degrees. Find out how the table was compiled.
But leaders also want to develop more general skills, such as techniques for managing a more flexible and dispersed workforce, embracing greater diversity, and leading staff with empathy during times of uncertainty.
Business schools themselves were forced to put into practice what they preached, adapting their content and teaching methods with the development of new online and hybrid learning models, formats, curriculum topics. and pricing.
As our ranking suggests, many of the best schools perform well in part because they are organized in multiple countries, whether with their own campuses or in partnership. This has long given students exposure to different cultures and business practices.
During the pandemic, this allowed schools to ‘cover themselves’, creating different options for participants to travel to places closer to their home or work, or to study regardless of local travel restrictions. But schools have also been frustrated by the difficulties in creating authentic experiences, such as internships or group learning trips, during lockdowns.
One question for the future is whether developments in geopolitics, including U.S.-China relations, will further fuel decoupling and reduce the scope of business school partnerships to cover different regions. Robert Salomon of New York University’s Stern School of Business says that despite the pandemic’s setbacks, globalization continues at a rapid pace, with data suggesting continued flows of goods, services, information and, apart from temporary blockages, people.
Even so, while students and faculty alike wish to resume their usual activities, including face-to-face teaching, the new normal looks different. More blended learning offers advantages in recruiting and retaining busy globetrotting participants and external speakers.
Online engagement has helped accelerate long-standing trends to increase the diversity of students, faculty and supervisory boards, especially with a growing share of women, although they remain in the minority at most institutions. To truly tackle diversity by engaging with under-represented groups in society will require more thinking about the structure and cost of courses, providing support and awareness to those who are otherwise excluded. The result will also be rewarding for more traditional EMBA admissions.
We describe in case studies EMBA students and alumni who have been drawn to business schools from a variety of backgrounds including politics, the public sector, and the military, as well as others who have progressed to roles in business. ‘less traditional business after graduation.
As noted in a recent discussion on the future of business, hosted by the British Academy, schools will have a central role in preparing the next generation. But they will need to work more with other institutions and faculties to spread ideas and make connections with people outside of business education.
Academy contributors have emphasized the importance of societal values and purpose beyond profit – aspects the FT continues to explore in its Responsible Business Education Awards, which are designed to showcase and encourage innovation in teaching, research, operations and graduate activities. Incorporating these qualitative aspects into rankings is not easy and we continue to welcome views on quantifiable, comparable, representative and achievable approaches to collect.
As with all other factors included in rankings, an aggregate ordinal list has its limitations. We encourage readers to consider the specific data points most relevant to them, from location to price, and to make decisions based on the broadest possible sources.
Andrew Jack is the FT’s Global Learning Editor