Rethinking Executive MBA Programs

Students and companies have changing expectations for executive MBA programs. How should business schools respond?

Founded in 1958, IESE’s Barcelona campus offers a full-time MBA program, a Global Executive MBA program, a Ph.D. in Management and a large range of Executive Education Programs.

Image courtesy IESE.

Executive MBA programs are at a crossroads. Introduced nearly 70 years ago, they have become the most lucrative academic degree programs in graduate management education. The executive MBA has always been positioned differently than the traditional MBA. Because they are aimed at full-time working managers, executive MBA programs are formatted to accommodate people with very busy lives and feature amenities that go well beyond those of traditional full-time or part-time MBA programs. In addition to being organized to enable students to complete their degrees in shorter periods, these programs typically provide meals, overnight accommodations and opportunities for exposure to international research and travel.

The first executive MBA program was introduced by the University of Chicago in 1943. By the 1960s, the idea of executive education for corporate managers was firmly established. Large employers saw it as a way to develop the skills of managers while maintaining their involvement in the organization. Since then, the number of executive MBA programs has exploded both within the United States and internationally, with many programs offering joint degree programs and partnerships with business schools in Europe and Asia.

Executive MBA programs historically were designed for managers and professionals who were fully sponsored by their employers. In fact, company sponsorship was a requirement for admission, and it enabled institutions to have a premium tuition pricing strategy. But times have changed, forcing business schools to adapt to new market conditions and to develop new strategies going forward. Executive programs will need to recognize several trends.

Dwindling Tuition Reimbursement According to the 2010 Executive MBA Council Program Survey, just 30% of students enrolled in executive MBA programs received full tuition reimbursement from their employers, down from 35% in 2006 and 44% in 2001. Students increasingly pay for themselves. In 2010, 35% of the students paid for themselves, compared with 9% in 2001. Surprisingly, the shift has not had a major impact on overall enrollment, as the industry has experienced enrollment growth on the international level.

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4 Comments On: Rethinking Executive MBA Programs

  • ssadrul | July 22, 2011

    Its true that students are becoming more demanding in terms of teaching material and lecturing style. EMBA program are internationally becoming popular.

  • o.chaney | July 22, 2011

    In respect to questionable rigor, you fail to look at another, more prevailing perspective. Considering the Exec MBA involves academic study of between 20-22 months, holding a job, considerable amount of local/international travel and learning the same material in a shorter timeframe as the Fulltime MBA’s, it can be even more challenging. Perhaps your article could be bolstered by concrete evidence of curriculum differences in the different formats of MBA’s in respect to “MBA Lite”

  • Sudhakar Sen | August 3, 2011

    Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode has introduced cafeteria approach for eMBA programme, whereby student can go for full two years course or can only go for specialization, Viz, Strategy, Operations, Mkt, Finance, etc through online interactive learning method through Hughes platform, it has benefited many working people like me to complete management studies from one of the premier B school in India.

    Such offering has enabled the institute to generate revenue & overcome the capacity constrain in the campus and benefited the students (working people) to complete the course staying in their city of employment and were required to visit campus only for seven days / semester and rest through Interactive Distance Learning.

  • Rajah Kumar | November 21, 2011

    From some guest lectures I have given to students in EMBA what I invariably get as feedback is relevance and practical links to academic theory. In many cases students who are industry practitioners say they get bored with theory that can be read anywhere. If I pay so much money for an EMBA course I will demand a course which can give me that strategic and operational mindset to change and do things. Just learning about strategy with out knowing execution is waste of their precious time away from work and family.

    I would suggest the program should deliver an expected value proposition from students and if some students need some thing special such as how to be a global and local manager when posted as an expatriate overseas, this mentor-ship should start during the program either through the school or through some specialists who have gone through this experience.

    If it’s another course to get a jump or a grade this is not sustainable in today’s context when we see the public start to express their dissatisfaction on how corporations behave. need a serious thought!

    Dr Rajah Kumar

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