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March of the executives

  • Story Highlights
  • New survey shows Executive MBAs -- EMBAs -- are booming
  • However, students are increasingly paying for their own programs
  • Chinese schools are ramping up the prices of their popular EMBAs
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By Peter Walker for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- It is the clearest sign yet of how business schools are riding out the rough currents in the global economy -- Executive MBA courses are booming.

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Suits in school: EMBAs are aimed at experienced managers.

These are aimed at the more experienced, senior manager than the traditional MBA program, and EMBA students often have more onerous professional and familial responsibilities to put on hold while they take their course, which can last up to two years.

Thus, EMBAs -- which often cost several tens of thousands of dollars -- can sometimes seem like a less good idea when profits and stock markets are proving turbulent, especially as it can be the cash-strapped companies which pick up the bill for the fees.

However, according to research from the Executive MBA Council, a US-based professional organization for EMBA providers, the courses have remained popular during 2007.

The group produces two annual research surveys: The Membership Program Survey, which asks the opinions of course leaders, and a separate Student Exit Benchmarking Survey which canvasses new EMBA graduates.

According to the first study, the average number of applicants per program in 2007 was up 25 percent from the last study in 2005, with acceptance rates for applicants down slightly to 63 percent from 67 percent.

With more and more people applying for EMBAs, many member programs are considering expansion by increasing capacity or opening programs in new locations.

Almost six out of 10 programs are specifically targeting women, with only just over a quarter -- 27 percent -- of EMBA graduates female in 2007.

Fees have also risen, with the average total program cost among programs surveyed hitting almost $58,000, as against just over $54,000 in 2005.

However, there is one slight sign of a tightening of corporate belts -- more and more students are paying their own way on EMBAs. Those paying entirely for their courses increased from 25 percent in 2003 to 33 percent in 2007. Just 34 percent of students receive full reimbursement, down from 40 percent in 2003.

Nonetheless, the survey of students -- who had an average age of just over 36, with nearly 13 years of experience -- showed that the financial pain is increasingly worth it.

Students' salaries rose from about $107,000 on average when they EMBA programs to $130,000 when they completed it, while more than four our of ten received a promotion.

Fact Box

FT MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Columbia, U.S.
3. Harvard, U.S.
4. Stanford GSB, U.S.
5. London Business School, UK
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Insead, France/Singapore
8. Stern, NYU, U.S.
9. Tuck, Dartmouth, U.S.
10. Yale, U.S.
Source: Financial Times 2007

And if EMBAs are healthy in the U.S., still battling the economic effects of the subprime credit crunch, this is even more the case in booming China.

Two of the country's most prestigious business schools have just hiked their EMBA fees, reflecting a market inflated by rising stocks and increased salaries.

The well-known China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in the eastern financial center of Shanghai has increased the cost of its two-year EMBA program from $41,000 to $45,000, while Fudan University Management School in the same city later announced a 13.4 percent increase for its equivalent.

Those opting for a joint EMBA involving Fudan and the University of Washington will now have to come up with $58,000, up 19 percent.

China's official Xinhua news agency quoted the dean of CEIBS, Zhang Weijiong, as saying the price rise was necessary to take account of both high consumer costs and increased salaries for professors.

"The current round of economic boom, particularly in the private sector, thirstily demands high-end management professionals who are not only trained in western ways but also keen on the Chinese market," Zhang said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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