French business school HEC Paris has topped the FT’s twin annual executive education rankings for open-enrolment programmes and custom courses for corporate clients for the first time. The school’s double success comes as many of the world’s leading academic institutions report a surge in demand for non-degree courses as the Covid-19 pandemic eases.
This growth reflects short-term appetite from senior managers to meet in person and off site after months of working remotely. But it also reveals a long-term desire to learn fresh skills, such as digital transformation, and retain motivation at a time of high employment and staff turnover.
“Demand is picking up significantly,” says Anne-Valérie Corboz, associate dean of executive education at HEC Paris. “There have been a lot of requests after a halt for two years, especially from senior executive teams who have not had the opportunity to meet and reconnect around new approaches to working, organisational design and coping with Generation Z.”
The pattern is reflected in the FT’s parallel survey of chief learning officers who buy courses for their organisations around the world. This shows that a majority expect budgets to rise this year, with a focus on courses offering insights into leadership, diversity and inclusion, and digital skills.
Financial Times Executive Education rankings 2022
Competition from in-house “corporate universities” and consultancies is intensifying, as is online learning from organisations such as LinkedIn. A growing number of digital training start-ups funded by venture capital are also disrupting the sector, with new technology and flexibility in their offerings.
But “the most interesting question at the moment”, says Tom O’Toole, associate dean for executive education at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois, “is, how sustainable are these new entrants? There is enormous marketing competition right now and their returns are under pressure. We have the brand reputation of our faculty, the university, the relationships that go back years and a great deal of credibility.”
Corboz adds: “Business schools are in a unique position to combine research with real-world experience.”
Among 65 business schools ranked for general and advanced management open-enrolment programmes this year, the 19 top-tier elite providers include four with their primary campuses in France, three from Spain and two each from the UK, the US and Switzerland.
Of the 70 schools that feature in the ranking for custom programmes, tailored to organisations’ needs, HEC Paris is one of 18 in the top tier. That elite group includes five schools from France and four based in the US, along with institutions in Spain, the UK, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Brazil, Mexico and China.
The combined ranking of schools assessed for both open and custom programmes is also headed by HEC Paris, followed by four other European institutions: Spanish school Iese, IMD in Switzerland, Esade, also in Spain, and London Business School in the UK.
These executive education rankings are the first the FT has published since May 2020. The pandemic caused sharp disruption as business schools were forced to adapt to online learning at short notice and many companies cancelled training.
Among open programmes, HEC Paris was top with an overall satisfaction score of 9.72 out of 10, ranking best in the view of participants for teaching methods, quality of classmates, follow-up, and new skills and learning. IMD was judged top for aims achieved; Ivey Business School at Western University, which offers open programmes in Canada and Hong Kong, was rated best for preparation and faculty; and UCLA Anderson came first for course design.
In the custom ranking, HEC Paris, which offered programmes at its campuses near Paris and in Qatar, was top for preparation, teaching methods and materials, faculty, new skills learnt, follow-up, aims achieved and value for money. Duke Corporate Education was judged top for programme design; Iese for faculty diversity, international clients and growth; and SDA Bocconi for future use.
To be eligible for the rankings, business schools must be accredited by at least one of the two leading agencies, AACSB or EFMD. They must also have reported revenues of at least $1mn a year from their custom or open programmes in order to take part in the relevant ranking.
For custom programmes, schools must have a minimum of 15 corporate clients that commissioned courses finishing in 2021, of which at least five must return an FT feedback survey. For open programmes, schools submit up to two general management courses lasting a minimum of three days and up to two advanced courses lasting five days or more. At least 20 per cent of participants, and 20 people, must respond to the survey for a school to be considered.
This year, the ranking was adapted in response to feedback after the pandemic to remove the assessment of on-site facilities. For custom programmes, responses were also weighted based on the seniority of respondents, the size of their organisations and the number of business schools with which they work.