Short courses for executives have once again become the money-spinner of many business schools after a few years of lull, and institutions round the world seem to be making hay.
Top b-schools that have evolved executive leadership programs for mid-career managers are seeing more takers for these courses than ever before. These b-schools have found applicants not only in the United States and Western Europe but also in Asia, including India and China.
The main reason for this renewed interest in modern methods of improving leadership quality is not far to seek: companies have realized that their old, tried-and-tested programs for creating leaders out of managers are not working.
The managers who were put through these programs are not able to bring the rabbit out of the hat when they return to their work sites. Their contribution to improving their companies’ bottom lines have remained the same as before.
Naturally, companies have reached out to top b-schools for an answer. Not just companies, junior- and senior-level managers have also done so in their individual capacities.
The firms were keen to know how world-class executive leadership programs such as the executive MBA (EMBA) would benefit their managers, and the managers were curious for their own sake.
In tune with the needs of the corporate world, b-schools have introduced EMBA courses tailor-made for the modern business scenario. These executive programs have brought them much-needed revenue.
For example, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania reportedly makes about $35 million annually from its EMBA programs in San Francisco and Philadelphia.
However, three of the top b-schools in the world—the Harvard Business School, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Tuck School of Business at Darmouth College—have passed up the EMBA pie; they won’t have their slice.
Mouth-watering estimates of the huge business opportunity that they might be losing because of their stand against introducing EMBA courses hardly tempt them.
The school deans may only just smile if you told them that EMBA aspirants are amazed that these three big schools are not on the list.
Education experts and journalists have found, or guessed, why these institutions don’t have EMBA programs: the schools believe that their brand image as the top schools for two-year full-time MBA programs will be affected by the introduction of shorter, every-other-weekend programs for executives.
In response to the EMBA question some time ago, former Dean of Stanford GSB Garth Saloner admitted in an interview with Poets & Quants that the idea of launching an EMBA program had come up periodically.
However, “our alumni have consistently told us that they believe the Stanford MBA program, with its relatively small student-body size and personal attention, is a differentiating feature of the Stanford experience.”
Personal interaction is the trademark of the Harvard Business School, too, and it is best experienced in a full-time MBA program, HBS Director of Media and Public Relations Jim Aisner told P&Q. “We don’t think the benefits of this kind of experience can be accomplished in a program that would bring students here for only a few days at a time each,” he said.
Given the risk of diversion of focus from the MBA program that an executive MBA poses, the loss of business opportunity from not delivering an EMBA is no big deal for Tuck.
Analyzing the issue as the Dean, Paul Danos, who served in the position from 1995 to 2015, agreed that EMBA was lucrative for b-schools. “Tuck considered such programs for years . . . We did not need it from a financial point of view, and our growth strategy has come from increasing the full-time [MBA] program a bit.”
However, education experts still wonder why HBS, Stanford GBS, and Tuck have not introduced EMBA programs. Some of them find the brand-dilution argument difficult to accept, and point out that many top b-schools are running EMBA courses with no loss of focus on their full-time MBA programs.
Moreover, MBA and EMBA programs have different clientele, experts say. EMBA participants’ expectations and requirements differ in many ways from those of MBA applicants as most of the EMBA students are already in top leadership positions in their companies, experts point out.
Evolving an advanced course for them would be a challenge even for top b-schools. Why have the three institutions not taken it up?
Non-Executive MBA options at Harvard and Stanford
Although HBS, Stanford, and Tuck do not have designated EMBA programs, all three schools have a wide array of courses for executives.
HBS has comprehensive leadership programs that cover many topics, focused programs, and customized programs. It even organizes executive programs outside its campus in many countries including India (Mumbai).
Among courses at Stanford is the one-year, full-time Master of Science for Executives (MSx) degree program.
Tuck’s programs include custom programs, open programs, and minority programs.
But some alumni, while fondly recalling their campus experience both inside and outside classrooms, wish that the schools would upgrade a few programs from certificate to degree or diploma courses, so that they would have more traction in the real world.
Erik Moon, in his early 40s and with over 20 years’ work experience in the telecom industry, attended the MSx program at Stanford. In an interview to Accepted.com, he spoke about the optimism that Stanford spread among its students—they all “expect to be doing great things someday. The GSB motto—‘Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world’—is not an exaggeration.”
Moon was asked whether there was anything at all that he would like to see different at Stanford. “If I could change one thing . . . I think the branding [the school not wanting to call the program an EMBA because it is a four-quarter full-time degree course] makes it very confusing.
When mid-career applicants ask if Stanford GSB has an EMBA, the first answer is ‘No,’ then these applicants simply look elsewhere.
But if they ask the right question—‘Does Stanford GSB have a midcareer graduate business degree program?’—they would find the best executive-level business degree at the best b-school in the world.”
Calling it Harvard Executive MBA when it’s not
Certainly, much confusion prevails among b-school applicants and the media about the nature of the EMBA program and the connotations of the terms “MBA” and “EMBA.”
It’s not just Indian MBA applicants who refer to the regular 2-year programs as Harvard Executive MBA and Standford EMBA (because they need experience, unlike the regular 2-year MBA in India).
Even authorities on education, including US News and World Report, some IIMs, a respected daily and a popular student website, have somehow misinterpreted the term “EMBA.”
The Association of MBAs, the accreditation body for MBA institutions worldwide, has stipulated that MBA courses are for applicants with postgraduate work experience of at least three years.
Therefore, for example, the one-year full-time MBA program at the Indian Institutes of Management is the only course at the IIMs that meets this criterion.
The EMBA is not a full-time course and is often conducted over weekends or in the evenings. It is meant for senior management professionals at larger, global companies with work experience of ten years or more.
The intake capacity is quite limited, and so is the opportunity for networking with other students attending the course (for more about EMBA, see the Business Standard and MBA Crystal Ball links below).
Read these related posts:
– How to get into Harvard Business School
– Stanford MBA (full scholarship) vs Harvard Business School
– HBS Harvard 2+2 Review: Is it right for you?
– Why Stanford is cautioning MBA students against entrepreneurship
– MS in US with average GRE score: MIT (scholarship) vs Stanford University
– Is Executive MBA (EMBA) worth it or not?