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Why there’s no Harvard Executive MBA or Stanford EMBA program

Why no Executive MBA at Harvard & Stanford

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.

‘No, thanks’

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, 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?

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10 | Image Source: HBS Class (

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7 thoughts on “Why there’s no Harvard Executive MBA or Stanford EMBA program”

  1. Hi All

    I have done my btech in mechanical engineering from NIT Rourkela and served 4years in an automobile MNC then i have shifted to a Construction company and worked for more than 3 years as General Manager.But I am looking for a change and want to start over again.Whether an executive program will help me and if then which course will be suitable?

  2. hi Sameer, I am pretty much going thru the mid-life career crisis or so i think. I have been a retail professional since the past 16 years and now just after hitting 40, things seem to have taken a turn for the worse. The thing is that I have been an apparel retail specialist in back end category & buying roles for 8-10 years and then the entrepreneur bug hit me and thus went on to do project implementation consulting setting up retail projects as domain expert to learn while doing so but since i always seemed to have this thing for doing something of my own, since past 4 years or so i am working with a small start up in healthcare retail which though has been built from scratch and made a profitable venture has failed to scale up and thus made me redundant in last 1 year or so leaving me with no avenue within the company itself. The promoter-investor has turned risk averse to invest more or to take up out side funding and thus putting paid to the dream of building a sustainable big company for life.
    Now with no stagnation in both sales and profits, the promoter seems to be looking at reasons to get rid of me itself. Since a year now , I was myself looking to start up something in either apparel or travel space but since nothing has worked out finally looking to get back into job hunt. Also since my terms of arrangement with the promoter has turned into a consulting for next few months unless he invests into his pet retail projects, i will mostly be left jobless.
    Thus the past few weeks, I am trying to figure out what next and how to. Thinking of doing an executive MBA but its everyone keeps saying that beyond 10 years of exp. it really not worth it. I am having 16 years but now having doubts that my immediate past 4.5 years in a small start up that too in health and pharma retail hasnt made me redundant for a corporate set up especially in apparel n lifestyle retail sector. Thus ended up buying your book beyond the MBA hype. Though the thing that gets me most excited is start up space, esp. e-commerce I might not have the wherewithal for taking yet another leap of faith.Due to what else those EMI’s & bills to be taken care of and with me being the only earning member, it really is a no brainer. Turns out even a full time eMBA is a long shot what with spending half my savings as well as letting go of year’s earning. Now though mainly looking to get back into corporate role but redundancy worries over my profile still rankle somewhere back in my mind. Would like to know if career counselling is the way to go for me or is it only for 35 year old or less as you have mentioned somewhere.

  3. Hi Sameer!
    I started my career in a very confused way and still at this stage its confusing of what I am doing and what will happen after few more years.
    So started searching helpful sites and got yours site, thought it might clear something out of me.
    I did my b-tech in electronics and instrumentation from SRM Chennai,but not placed anywhere got reference in a construction company as a GET so that till time I would find a better job,but couldn’t find one result still in the same company as a senior purchase executive.
    As if now at this stage 29years of age am strucked for the future scope.
    Please help me out with your suggestion.

  4. @Debashish: An EMBA is good to upgrade your educational and theoretical skills in management and fill in the gaps that your regular job doesn’t help address. But for a career change, a full-time MBA works much better than Executive MBA courses.

    @Abhinav: Business schools don’t put an upper limit on age limits. It’s up to the applicant to decide whether the program will help their career and convince the Admissions Committee.

    @Amit: A full-time 2-year MBA would’ve been a good option till a few years back. Since you are 29 years old now, you could consider European MBA options where the average age in the MBA class is higher. But be aware that your pre-MBA experience will play a role in the placements too.

    @Gaurav: Our career counseling service (Career MAP) won’t be a good fit for you at this stage. I’m sure in your 16 years of experience, you’ve built good skills in procurement and other roles that would be value by other employers. It’ll be a good idea to start reaching out to competitors and bigger players to see if they have opportunities that match your skill sets.

  5. I am B.COM graduated from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) can i eligible to study in Harvard Business School Or Columbia Business School

  6. I think there is no EMBA at Harvard and Stanford because they are clearly not good at business. They could rake in 50 million a year each from an EMBA, yet they have missed this opportunity for the past 30 years. So both of them missed out on 1.5 billion dollars in revenue. To me, that means that they are lousy at business.


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