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FT executive education rankings 2020: the top business schools


IMD in Switzerland and Iese in Spain have topped the FT’s twin rankings of executive education providers, as business schools seek to restructure while bracing for a sharp decline in demand in the wake of coronavirus.

IMD is top of the 2020 open-enrolment programme ranking and Iese heads the ranking of customised programmes.

The lockdown is not only affecting revenues. It is also forcing business schools to rethink what courses they offer, the way they teach leadership skills, and how to balance short-term online training during lockdowns with longstanding demand for in-person tuition on campus or at clients’ premises.

Global revenues from the business school-based executive education market were close to $2bn in 2019 and were on an upward curve before Covid-19 hit. But more than half the leading providers predict sharp falls in executive education revenue this year, according to an analysis by Unicon, a consortium of 113 schools.

In a recent poll of its members, 51 per cent said coronavirus was already having a significant impact on revenues and only 4 per cent said it had no impact.

Moscow School of Management Skolkovo features in the FT Executive Education rankings of 2020

The executive education market was evolving even before Covid-19, according to the FT’s analysis of pre-pandemic data. It showed better ranked schools were increasing the amount of online teaching to serve learners with limited time to spare for study. The lockdown has since forced more business schools to switch to online teaching as clients cancel short courses.

Gael Fouillard, executive education director at Grenoble Ecole de Management, said revenue from his courses was set to fall 25 per cent. “We are still hoping to maintain the activity of our open programmes close to that if 2019. In terms of custom programmes, the lockdown has simply stopped the activity for at least two or three months and maybe more.”

UC Berkeley Executive Education was projected to bring in $35m this year, teaching 5,500 individuals. The lockdown of the campus, a short distance from San Francisco city centre, means the school will have to “re-evaluate those forecasts”, said Mike Rielly, chief executive. “It has been a fantastic four years [since 2016], when we have more than doubled the impact in terms of revenue and student numbers. We want that to continue.”

This brings its own challenges, according to Mike Malefakis, associate vice-dean of Wharton Executive Education, one of the largest providers of in-person and online executive education worldwide. He said he had adapted in part by developing new leadership programmes explicitly aimed at teaching how to manage during a pandemic.

“That takes a considerable amount of co-ordination and work, but we are lucky to have extensive experience delivering online programmes . . . for the past five years,” he said.


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