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The Financial Times Rankings and the Global Executive MBA Program
October 16, 2012
The Financial Times has given us advance notice that the ranking for our Global Executive MBA program has dropped to No. 16 from its 2011 rank of No. 6 in the publication's Global MBA Ranking. This news, while completely disappointing, has the unusual characteristic of being simultaneously surprising and unsurprising. The surprise is the magnitude of the drop; that the competition is intensifying is not news.
The ranking represents performance on three dimensions: career progress of the 2009 graduating class (55%); school diversity (25%); and idea generation (20%). On a year-to-year basis we remained strong, or slightly improved, in the latter two categories. We also improved in two of the five categories to assess career progress. However, on a relative basis we declined in three of the four categories that comprise 50% of the overall ranking—current salary level, percentage salary increase post-graduation, and self-assessed career progress.
While the ranking does not reflect the current state of the Global Executive MBA program, we clearly must accept responsibility for the decline. Fuqua was a pioneer in the global MBA space. Our launch of The Duke MBA—Global Executive program was lauded around the world as one of the great innovations in MBA education. However, over time other schools followed suit to develop similar programs. We knew competition was intensifying, and we assembled a review team in 2009 which identified two significant opportunities for improvement:
- We could provide a more comprehensive end-to-end leadership development process that connected more directly to students' career aspirations.
- We could better meet the challenge of preparing leaders of consequence by connecting a unique global curriculum to the locations of our residencies.
We seized these opportunities with a comprehensive revision to the Global Executive MBA curriculum. Three new courses were added, all connected to Leadership in a Global Economy, and all connected across the overall span of the program. Culture & Context was established to focus on the residual of civilization that presents itself in the behavioral norms that shape differences in relationships, transactions, politics, society, and business. Similarly, we added a course on Markets & Institutions. This course focuses on the mechanisms and structures that either facilitate, or impede, global commerce—drawing from ideas in macroeconomics, international trade, and international finance, but also recognizing the role of history in producing varied institutional structures. Finally, we added a comprehensive Leadership & Talent Development course focused on our students' personal development as individuals and as executives.
At the same time, we increased our investment in the local corporate and government networks supporting our residencies, deepening relationships with the most interesting organizations and people in each region. Live case studies were added to many locations, in which students had the opportunity to learn details of a current strategic challenge facing a global organization and then present their recommendations to the CEO in person.
These curricular changes were introduced, on an informal basis, halfway through the class of 2010's experience and then progressively formalized for subsequent Global Executive classes. The data collected for the current FT ranking were reported by the Class of 2009 and so pre-date our program changes. We think the program changes will help our graduates with their career progress post-graduation, although we cannot yet claim success. We will remain ever vigilant for opportunities to enhance what we do so we can produce the leaders of consequence the world needs and will look to subsequent rankings to verify that our actions to date have produced the intended results.
One final point, which in no way diminishes our responsibility for the current ranking: 2009-2012 was a period of variable economic growth around the world. The FT ranking shows that schools with heavy footprints in regions where growth has been quite strong were disproportionately successful in the current rankings. This dynamic probably exacerbated our drop in rank given the correlation between economic growth and salary growth and opportunity. However, the macroeconomic environment alone does not explain our drop as others schools outside of these high growth areas outperformed us.
As I said, the news of this ranking is entirely unsatisfying. No one is willing to accept this result. The Global Executive MBA program has a proud tradition and we have a responsibility to prospective students, current students, and graduates to maintain and enhance our tradition of excellence. While we think we have taken important steps to keep us on that path, we will always look for opportunities to improve.
Dean and J. B. Fuqua Professor of Business Administration
Duke University's Fuqua School of Business