Executive MBAs offer the chance to study part-time for an invaluable degree
while experiencing different countries and cultures. Leah Larkin spoke to EMBA
grads around the world – and found universal approval
Demuri Kasradze, 34, a surgeon from Tbilisi, Georgia, could not support his
family on a physician’s salary in his native country. He switched to business,
started his own company and is now working towards a Cross Continent MBA at
Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, North Carolina.
Lisa De Boer, 32, holds a doctor of pharmacy degree. She, too, wanted out of
the clinical environment. De Boer, from Madison, Connecticut, started her own
consulting company and now pursues a Duke Cross Continent MBA (tuition
$74,000), taking courses both in Germany and the US – while running her company
at the same time.
"I think it’s worth it," says De Boer. "My husband [a
physician] has an MBA and no longer practices medicine. He thinks his MBA is
much more valuable than his MD."
There is no mass exodus from hospitals and laboratories to boardrooms, but
now, more than ever, an MBA is seen as a ticket to success. After several years
on the job, more workers are heading back to school in pursuit of the coveted
degree – most on a part-time basis. These days most part-time programmes are
known as the executive MBA (EMBA). They are geared toward more experienced
people who are working full time.
The Executive MBA Council, a non-profit association of universities and
colleges, states that 185 schools worldwide, which are members of the
organisation, offer 212 different EMBA programmes. The council estimates that
between 75 and 100 students are enrolled in each programme.
"Even during the economic slowdown, schools are doing well. Students
are using this time to beef up their knowledge. Enrolments are up," says
William Cox, director of Cox Communications Consultants and author of several
books on MBA education.
Many schools, including Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, now
stress a ‘global’ aspect to their programmes to enhance their reputation. They
add international courses to their curriculum, recruit more students from
abroad and offer short trips or residential stints in other countries. Courses
are usually taught in English, although there are some bilingual programmes,
such as the International Executive MBA. This one-year programme, which
combines distance learning with residential periods in Madrid and Miami, is
offered by Madrid’s Instituto de Empresa.
Degree price tags can be high. Duke charges $95,500 for its Global Executive
MBA, a 19-month programme comprising five two-week sessions of residential
study, two in the US and one each in Europe, Asia and South America. In between
each residential programme is a10-week period of virtual class work via computer-mediated
Duke’s $74,000 Cross Continent MBA is a 20-month part-time programme
combining residential classes in Frankfurt, Germany, and the home campus in
Durham, North Carolina, interspersed with learning via CD-Rom and the internet.
Like many new programmes at other institutions, both programmes rely heavily on
technology for distance learning. Such programmes incur substantial start-up
costs because they are entirely new on the market, said Eric Weber in a recent
Financial Times article. Weber is director of MBA programmes at IESE Business
School at the University of Navarra in Barcelona, which offers a global EMBA at
68,000 euros ($60,000). He also points out that EMBA class sizes are generally
much smaller than those of regular MBA programmes, yet another factor driving
up the cost of an EMBA.
Most of those enrolled in these costly programmes deny that making more
money is their primary motive. Yet a salary increase has to be a strong
incentive. The Financial Times reported last October that the average salary
increase over five years for those graduating with an EMBA in 1998 was 76 per
cent. After three years, the average salary of an EMBA graduate from the London
Business School was $144,000. The newspaper found that EMBA graduates from
European schools led the way in salary increases, dispelling the myth that the
MBA is not as highly rated in Europe as in the US.
Scott Murphy, 29, an engineering manager with an oil and gas contractor in
Houston, is paying 80 per cent of his Duke Cross Continent MBA tuition himself.
"I think it will pay for itself, hopefully many times over," he
says of the degree. He hopes to move up within his company "and at least
market myself to other industries if I decide to".
Gaston Aussems, 30, a senior consultant with PWC Consulting in Amsterdam,
has seen a 50 per cent salary increase since he earned his MBA degree from the
Rotterdam School of Management in December 2000. He originally worked in IT,
but has since moved into management. "I wanted to expand my horizons in
managerial and business aspects and improve my career options. You can get
stuck in a technical field," he says. Now he is more aware of business and
economic trends. "I can create value for my company and clients," he
"This will be a ticket for me to become a senior executive," says
Scott Lane, a Duke student, during a week of study in Frankfurt. The accounting
manager from Minneapolis willingly admits he’s after both money and status. He
was looking forward to an interview for a position as a financial director with
his company when he returned from the week-long study period in Germany.
"If I were not in this programme, they would not interview me," he
says "Without this programme, I’d have to wait years. That’s the value."
Marcus Bernhardt, 41, a general manager and regional director for Radisson
SAS Hotels & Resorts, earned an EMBA at his own expense at the Graduate
School of Business Administration Zurich in 1992 while working for a hotel
company in Arosa, Switzerland. Back then, MBAs were not common in the hotel
industry, he says. "I wanted to increase my personal value and do
something no-one else in our industry was doing. It was a good choice."
The hotel industry executive, now based in Brussels, has seen his salary jump
80 per cent since 1994 when he earned his EMBA.
As the EMBA increases in popularity, so does the variety of programmes
available. "In recent years schools have had to find new modes of
delivering the MBA," notes Peter Calladine, educational service manager
for the Association of MBAs. Traditionally, a part-time MBA involved going to
class two evenings per week. Then schools began to offer classes one full day
per week. For more variety, they offered Friday evening and all-day Saturday
programmes. Thanks to the internet, the trend, as pioneered by Duke, has now
moved to periods of residential study followed by weeks of home study, often
online. As Calladine says: "Schools must match the requirements of the
individual to fit their working life."
Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business earned top recognition for its
MBA programmes in the early 1990s. Felix Mueller, the school’s director of
marketing, said Duke wanted to be certain it remained at the top, and decided
this could best be achieved by combining globalisation and technology. In 1996
the school, which already had a weekend EMBA programme, launched its Global
Executive MBA "for executives with an average 14 years experience and
global responsibilities". The hefty $95,500 tuition fee covers books, class
materials including a laptop computer and software for distance learning, plus
lodging and meals at the residential sites. Travel to and from the various
locations is not included.
In August 2000, Duke started its Cross Continent MBA on two continents. Each
of the eight 10-week academic terms begins with a week at one of the two campus
locations, either North Carolina or Germany. Currently, 151 students from 26
countries with an average of 6.2 years of working experience are participating
in this programme. The $74,000 price tag includes all instructional materials,
accommodation and meals at the campus locations, and a laptop.
While Duke’s programmes are among the priciest, students – even those
absorbing the costs themselves – are willing to pay huge amounts for a school’s
ranking and prestige. "I wanted a degree from the top 10," says Duke
Cross Continent MBA student Scott Lane, who is paying 50 per cent of his
tuition himself. He could have gone to the University of Minnesota, "but
people go there to earn what I already earn".
Peter Calladine of the Association of MBAs is no fan of the kind of rankings
Lane describes. "There is no such thing as the best school per se,"
he says, "especially for part-time programmes." What’s important is
the programme best suited to an individual’s needs, he explains.
Some schools, such as the UK’s Manchester Business School, offer flexible
programmes. Manchester’s EMBA can be completed in as little as two-and-a-half
years, or as long as five years, with students typically spending about six
hours a week at the school. IMD Lausanne offers 17.5 weeks of classroom
sessions and "discovery expeditions" in Europe, Silicon Valley and
Shanghai, reinforced by 45 weeks of distance learning. The programme can be
completed in two to four years. Some, however, do not consider the Manchester
and IMD programmes true EMBAs as students do not start and finish together as a
The Rotterdam School of Management offers a weekend part-time Executive MBA
programme with classes held on alternate weekends. Warwick Business School’s
EMBA can be earned by attending evening classes, by modular study, or by a ‘mix
and match’ of both.
In their effort to go global, schools are joining forces with partner
schools in other parts of the world. The London Business School and Columbia
Business School offer a joint EMBA programme under one name, the EMBA-Global
($102,500). Theseus Institute in Sophia Antipolis, France, this year launched
its two-year EMBA (31,450 euros, $28,000) in partnership with The Anderson
School at UCLA, with specialisation in managing in a high-tech environment. The
German International Graduate School of Management and Administration (GISMA)
in Hanover, in conjunction with the US’s Purdue University, has a 22-month EMBA
programme, costing 30,600 euros ($27,000).
"It’s attractive to have study periods in various parts of the
world," says Nunzio Quacquarelli, editor of magazine MBA Career Guide, and
managing director of TopCareers.net. "This ensures participants will meet senior
managers from different cultures. This is a very important part of the learning
experience of an executive MBA." Duke student Thomas Kindler, head of
network operations for Deutsche Bîrse Systems, agrees. He was motivated to
pursue an EMBA "to build up an international network", in addition to
shifting his focus from technology to business, he says.
The One MBA is a new part-time programme to launch in September. It is the
brainchild of five business schools: the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Fundac‹o
Getulio Vargas (S‹o Paulo); the Monterrey Tech Graduate School of Business
Administration and Leadership (Mexico); the Rotterdam School of Management; and
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Executives enroled in this
21-month programme study at their home business school for two-thirds of the
programme and spend the remaining third of the programme together in
residential modules in Asia, Europe, North and South America. The cost is
46,500 euros ($41,000).
Yet another new programme is the Trium EMBA, allying the New York University
Stern School of Business, the London School of Economics and Political Science,
and HEC Paris, Graduate Business School. The 16-month programme involves
residential sessions at these three locations, plus Hong Kong and Brazil, and
No matter where they are located, all EMBA programmes seem to have one
learning aspect in common: team projects with fellow students. Participants
give high marks to this type of study, which they consider an added bonus to
earning an EMBA as opposed to a regular full-time MBA.
Marcus Bernhardt, who earned his EMBA in Zurich, stresses the value of
‘active and practical oriented discussions’ with fellow students who had
experience in the business world. Same for Duke student Scott Murphy, who
especially likes the fact that his fellow students all have work experience.
"You can learn just as much from the students as from the
professors," he says. "This would not happen in a regular MBA
Michel Arres also liked working with fellow students. This Rotterdam grad
says his programme involved a lot of group activities. "You’d learn to see
the other side of things. Group interaction is very important. Sometimes we
would get together during the week to work on projects. Sometimes we’d meet in
different places – Dusseldorf, Utrecht. We picked the most central place. It
was really fun."
The 34-year-old, formerly in sales, is now a member of the Europe, Middle
East and Africa team working on strategy for American Power Conversion in
Rotterdam. In his present job, as in sales, he works with customers, he says,
but now on a higher level. "An MBA helps you understand the problems the
customers are facing. I can talk their language."
As technology plays a greater role in today’s EMBA programmes, virtual
teamwork becomes part of the learning process. "You learn what’s it’s like
to interact with your counterparts when they’re not around. This will be big in
business in the future," Duke student Eric Altshuler points out.
Holding down a demanding full-time job and following the rigorous
requirements of an EMBA programme is no easy feat. Many executives in these
programmes spend far more than 40 hours a week on their jobs. "It is very
difficult to balance family, friends and work," says student Lisa De Boer,
at Duke in Frankfurt. In addition to time on the job, she needs 20 hours per
week for school work.
Gaston Aussems echoes her comments: "If you are willing and able to pay
the price, in many respects the EMBA is a must," says the senior
consultant. "On a corporate and social level it gave me more than I
expected. An EMBA is demanding, but a great investment. Your input is returned
The typical EMBA student
Sex: 75 per cent male, 25 per cent female
Years on the job: 15
Years of management experience: 10
Average salary at time of beginning
Source: The Executive MBA Council
Companies seek to gain knowledge
While companies such as the German
pharmaceutical and chemical giant Merck and Deutsche Bank absorb most, if not
all, costs for key employees seeking an MBA, they want their employees to study
part-time and stay on the job. As Deutsche Bank’s Michael Maffucci, director of
global leadership development, points out, Deutsche Bank wants the knowledge
gained by those seeking an MBA transferred back to the institution. "One
of our main thrusts is that we get a transfer of knowledge and skills," he
Merck likes the fact that the part-time MBA candidates it
sponsors at Ashridge Management College near London often have study
assignments that are directly related to their jobs. "The link to
corporate business is a big advantage," says Andreas Janz, Merck’s head of
international management development programmes. "Assignments can give a
direct contribution to the company. It helps that students apply their learning
The company found that many of its employees with scientific
backgrounds were moving into management positions without a business
background. "We like to prepare them, to help them acquire the knowledge
to fill these positions," says Janz.
Companies that sponsor employees in an MBA programme usually
have an agreement that the employees stay with the company during the period of
a study and for a specified time afterwards. The Financial Times 2001 Survey of
a sample of students who earned part-time MBAs in 1998 found that 43 per cent
were still working for the same company that employed them five years after
they began their studies. According to a Business Week 2001 survey of those who
earned MBAs with company support, more than half were dissatisfied with career
development at their sponsoring companies.
Janz acknowledged that ‘a few’ of Merck’s MBA employees have
left and that retention can be a problem. "This is a challenge.
High-quality people are harder to retain. They’re attractive to other
companies," he says.
Not all part-time MBA seekers have company backing. Some pick
up the tab themselves. They want to combine work and study and keep their jobs,
often because they cannot afford to quit work and study full time. "It was
not financially feasible for me to stop working and go to school full time. I’d
acquire an enormous debt," says Gaston Aussems, who earned a part-time MBA
from the Rotterdam School of Management.
Jane Fiona Cumming, director of Article 13, a London-based
organisation that helps businesses and other institutions implement new ways of
doing business, finds one of the key advantages of earning an MBA while still
working is that academic projects can often benefit both the company and the
student. "An MBA is no use if you can’t translate it into practice,"
says Cumming, who earned an MBA as a part-time student at the Chartered
Institute of Marketing in Henley, UK. "I was able to ask my clients, ‘Do
you want a free consultancy?’ and base my projects around them."