The "A Building" at the IESE school in Spain

Spanish business school Iese has topped the Financial Times 2015 combined ranking of executive short courses, regaining the position it last held in 2012. The school ousted HEC Paris, which dropped to second place in the combined table.

Iese’s particular achievement was coming top of the ranking for customised programmes — those aimed at corporate customers. The school is only the fifth to top the customised ranking. It puts an end to 12 years of domination by Duke Corporate Education. Before that, the last winner was New York’s Columbia Business School in 2002. Duke drops to third overall after falling more than 10 places in five criteria, including “follow-up”, in which it dropped 27 places to 40th.

The Financial Times executive education rankings, now in their 17th year, rate the best 75 open programmes and the best 85 customised programmes worldwide. Executive education offers non-degree programmes, either tailor-made for corporate customers (customised) or available to all working managers (open). The rankings are based on participants’ and clients’ satisfaction, the diversity of participants and faculty, and the schools’ international exposure.

Iese, third in the customised ranking for the past three years, overtook HEC Paris, the runner-up since 2009, and made it to the top of the ranking for the first time. Iese is rewarded for performing consistently well across all 15 criteria. While the school is ranked first for faculty diversity only, it is in the top 10 for all remaining criteria. It is second for preparation and third for programme design and value for money.

This is Iese’s best performance overall across the two rankings. In addition to being number one for customised programmes, it is third for open-enrolment programmes.

Other notable performances in the customised programme rankings include ESCP Europe of France, which enjoyed the biggest jump, up 28 places to 28th. Olin Business School at Washington University had the biggest fall, dropping 31 places to 55th. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania recorded its worst performance, down 21 places to 47th. Nine schools were ranked for the first time. Antai College of Economics and Management at Shanghai Jiao Tong University was the highest entrant, in 15th position.

The ranking of 75 open-enrolment programmes was led by IMD of Switzerland for the fourth year running. HEC Paris moved up one place to second, while Iese came third.

Fundação Dom Cabral of Brazil, a former top 10 school, showed one of the biggest improvements, rising 11 places to 12th. Cambridge Judge Business School was ranked highest among the six new entrants, in 50th place.

Schools’ main asset is their faculty. Faculty are rated highest in both open and customised programmes according to the quality of their teaching, the coherence of their courses and their approachability.

Follow-up after courses, on the other hand, is the weakest area for both types of programmes. Formal support in open programmes was given the lowest rating, of 7.6 out of 10. Ease of implementation was also a key concern. “The course I attended was not easily tailored to my needs,” said one senior manager of a leadership course. “More tailoring of tools to assist in follow-up and implementation would have be useful.”

Nonetheless, the vast majority of participants reported their course met their personal and professional expectations and said they would strongly recommend it. Corporate customers were equally satisfied: two-thirds said they would use the same school again for the same programme.

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