Executive Education

Joint Executive MBA Programs —
An Educational Two for One?

joint executive mba

They say that two is better than one—but when it comes to getting your EMBA, are two schools partnering together really a better deal?

Recent rankings might suggest that a joint EMBA truly is the best of the both worlds as these programs have, in some cases slotted higher than their component universities.

So why go with a joint EMBA over a standalone program?

Business today is a global affair. Industries—especially thanks to the international marketplace facilitated in large part by the Internet—no longer stop and end at a border crossing. If, for example, your industry depends on strong relations with Chinese manufacturing companies, you may find that a joint EMBA with one foot in Asia gives you the best advantage. Your cohort alone might provide you with networking opportunities given that you’ll find yourself surrounded with Asian professionals who are similarly seeking top-tier connections in the US.

Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management’s joint EMBA with the Hong Kong School of Science and Technology has been a particularly successful venture and frequently ranks at the top for EMBA programs. There, the program reflects the fact that students will want advanced-level courses providing insight into Asian business culture. Offerings include courses on how to manage deals in China and Asia and how to build a strong consumer brand for a Chinese target audience.

Kellogg’s other joint international offerings tailor courses to student needs. The program’s arm in Tel Aviv provides courses in venture capital and technology company product management—mirroring the booming start up culture currently driving the Israeli economy.

Another particularly powerful partnership is the IE-Brown program. Started in 2011, the 15-month program jets between Providence, Rhode Island (home to Brown University), Madrid, Spain (home to IE) and Cape Town, South Africa. Just last year, Brown agreed to jointly furnish the EMBA—previously, participants only received a degree from IE and could not technically add “Ivy League Graduate” to their list of special accomplishments.

Possible Downsides

For the budget conscious, it may seem that the joint EMBA programs offer a better deal. If you’re examining tuition alone, that certainly would seem to be the case. For example, to get an EMBA at NYU’s Stern school would cost $177,800. The Stern school’s Trium EMBA that partners with HEC Paris and the London School of Economics would set you back somewhat less at $165,900. Same story at Kellogg: stick around in Chicago, you’ll pay $187,290. Head to Hong Kong with the joint EMBA, you’ll pay $161,200. UCLA Anderson’s top-ranked partnership with the National University of Singapore Business School will set you back $112,940. If you go with Anderson’s program alone, you’ll pay $70,700 per year for a total of $141,400—assuming you’re an out-of-state resident. 

But, before you call the joint EMBA programs a bargain, there’s a very crucial point to keep in mind: most of those tuition costs do not include travel expenses. NYU’s Trium EMBA advises prospective students to budget up to $30,000 for additional expenses incurred while they are participating in the program. So while jetting off to Paris and London may have a certain appeal, it comes with a hefty price tag.

It’s also important to note that EMBAs are largely a mid-career executive’s game. While employers may be understanding of your choice to pursue a weekend or part-time EMBA program, seeing you fly out of reach for weeks at a time might be a different story.  So too for your life at home. Unlike a college student studying abroad, a mid-career executive likely also has at-home responsibilities to his or her family or perhaps a side-business. Remembering that those obligations can come at a cost—both in terms of time and if paying for childcare if needed—can make an EMBA that you pursue locally on nights and weekends seem like a piece of cake.

In the end… 

Making the choice to pursue a joint EMBA with a global footprint can be a life-altering experience. With an increasingly global marketplace, it may be vital to develop an understanding of international business. But, like most things, these programs come at a cost—both financially and in terms of your time commitments and obligations. For an executive who needs to conduct business overseas or who is looking to add value to his or her company with a global perspective, these programs might be the best option. For those who need to develop the skills learned in an EMBA program but cannot devote the travel time or costs, a standalone program still can offer more than enough in terms of career development.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.