INSEAD (France), Duke University (US), and The University of Chicago Booth School of Business (US): former and current deans of some of the best EMBA programmes in the world impart valuable Executive MBA information by telling us about the differences between programmes and teaching methods.

The INSEAD European Competitiveness Initiative Chair, the Dean of the EMBA department at Duke University, and the former Associate Director of Admissions for the Executive MBA programme at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business do not seem worried about the future of the programme. On the contrary, they see it as an unquestionable top choice. Here is what they had to say about the teaching methods and distinguishing features of their universities' EMBA programmes.

The EMBA programme is designed to meet the needs of managers and executives – people with substantial work experience of at least 10 years, of various backgrounds and representing a wide variety of organisations and industries.

Aimed at helping senior managers increase their qualifications while continuing in their roles, the programme is highly flexible. Classes are usually held on Fridays and Saturdays, with residential work or modules taking place at various universities in different countries (module-based programmes are generally known as Global Executive EMBAs). These modules typically last from four to six days at a time and are spread out over a duration of two years or less, with residential sessions taking place around once every two months.

The London Business School (UK), for example, gives its students a choice of two EMBA streams: the London and the Dubai stream. The London stream conducts its core courses on consecutive Fridays and Saturdays, while the EMBA Dubai programme conducts the majority of its core courses in four- or five-day modules each month in Dubai, with some visits to London.

Teamwork is a key factor in EMBA programmes. Students are encouraged to share their experience and learn from each other. The learning process is considerably fast-tracked – students remain in full-time employment while pursuing their degree so they can both contribute examples fresh from the business world and apply their newly-gained knowledge immediately. Case studies are also employed in such a way that they become a platform for discussion.

EMBA programmes are in high demand and there is a good reason for this. EMBA degrees not only increase students' earning power and practical skills but also offer the rare opportunity for immediate application of all acquired knowledge, all the while ensuring direct contact with leading business academics and highly experienced executives. The EMBA is also one of the most challenging programmes as it combines a full-time job with travel and substantial independent study.

Javier Gimeno

Professor of Strategy, Aon Dirk Verbeek Chaired Professor in International Risk and Strategic Management
Academic Director,  INSEAD European Competitiveness Initiative Chair, Strategy Area

What distinguishes your EMBA programme from that of other top grad schools?

INSEAD's EMBA stands out from the other top EMBA programmes in three areas: the diversity of its participants, its unique Leadership Development Process, and the unmatched breadth of its alumni network. The programme draws 55 nationalities from a wide range of industries and backgrounds to its fully-fledged campuses in Europe (Fontainebleau), Asia (Singapore), and the Middle East (Abu Dhabi). The Leadership Development Process complements classroom learning with personal, hands-on approaches to improving leadership skills, supported by our Global Leadership Centre. INSEAD's powerful network of 43,000 members in 160 countries provides support, contacts, confidence, and friendships that last a lifetime, anywhere in the world.

What are the differences in the teaching methods of the MBA and EMBA?

INSEAD uses a variety of teaching methods, from lectures to case studies to simulations, to deliver a rigorous education. It maintains very similar methods in both the MBA and EMBA, with a few key differences. In the EMBA, where participants have on average 13 years of work experience, a large part of the learning occurs by leveraging on each others' experience in the classroom.

The real-world relevance is particularly emphasised in our unique Key Management Challenges (KMC) courses, which take up one third of the programme. In the real world, managers must cope with complex situations that involve multiple angles. Simple theoretical frameworks from a single discipline do not always match the complexity of real business issues. Through KMC courses, our participants are encouraged to integrate their knowledge from different disciplines to resolve complex management challenges, and to share their experience and judgment.

Our Leadership Development Process is also an important differentiator. We recognise that senior managers place a lot of importance on cultivating their soft skills and leadership competence. Through self-reflection exercises, 360-degree feedback, group coaching, peer exchange and leaders forums, our participants are able to design a personalised development plan that helps grow their leadership qualities.

Read: EMBA Programmes Nurture Global Leadership

John Gallagher

Associate Dean for Executive MBA Programmes
Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

What distinguishes your EMBA programme from that of other top grad schools?

The Fuqua School of Business is known for innovation in the Executive MBA field, establishing a Global Executive MBA model that has since been adopted by many schools. As a pioneer in Executive MBA studies, Fuqua's programmes are in some ways years ahead of our peer schools. Fuqua's professors – ranked as the top business school faculty in the US for intellectual capital by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2010 – provide students with access to a wealth of practical and theoretical knowledge. Our truly international cohort-based instruction model has students learning alongside and networking with executive-level classmates in a globally focused programme. Fuqua has also adopted experiential learning methods for our Global Executive MBA programme, allowing students to gain first-hand experience as both leaders and team members during studies in the UK, Russia, the UAE, India, China and Singapore, and at Duke's campus in Durham, North Carolina. During corporate visits and personal meetings as part of global residencies, students of our Global Executive MBA programme gain intimate access to senior leaders in industry and government, learning about regional issues through the lens of the most influential decision makers of the global economy.

What are the differences in the teaching methods of the MBA and EMBA?

Executive MBA students pursue business studies while remaining on their career tracks, requiring more flexible learning formats than traditional daytime MBA programmes. Indeed, Fuqua's Global Executive MBA students undertake their studies in the same way they conduct their professional lives in a global organisation, utilising interactive technologies to work collaboratively with classmates in other parts of the world and meet face-to-face in the same room.

Two multi-term courses in our Global Executive MBA programme draw their content from the areas in which students spend their residencies, providing insights into how region-specific institutions, markets, cultures and civilisations affect international commerce. A third multi-term course addresses the unique leadership and personal development issues facing senior executives, such as developing skills to effectively conduct external corporate relations with media, regulators and shareholders.

A range of electives offers students the opportunity to specialise in one function or industry to sharpen business knowledge. Concentrations are available in energy/environment, entrepreneurship/innovation, finance, marketing, strategy and Health Sector Management.

Chelsea Ramage

Senior Learning Partner at Officeworks and former Associate Director of Admissions, Executive MBA Programme – Europe at Chicago Booth

What distinguishes your EMBA programme from that of other top grad schools?

Chicago Booth is a place of innovation and exceptional quality. We created the world's first Executive MBA in 1943, we were the first school to have permanent campuses on three continents, and we were the first business school ever to have a Nobel Laureate on its faculty. The Chicago Approach to management education embodies rigour, teaching of fundamental concepts and frameworks, a question-everything approach and a super-charged environment. Students learn to apply fundamental academic disciplines such as economics, psychology, sociology, statistics and accounting to business problems and use them to improve their decision making and management skills. Our programme is pure Chicago – across all three campuses in Chicago, London and Singapore, the same curriculum is taught by the same faculty through the distinctive Chicago Approach.

What are the differences in the teaching methods of the MBA and EMBA?

None – our programmes are pure Chicago (as mentioned above). This means that faculty teaching the full-time MBA programme will be teaching the same course for the Executive MBA. Teaching methodologies for Chicago Booth's programmes comprise a mix of class lectures, case study analysis, group work and discussion across all Chicago Booth MBA programmes. In the Executive MBA classroom, students bring a depth of rich and varied experience – on average they will have over twelve years' work experience. They also contribute knowledge across different functions, industries and over fifty geographies.