Executive MBA programmes have become increasingly adapted to the demands ofthe modern workforce, where upwardly mobile employees are able to juggle personal and professional responsibilities while earning their degree. If you require flexibility, you should consider enrolling in a modular EMBA programme.

Modules are flexible

Modular programmes enable students to become on-campus residents for up to a week at a time over a period of 15 months to 22 months. The EMBA is earned when students have completed all their modules in weeklong campus residencies. Very few business schools have adopted a purely modular approach, but many have opted for a mixed approach.

The Kellogg-WHU EMBA is a modular programme requiring international students to attend weekend sessions from Thursday to Sunday at the Otto Beisheim School of Management (WHU) in Germany during the first year and part of the second year. There are six weekend sessions per year in the two-year programme.

In the second year, students also undertake a week-long residency at Northwestern University (US) in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago. They also spend a week at one of Kellogg's three partner universities in Hong Kong, Tel Aviv and Toronto, or at Kellogg's own second campus in Miami, Florida.

Through shared learning experiences with your peers from Kellogg and its partner schools, you will gain an international perspective," comments Professor Michael Frenkel, Dean at the Otto Beisheim School of Management. In addition to the international experience, modular programmes enable students to build a global network spread across many countries.

The ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA can be followed in two different formats: modular and weekend. This flexibility, in particular the separate weekend EMBA, is very popular with female students. "This experience was much more than only academic learning," said Elisabeth Sanches Moreno, Sales Director at DellFrance and a member of the ESSEC & Mannheim EMBA Class of 2006.

One school, several continents

The EMBA programme at the Chicago Booth School of Business has a similar format to the Kellogg-WHU EMBA. In addition to its home campus in Chicago, Booth  operates campuses in London and Singapore. Based in three different continents, EMBA students may enrol at one of the three campuses in a given intake, but all will graduate in the same EMBA class. Only Chicago-based EMBA students participate in weekend sessions, attending classes every other weekend for most of their course. Students based in the other campuses follow a purely modular format, attending week-long residential sessions at their home campuses for most of the course. In addition, students from all three campuses come together for several weeklong residential classes at the different campuses at different points during the 21-month EMBA programme.

"The experience of studying with people for almost two years breaks down any kind of superficial relationship," says Vahé Torossian, a Microsoft executive and a former EMBA student at the London campus. "We share a genuine concern for each others' problems and challenges. Our sense of teamwork goes beyond our class work: we give each other professional advice and also meet for fun. There are social events at least once or twice a week." For this Paris-based executive, the Chicago Booth EMBA provided an opportunity to build a network at a school with a reputation as a major brand name.

The Dubai-London Executive MBA at the London Business School (UK) has come up with a formula in which the school's first-class teaching faculty is flown across continents. Middle East students are no longer required to travel to London to access teaching. They may have ten of the eleven EMBA modules in Dubai and only one in London, and still receive the same quality of teaching as students in London. This improvement to the modular format enables Middle East students to stay finely tuned to the changes taking place within their companies. This is very important in the Middle East in particular, where trained managers are badly needed.

The pure approach

The INSEAD Global Executive EMBA (GEMBA) has a purely modular approach with no weekend classes. It consists of 12 weeks' residential study divided into eight modules spread out evenly over 14 months, or roughly a week of class every two months.

Europe-based GEMBA students take five of eight modules at the Fontainebleau campus in the first half of the programme. Previously, Europe-based students would take six modules at Fontainebleau, but with the recent opening of INSEAD's Abu Dhabi campus, the weighting has become more internationally-focused. INSEAD students based in Singapore have a similar configuration, but with modules weighted towards their home campus.

"I could study at my own pace with the modular structure, as most of the other programmes I looked at were held on weekends only," says Rakiba Chowdhury. "Given the travelling I have to do, weekends would have been impossible for me. I just dedicated myself to the modules when I was on campus."

Modules with local flavour

The Global Executive MBA programme of IESE Business School (Spain) also offers a purely modular format, but one that gives students the choice of one-week sessions every month or twoweek sessions every two months. The difference in format, however, goes well beyond the duration of the residency.

Read: The IESE EBMA - a Global Executive Programme

Although students enrolled in either format have the opportunity to travel, students following the bi-monthly format achieve double the international exposure. In the monthly format, students reside on the Barcelona campus for 12 weeks and the Madrid campus for two weeks, and reside on the New York and Bangalore campuses for one week each. It takes 22 months to complete the six modules in the monthly format. "The programme's monthly format, with five-day residential modules, was a huge advantage for me," says Spanish drilling manager Manuel Lapeira. "I was able to effectively integrate the programme into my professional life, and could still be home every weekend with my family." Bi-monthly EMBA students reside on the Barcelona campus for eight weeks and the Madrid campus for two weeks, while residing on campuses in Silicon Valley and Shanghai for two weeks each. They also study for an additional module. All seven modules are completed in 17 months. Bahrain consultant Lamees Hussain Qasem comments: "I found the bi-monthly format ideal for my schedule. The residential modules every two months are intense, but then you have ample time to regroup and get ready for the next one. It struck a perfect balance for me.

Value for money

Many part-time EMBA programmes are more regionally focused and less costly at the same time. However, these attributes do not exclude an interesting mix of possibilities, such as the Executive MBA offered by the ESCP-Europe Business School. ESCP offers a modular EMBA programme on five different campuses in Europe: Paris, London, Berlin, Madrid, and Turin.

Students can build a European network during the 18-month programme. While students do not have the opportunity to travel to the Middle East and Asia, ESCP's unique five-campus structure provides its participants with the opportunity to gain real insight into Europe's socioeconomic, cultural, and business environment. In conclusion, candidates wishing to enrol in an EMBA programme should assess their priorities carefully. If you intend to study in a campus environment with no distractions, you should consider a modular programme. Between these modules you would typically have more time to write papers, conduct teamwork, and prepare for the next module.

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. This gives executives the opportunity to enrol in top-quality programmes within a reasonable distance of their home town, and is an added benefit for candidates from areas without well-known EMBA programmes.