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Looking Beyond the Rankings

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Mark Twain popularized the quote, “Lies, damn lies and statistics.” I often feel the same way about academic rankings. It’s not that rankings aren’t valid — very few people understand the methodologies behind them. Many prospective students ask about rankings when conducting due diligence in deciding where to pursue their executive MBA program. Each school highlights the rankings that presents them in the best light — and each school may present rankings from different sources.

I’m proud that the Jindal School’s Global Leadership Executive MBA program is ranked No. 1 in Texas and No. 19 (tied) in the world among global online MBA programs by CEO Magazine and that the magazine ranks JSOM’s Executive MBA program No. 2 in Texas and No. 35 (tied) worldwide among global executive MBA programs.

CEO Magazine is a London-based online publication targeting entrepreneurs, startups and those looking to advance their careers through MBA programs. Rankings are based on a number of criteria. Some rankings look for the exposure to international universities and professors; some look for diversity in the classroom. Others are based on the size of the class; and some require international study tours.

Prospective students should look at a number of criteria — not just rankings — when evaluating the best university to attend. Rankings are important, but digging deeper will help prospective students understand the culture and structure of the program.

Program content

The better EMBA programs require 45 or more credit hours for graduation. The UT Dallas Jindal School of Management MBA programs require 53 credit hours — more than any other university in North Texas.

Prospective students should ask, “What are you not getting at schools with fewer credit hours?” Look at the curriculum. Will the classes help you bridge the gap between your current knowledge and the next position and your five-year goal? Is the content relevant?

There are many schools that offer a 30 credit-hour, $30K degree. If you are looking for the proverbial checkbox, this is your program. If you are looking for an education, look further.


The school should be accredited by AACSB International — the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. AACSB accreditation is the gold standard for business schools. Integrity in the classroom should be paramount. Faculty should hold students accountable, and students should hold the administration and faculty accountable.

Class visit

Today, much research can be done online. But to fully research a program, prospective students should ask to visit at least one class. Is the professor engaging the students? Is a collaborative discussion encouraged? Class visits are where you can determine if the faculty hold students accountable.

During a campus visit, determine if the administration team is engaged. Are they genuine? This is the team that will be supporting you through a very intense program over an extended period of time. Ask if they are accessible and available when you need them. Ask how the administration team measures the success of the program beyond rankings.


Also consider networking when evaluating EMBA programs. All schools will offer networking events. Ask to attend an event or ask to speak with alumni of the program and ask them about networking opportunities. Ask about the diversity of the alumni — it should reflect the diversity you want in the classroom.

A good executive MBA program is one that will positively impact your career and your ability to grow the company. Look beyond the rankings and understand the curriculum and the culture of the program to find the right program.

Pamela Foster Brady

Pamela serves as the director of Executive MBA programs at UT Dallas. She previously served as a vice president, senior business development director, for Atkins, an international civil engineering firm. She has more than 25 years of experience managing large domestic and international projects. Pamela received her undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the University of Tennessee and her MBA from The University of Texas at Dallas. Read more articles

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