For the first time, the well-known Economist Intelligence Unit has produced a ranking of distance learning MBAs. You can read the extended report here. Henley is placed at number 6, which means that we are the only European school in the top ten of both EIU MBA rankings. We are number two in the UK, behind Warwick. To be honest, I'd much rather we were number one!
DL is often hard to categorise and define, so although there are occasionally attempts to list programmes (usually ranked by reported numbers of registered students), until now no-one has successfully collated a coherent and transparent ranking. Though I welcome it, I'm not sure how successful this one is because they are not actually comparing like with like.
The first thing that struck me was that the EIU ranking extends only to 10 schools. This is somewhat baffling since there must be at least twice that number of recognised DL MBA programmes, or shades of DL, around the world. Did they not ask certain schools to participate? Did they ask but some schools declined? How did they identify their target list?
The second thing is the criteria used to define their formula for the final list, via the three sub-categories of "Programme Content", "Quality of Fellow Students" and "Distance Learning elements" (this last one might contain a number of different things). The Florida and IE programmes use distance learning aspects to deliver what is in fact a regular part-time MBA curriculum to a regular part-time MBA sized cohort. Henley, Warwick and OU deliver to a much more geographically spread and perhaps more experienced set of students. The consortium programme offered via Nantes (which includes Maastricht and EADE) is more interesting as a model.
If only some of the schools on the list are competing with each other, then the overall comparison seems less useful. Having looked, for example, at the web sites for Florida (ranked number 1) and Curtin (ranked number 4) they are both clearly solid schools, but ones that deliver to a localised market.
Nevertheless, there is value for the education provider to look closely at what goes on in other schools, and I'm sure there are interest points for all 10 schools on the list. Understanding the mechanics behind the ranking will probably be useful in knowing where to work on for next year. Though we did ok in the third category, I would like to report then that we our current and past students have a more favourable opinion of Henley's learning materials, sense of connection with the school and value for money.
However, we will no doubt still be in competition with the part-time MBA delivered using DL methodology, and with some schools where the cultural norm is to grade/evaluate at the top end of the scale (the US). In the UK, not only do we need to deliver an excellent service, you the programme member need to be happy to acknowledge it on the Likert scale in the questionnaire.