The Best 10 Executive MBAs in the UK

The Best 10 Executive MBAs in the UK

When it comes to postgraduate study, there are plenty of options available within the UK which will allow you to develop new skills and enhance your career.

Many people think that the traditional MBA (Master of Business Administration) is the best way to gain new qualifications – after all, it’s a highly sought-after qualification.

But in recent years, many have turned towards the EMBA (Executive Master of Business Administration) which is specifically designed for those with significant managerial and workforce experience.

For more on the key differences between an MBA and an EMBA see our dedicated article.

We’ve compiled a useful EMBA rankings list which will allow you to see at a glance the top 10 executive MBAs in the UK.

But before we get to that; let’s take a few moments to explore what you should be looking for when it comes to choosing the right executive MBA course for you.

top EMBAs UK
top EMBAs UK

How to Select the Best UK EMBA Course for Your Needs

The EMBA is a part-time qualification which is designed to allow participants to combine work and family commitments with study.

With a focus on executive leadership skills, the course should provide applicants with the necessary skills and expertise to move ahead in their careers.

Before applying for a specific course, we recommend that you look at the course structure and core modules to see if it works with your career needs and lifestyle.

An advantage of the part-time study of the EMBA programme is that you can quickly apply your new theoretical knowledge. With fewer elective modules, the core modules outlined within your course should be relevant to your current job role.

Many applicants are ‘sponsored’ by their employers who may have paid for the training. Therefore, they will need to feel confident that they will quickly see a return on investment through the new skills that you have acquired.

You may wish to also look at the quality of the curriculum:

  • Has it adapted to incorporate the new skills that current workplaces require?
  • Could it lead to you building new connections that could aid your career development?
  • Will the study programme fit in with your lifestyle and work commitments?

Once you’ve considered these options, you can make a reasonable decision on what the best EMBA course will be for you.

The Top 10 EMBAs in the UK

To help you with your research, we’ve compiled a top ten rankings list of the best EMBA courses available in the UK.

This list is in alphabetical order and is designed to provide a brief overview of the course content.

We highly recommend that before submitting your application, you undertake your due diligence to find out more information about the course content, teaching standards and potential return on your investment.

1. University of Birmingham (Birmingham Business School)

Study type: On-campus
Course location: Birmingham
Course duration: 2½ to 4½ years
Intakes per year: Two per year

Flexibility: Each module is taught on a four-day learning weekend (Friday to Monday) which is designed to be built around your work schedule.

Course focus: The University of Birmingham has six core modules on its EMBA course:

  • Accounting and Finance
  • International Business
  • Marketing
  • Operations Management
  • Organisational Behaviour
  • Human Resource Management and Strategy

Beyond this, students are expected to choose electives from a wide range of subject areas including (amongst others) Corporate Communication, Management of Change or Strategic Procurement and Supplier Management.

This structure means that you can find an elective that will impact your current working practices.

Once you’ve completed your modular learning, you will be expected to write an MBA dissertation or work-based project dissertation to complete your course.

Networking opportunities: The University of Birmingham is a Russell Group university. This means that you can build professional networks with others.

However, unlike many other EMBA courses, there is less focus on international learning, so your networking opportunities may be limited just to other peers.

2. University of Cambridge (Judge Business School)

University ranking: #18 in the Financial Times (FT) ranking of global EMBA programmes 2019
Study type: On-campus
Course location: Cambridge
Course duration: 20 months

Flexibility: The course is delivered via 16 weekends and four week-long learning blocks, taking place across five terms.

Course focus: The University of Cambridge describes its EMBA course as ‘highly practical’. It is designed for those who have already reached leadership level and are looking to enhance their skills and capabilities.

The course is based on building management principles, understanding how these apply in a global context and facilitating entrepreneurship mindsets which can enable innovation.

The course has been designed to include core modules and elective choices that allow you to immediately apply what you learn to your day job.

Core modules include:

  • Microeconomics
  • Management Science
  • Managing Innovation
  • Corporate Governance and Ethics

Electives vary from year to year; the university chooses the range of electives to fit the needs of that particular group of students.

Networking opportunities: As you can expect from Cambridge University, networking is a core aspect of the EMBA course.

As well as building connections with other students, you will also build professional relationships with many of the local businesses and sectors affiliated with Cambridge Judge Business School.

3. City University of London (Cass Business School)

University ranking: #3 in London (Financial Times EMBA ranking 2019)
Study type: On-campus
Course location: London
Course duration: 24 months

Flexibility: The course is delivered on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 18:15 to 21:00. If you choose the modular course, you can expect to study one long, four-day weekend (Friday to Monday) per month.

Course focus: The first year of the EMBA course is designed to focus on your existing expertise and understanding.

You’ll be given new knowledge that you can put into practice almost immediately, in subject areas which include accounting and financial reporting or operations management.

As you move into year 2, you’ll focus more on your electives, which tailor your learning to your needs.

The key aspect of the Cass EMBA course is the Business Mastery Project. This is an individual research-led piece of work that you will need to deliver.

It is designed to showcase your knowledge of how to overcome a particular business challenge, by making the most of your new leadership capabilities.

There are also opportunities to gain global insights into business challenges through international study tours.

Networking opportunities: A key element of the Cass Business School EMBA programme is the continual learning that takes place long after graduation. Alumni can participate in one free elective every year. This will allow you to continually make new contacts and upskill yourself for many years to come.

4. University of Reading (Henley Business School)

University ranking: #21 in the world (The Economist, June 2020)
Study type: On and offline learning
Course location: Henley-on-Thames, London
Course duration: 21 to 30 months
Annual intake: 47
Intake month: October

Flexibility: Henley Business School has a wide range of EMBA courses that offer great flexibility when it comes to choosing the right study programme for you.

Participants can choose between the EMBA – Global, the Flexible EMBA or the Flexible EMBA – Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship.

If you know that you are looking to boost your global connections and understand more about an international perspective, then the Global course is a clear preference.

In contrast, the Flexible EMBA is more about learning theory and practice.

Taking place over a longer time frame, this specific course is designed for those who may not be able to take considerable time away from the office.

Course focus: Henley Business School is clear that applicants only need to have a minimum of three years’ managerial experience to be considered for the programme.

This means that you can continue your study at a much earlier stage of your career development.

Much of the learning is based on strategic, holistic and integrated perspectives. There is also a great emphasis on personal development opportunities.

As a result, you’ll complete the course much more aware of how to be an effective leader and how to work in different situations.

If you choose to participate in the global programme, you can expect to study internationally, at campuses in Denmark, Finland and Germany. You’ll gain insights into global perspectives from a variety of sectors including charities, start-ups and large enterprises.

Networking opportunities: As a smaller cohort, you may find fewer networking opportunities than other EMBA courses, particularly if you choose to participate in the Flexible programme.

This is because a lot more of the study is completed off-line. However, those working towards the Global EMBA can expect to build a wide professional network from contacts that they meet across the different European campuses.

5. Hult International Business School

University ranking: #53 in the world (The Economist, June 2020)
Study type: On and offline learning
Course location: London
Course duration: 18 to 24 months
Annual intake: 190
Intake month: September

Flexibility: As an international university, Hult specialises in offering global learning opportunities. You will study on the London campus, but you will be expected to complete at least one course at a campus in another country.

Hult has campuses in locations such as London, Dubai, Boston, New York and Shanghai. Therefore, it’s an effective way to combine work and study with travel opportunities.

You can choose to complete the EMBA course in as little as 18 months – and throughout the course, there is a mix of core and elective modules.

If you choose to fast-track your learning, you will simply undertake more elective modules within the first 12 months.

Course focus: Although the course only requires a minimum of three years of management expertise, the average student has over 11 years’ experience.

This means that each student brings with them a wealth of experience and knowledge to share with others.

Core modules in the first year include:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Operations Management
  • International Marketing
  • Business and Global Society

In year two, this leads on to studying topics such as leadership development, organisational behaviour and analytics.

Networking opportunities: Diversity is the key to the Hult Business School EMBA programme.

The course has students from over 160 different nationalities, and thanks to the global learning opportunities, you will have ample opportunity to meet people from different sectors around the world.


6. Imperial College Business School

University ranking: #31 in the world (FT EMBA Ranking 2019), #10 in the world (The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020)
Study type: On and offline learning
Course location: South Kensington, London
Course duration: 23 months

Flexibility: Students have three sessions on campus each month, typically held on a Friday and a Saturday.

Course focus: The course is built around a mix of core and elective modules.

As you would expect from a renowned business school, global learning is important. Therefore, all participants are required to participate in two international modules – one is a three-day residency in Berlin, learning about German manufacturing. The other is a one week trip to Hong Kong and Shenzhen in China where you learn about two of the world’s most important economies.

Thanks to one-to-one teaching, you will be able to track your leadership potential and build on your strengths to maximise your capabilities and expertise.

Networking opportunities: The elective modules incorporate students from additional MBA programmes, allowing you to broaden your professional contacts.

7. Lancaster University

University ranking: #59 in the world (The Economist, June 2020)
Study type: On and offline learning
Course location: Lancaster
Course duration: 24 months
Annual intake: 60
Intake month: September

Flexibility: Much of the learning is conducted virtually, whilst face-to-face learning will take place in three-day blocks (typically Thursday, Friday, Saturday).

Course focus: Lancaster University describes its EMBA course as 'focusing on capability, capacity and knowledge for career progression'.

The university focuses on six core modules which give an overview of a student’s knowledge and insights into areas such as:

  • Leadership and organisational behaviour
  • Business ethics and sustainability
  • Marketing management

Beyond the core modules, you can then choose a distinct specialism. Specialisms include healthcare (which is specifically designed with the NHS in mind), leadership, strategy, finance and management.

Networking opportunities: Networking is an important aspect of the EMBA programme. The University has established its own EMBA network, which allows participants to learn from others and facilitate introductions to fellow professionals from a variety of sectors.

Beyond this, participants on the EMBA programme can benefit from a two-week study partnership with Peking University in China.

This international study programme works alongside the university’s MBA cohort and allows participants to understand the Chinese market.

8. London Business School

University ranking: #2 business school in Europe (ranked by the Financial Times)
Course location: London, Dubai
Course duration: 20 months
Intake months: January, September

Flexibility: The global aspect of London Business School’s EMBA course is that you can choose to participate in either London or Dubai. In London, you can expect to complete your learning on Fridays and Saturdays on alternative weeks.

Course focus: London Business School focuses on being able to teach via 'world-class, thought-leaders'. You can expect to learn from those with considerable experience in a variety of sectors and industries across the world.

There are 15 core modules to complete which focus on full business acumen, whilst you can also tailor your EMBA course through a choice of 70 elective modules.

This is more choice than most other EMBA programmes, meaning that you can make sure that the learning is designed specifically for your career and your current job.

From the moment you start your course, you will be given support to excel in leadership. You will be given a personal development plan and career development sessions to ensure that your career journey is given extensive help and support.

Networking opportunities: You will be asked to work in small study groups of up to six people. Each group is chosen based on a balance of gender, educational and career background, and nationality. This means that you can start to build strong professional relationships with your peers.

9. University of Oxford (Saïd Business School)

University ranking: #11 in the world (The Economist, June 2020)
Study type: On-campus. Core modules usually start on a Monday morning and end on a Friday evening.
Course location: Oxford
Course duration: 22 or 24 months
Annual intake: 134
Intake months: January, September

Flexibility: The University of Oxford has designed its EMBA course to facilitate part-time learning, though a mix of up to 18 week-long modules which take place approximately every five weeks.

Course focus: The Oxford EMBA course is designed to create future leaders.

Everything is designed to share ideas and learning with a strong international focus. There are two international modules and participants are encouraged to learn from the global cohort of participants. The course is built upon three core themes: strategic leadership, entrepreneurial thinking, and global complexity.

There are also elective modules which can help you to continue your learning according to your business needs. You will also learn how to work competently as part of a group to demonstrate team leadership capabilities.

On graduating from the Oxford EMBA course, you can expect to have improved leadership skills with the ability to drive organisational performances. You will also have a strong global perspective of the different business challenges across the world (and how to negate these) and an increased network of business contacts.

Networking opportunities: With a large group of participants, there will be ample opportunities for you to build new professional contacts.

As well as working on independent study, the EMBA from the University of Oxford expects students to work together in teams, further building concrete business relationships.

The two international modules and a large number of international students means that you can graduate with plenty of new contacts to help advance your career.

10. Warwick Business School

University ranking: Ranked #1 in the UK for the best EMBA course, #3 in Europe and #6 in the world (The Economist, June 2020)
Study type: On-campus
Course location: Typically, modules will be taught at the University of Warwick campus. However, there is a unique London cohort that allows participants living and working in London to benefit from lectures held at The Shard.
Course duration: 2 years
Annual intake: 93
Intake months: March and September

Flexibility: Warwick Business School has carefully considered the flexibility of its learning programme. Participants can choose between a daytime or evening study.

Those choosing to study on campus during the day can expect to attend lectures on alternate Fridays and Saturdays.

Evening students are typically taught on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. This provides great scope for participants to find a study schedule that suits their working capabilities and personal lifestyles.

Additionally, if you struggle to complete your EMBA within two years, you can continue into the third year at no extra charge.

The university understands that combining study with work and family life can be a challenge, and they work closely with participants to create an effective balance.

Course focus: Warwick Business School prides itself on its innovation. It has continually evolved its course to focus on growing areas of expertise (such as big data, audience analytics and behavioural science) and it embeds leadership within every aspect of the learning.

The university has strong links with brands such as Jaguar Land Rover and Deloitte which allow students to learn from the best.

There is an opportunity to study abroad with the international module. With options including China, Mexico, India or Europe, the course has been designed to offer a global perspective to business success.

Networking opportunities: Warwick Business School opened its London-based EMBA in a bid to facilitate connections between those working within the City. This allows participants ample opportunity to build professional connections with peers outside of the learning environment.

The international module is also designed to enhance your professional networks. You will have the opportunity to visit other countries and learn new working practices from others.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, each university has its own style of learning. Some focus heavily on face-to-face learning, whilst others are more attuned to virtual learning.

Your choice of EMBA course will likely be based on your preferred availability. Can you afford to give up two evenings a week? Or is it harder to allocate a long weekend every single month?

Knowing the expectations of the study programme will play a big role in enabling you to make an informed decision.

You should also consider your current workplace and what your current employer needs you to focus on.

If your company is focused on UK trading only, perhaps choosing a global EMBA course isn’t the most effective use of your training budget.

Similarly, you may be looking to learn more about specific managerial topics, rather than overarching concepts.

Therefore, if your employer is sponsoring your EMBA tuition fees, perhaps you should discuss with them how they expect to generate a return on their investment before making a final decision.

We hope that this article has helped you to identify the best EMBA course for you. As previously mentioned, this is an overview and should be used in conjunction with wider research before you make your decision.

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