Damiano Pietroni




United Kingdom




Sep 2018 - May 2020

By Damiano Pietroni

Differences and Commonalities Between the EMBA and MBA Programmes

For applicants with very limited or very extensive professional experience the choice of whether to apply for the MBA programme or to the Executive MBA (EMBA) programme may be straightforward, but for candidates somewhat in between there is a degree of leeway. This article covers some of the distinctions and common elements between the two programmes, hopefully providing interesting insights.

The first distinction between MBA and EMBA is the delivery format; the MBA programme is full time over a year, whereas the Executive MBA programme is sixteen weeks over twenty-one months. A point of notice is that the days in class for the MBA and EMBA programmes are roughly the same. Each delivery format has its advantages. The advantage of the full-time model is that students can fully immerse themselves in the Oxford life by living in an Oxford college and engaging with the wider university on a daily basis. On the other hand, the advantages of the EMBA delivery model are that students can continue to accrue experience whilst doing the programme, and experience Oxford over a longer stretch of time.

The second distinction is the composition of the cohort. On the MBA programme the majority of students are early to mid-career professionals who are looking to grow into management and then leadership positions. The average age of students on the MBA programme hovers between twenty-eight and thirty. The EMBA class composition is different in that the majority of students already have in excess of ten years of experience, and already are accomplished managers and leaders. The average age of students on the EMBA programme is in the region of thirty-eight. This gives EMBA class interactions a very unique feel, in that in most discussions there is at least one student who has extensive experience in the matter, meaning there are outstanding opportunities to learn from each other.

The third distinction is the size of the cohort. The MBA programme takes in the region of three hundred students per year, and has only one intake. The EMBA programme on the other hand takes circa seventy students per cohort, but there are two cohorts per year. Because the EMBA lasts twenty-one months, this means that at any given time there are between two and three EMBA cohorts running in parallel, meaning there are between one hundred and forty and two hundred and ten EMBAs. The multiple cohorts approach for the EMBA greatly extends the network an EMBA has access to, as one can reach out not only to students in one’s cohort, but to students in all the cohorts running in parallel.

The last distinction relates to the Saïd Business School itself, and specifically to the fact that Executive MBA students spend the majority of the time in the Thatcher Business Education Centre side of the building, together with students from other executive education programmes, whereas MBA students spend the majority of their time in the rest of the Business School, sharing the space with students from the other MSc programmes, and from the BSc in Economics and Management. This works out very well for EMBAs, as each EMBA student has access to all the facilities in the Thatcher building, including rooms that can be booked for multiple hours, and to all the facilities in the rest of the building.

Focusing now on elements in common, the first key point is that both EMBA and MBA students have access to the Saïd Business School careers services, which include events, a careers portal, and industry advisors. The events are a combination of Saïd organized career fairs and presentations and workshops from potential employers. The careers portal has roles at the MBA and EMBA level, both sourced from other platforms, and specific to Oxford Saïd. The industry advisors are mostly for more experienced students who require someone with in depth knowledge of a specific industry or function to provide guidance and advice.

The second key element of commonality is that MBAs and EMBAs are both fully embedded within the wider University of Oxford, which has various benefits. Firstly, students from both cohorts can get involved with the Oxford Union, and engage with world leaders and other iconic individuals. Secondly, students can get involved with student societies, covering a plethora of topics ranging from strategy consulting to asset management to French culture. Finally, both MBAs and EMBAs, as Oxford students, can apply to be members of the Oxford and Cambridge Club in London.

Overall, even though there are differences between the MBA and EMBA programmes, both are great choices for professionals on the rise who are keen to learn about management in a business school firmly embedded within the University of Oxford.





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