Fully Flexible MBAs

NEOMA restructures its Global Executive MBA to accommodate every participant’s schedule.

TO KEEP UP with the rapid pace of change, today’s executives need no small degree of agility. At the same time, institutions that offer executive education must provide a range of flexible programming to accommodate the hectic schedules of business clients.

At NEOMA Business School in France, we recently restructured our Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) so we could provide the widest range of program options to participants. The revamped program offers flexibility by incorporating variable times to completion, customizable content, and a range of in-person and online options.

A variable timeline. GEMBA’s three “entrance gates” provide students the choice of three different learning paces. In the Intensive 15-month program, candidates begin in October and spend four days a month in class. In the Accelerated 11-month program, participants begin in February and spend four to eight days a month in class. Finally, in the Full and Flex option, which begins in July, participants are fulltime students for a two-month period in the summer before assuming a lighter class load over the next four months. To make the program even more flexible, we can work with participants on a case-by-case basis to suit candidates with even the most challenging schedules.

Fully Flexible MBAs
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Despite the different starting times, students from the three versions of the GEMBA program are provided multiple opportunities to mingle. The program includes four international experience trips: to London in January, to New York City in May, to Bangalore in July, and to Accra in October. Students from all three cohorts—even those in the summer program who haven’t started their full-time classes yet—go on all four trips together. Additionally, the programs are timed so that the three cohorts will graduate at the same time, which enables participants to network before the program ends in December.

Customizable content. Not only does the GEMBA offer multiple learning pathways, it is customizable through à la carte mini-specialization tracks available on-campus or online, through a series of personal development workshops, and through both individual and collective business plan coaching activities. These sessions allow participants to keep their skills current or meet the demands of roles they’d like to move into after they graduate.

Online and on-campus options. For added flexibility, all three tracks allow students to complete a significant portion of the curriculum online. Generally speaking, the modules that cover quantitative skills are the ones that are available online, while qualitative managerial skills are taught in-person. While online learning is a fantastic resource for enabling flexibility, faceto- face education is critical for teaching students some of the soft skills, such as communication, that are in demand today. We limit classes to about 40 students to facilitate quality mentoring and personal development.


To make program components easier to manage and customize, we began thinking of the program as a game of LEGO. Every LEGO “brick”—or two-day program module—can be combined with any other brick. This makes expanding and updating content a painless task. We also can maximize the reusability of bricks, as content is designed with multiple learning contexts in mind.

The LEGO approach benefits students, who can choose to complete only one set of bricks at a time to earn a certificate in that subject or test the waters before committing to the entire program. In addition, the model allows the school to simplify scheduling, manage costs, and work with companies that might want to customize up to 30 percent of the course for small groups of their executives.

We introduced our GEMBA in 2018, and we have been pleased by the positive response. However, it’s a complex task to run these different versions of the same Global EMBA program. To guarantee flexibility, stability, and consistency, we ensure that the same faculty are available across the courses, so that all GEMBA students will view them as familiar figures of expertise whom they can turn to for support.

With our redesigned Global EMBA program, our goal was to design the world’s most flexible executive course. We believe that executive education should allow managers to realign their skill sets with market demand without compromising their ongoing careers. But business schools can provide executives with that opportunity only by designing programs that are fundamentally flexible and open to regular reconstruction. When they do that, everyone wins.

A detailed infographic shows how the three cohorts are constructed and overlap.

Jerome Couturier is associate dean of professional graduate programs and executive education at NEOMA Business School, which has campuses in Reims, Rouen, and Paris, France.