Asian MBA Programs Courting Students, Professors

MBA programs in Asia have gained clout, and traction, as they ramp up efforts to lure Western professors and students to their burgeoning B-schools.

Wall Street Journal examined the phenomenon in two articles last week, finding that Asia’s top schools are using the prospect of doing leading research work to entice U.S. professors, which strengthens the credibility of these graduate programs, and in turn, draws in high-caliber student applicants.

Compensation packages usually include competitive salaries, rent-free housing, lighter course loads, more vacation time and research staff to assist professors.

James Danko, dean of Villanova School of Business and a board member of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), tells WSJ that schools have been caught by surprise by the groundswell of faculty interest in non-U.S. business schools.

“Twelve years ago, we would have scoffed at international schools,” competing for faculty, Danko says. “But as [they] have achieved greater credibility, talent is becoming a defining commodity.”

GMAC, which administers the GMAT, reported that 7,796 test scores from U.S. test-takers were sent to schools outside the U.S. in 2009; just 5,032 were sent in 2005, WSJ reports.  In 2009, China for the first time made the top 10 list of countries to which U.S. GMAT test-takers sent their scores.

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, the region’s top-ranked graduate school of business, recently joined forces with three rivals to raise their visibility in North America and Europe and lure more Western candidates to Asia to earn MBA degrees.

The Hong Kong university will now recruit jointly with the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), the Indian School of Business and Nanyang Technological University and the schools have created a brand–Top Asia B-Schools–they hope will generate the sort of cachet associated with the Ivy League.

CEIBS, which launched in 1994 as a joint venture with the Chinese government and the European Commission, has seen a jump in American applicants over the past five years, Lydia Price, the school’s dean, tells WSJ. Almost 8% of the class of 2009 was made up of American students. Many are self-selecting for an education in Asia, taking Mandarin language courses and studying up on Chinese markets and business well before applying.

Meanwhile, nearly 80% of international business school INSEAD students spend part of the program in Singapore, while 5% spend the entire year there. Upward of 45% of students spend the final half of the program in Singapore, WSJ reports, and after graduation, about 22% of INSEAD graduates take jobs in Asia-Pacific countries, says Caroline Diarte Edwards, director of admissions.

Whether the goal is to establish themselves ahead of U.S. candidates for international jobs, or simply to have a degree that carries the cachet of regional knowledge, those who pursue an MBA in Asia are banking on the idea that studying in the region will open doors faster, and wider, than ever before.


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