Saïd Business School Dean Argues Against Exporting Expertise

With more and more top MBA programs setting up campuses in Europe, the Middle East and Asia as a way to replicate their brand and product identities for locals, Colin Mayer, the Peter Moores dean of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, is a voice calling for restraint. “The real benefit that business schools can derive from a strong presence overseas is to import rather than export expertise,” he tells the Financial Times.

Establishing campuses abroad serves as a cost-saving strategy for students in the local market, true enough, but a cross-cultural learning experience has much to recommend it. Standard business school curriculum, which typically assumes a “single, universal best way” of doing business, is just not cutting it in today’s global economy.

“The real benefit that business schools can derive from a strong presence overseas is precisely the opposite of this traditional argument of exporting expertise. It is to learn from the rest of the world about the cultural and social context in which business is done and to make students more aware of these differences,” Mayer argues. Collaborative research, not a one-size-fits-all business approach, is the way to go.

So what’s Saïd Business School doing differently? The program’s activities in regions such as China and India are focused on research and executive education. “We are undertaking collaborative research that is concerned with learning from the success of business in different parts of the world, understanding the differences and addressing the policy questions that business confronts,” Mayer explains.

Mayer also points to a diverse student body in the MBA program that includes about 50 different nationalities, which creates a rich cultural environment in which to study. Satellite campuses that geographically segment students diminish this experience, he says. Research gleaned from overseas locations is integrated into the degree programs at Oxford, which Mayer says helps “to create a truly global business school that is both informed by international knowledge and influential on business practice, while retaining the international diversity of our own student body.”

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