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by Vault Education Editors | June 14, 2011


With the growing phenomenon of b-school campuses crossing oceans and borders, a couple new forms of MBA student have emerged: the switcher and the swinger. The switcher starts on one campus ends on another; the swinger spends at least some time abroad. At INSEAD, more than a third of students are switchers, nearly as many swingers--a sign that modern business students are becoming a global breed.

The Economist notes the brisk pace of globalization taking place in business education: Top schools in both America and Europe are an increasingly mixed bag of international students and faculty. Case studies involve more foreign firms. New schools are popping up like weeds in emerging markets.

There are pros and there are cons to this. The cons:

The sudden globalisation of business education has drawbacks. The most obvious is quality control: the market is infested with snake-oil salesmen, and they are harder to spot from half a world away. Globalisation is also pushing up the already exorbitant cost of business education. It is expensive to send students abroad, conduct international research and compete for the best academics in a borderless labour market. Worst of all, globalisation means that management jargon, from “360-degree thinking” to “strategic staircases”, spreads across borders like bird flu.

The point is also made that schools often play up the whole “we are a melting pot of cultures” angle. Look, so many skin colors! Look, so many accents! Your horizons will broaden in the face of so much diversity. But it’s less a race thing than a class thing, the article points out with more subtlety. “Wherever they come from, global MBA students tend to be polyglot cosmopolitans. Mingling with other cosmopolitans on multiple continents may fool them into thinking that the world consists largely of people like themselves. It does not.”

But the pros outweigh the cons, the article argues. The globalization of business schools is largely a good thing for at least two reasons: Business is going global and so must schools, and the abundance of choice that is becoming available to prospective MBAs.  

Business is globalising: the proportion of the world’s largest 500 firms that hail from emerging markets has doubled in five years, from 8.2% in 2005 to 17.4% in 2010. Business schools have no choice but to follow suit. The best schools are spreading their high standards far and wide. Spain’s IESE has helped to set up business schools in 15 other countries. China’s CEIBS has founded a school in Ghana. Local schools usually adjust their curricula to local circumstances: the Moscow School of Management, Skolkovo, offers an MBA with an emphasis on coping with corruption. Globalisation increases choice: Singapore has only four purely local universities that offer business degrees but Singaporeans can choose between 70 international institutions that offer degrees locally through some kind of franchise.

The upshot to all of this is that America is losing its iron grip on business education. The world’s top schools will soon be a mix of institutions from Europe, Asia, and America, all attracting top-notch students and faculty from around the world. Global firms will be looking for talent with global experience. So, if you’re looking to get an MBA, it might be a good idea to look into schools that offer that.

[The Economist]


Filed Under: Education|Grad School

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