The Long Journey Back Home

East or West: Think Twice Before Blindly Following the Trend

The MBA degree is more international than ever before. It offers life-changing skills and innumerable career alternatives. It enables a student to develop an international attitude, have a worldwide network, and connect to a market that is excited by their skills and viewpoints. Business schools around the globe are preparing future global leaders to prosper and be successful. MBA graduates are capable of accomplishment and high performance wherever they are. Thus, no matter whether students earn an MBA degree from Asia, Europe or USA, they are bound to have good opportunities, depending on their qualities and talents, within or outside that region.

Asia, with its tiger economies such as Singapore, Hong Kong, India, and China, has emerged as a lucrative destination to earn an MBA degree and to explore career opportunities, especially during the financial crisis that has damaged the West. In the recent decades, Asia has acquired extraordinary wealth and economic power, faster than any other region of the world. The cumulative GDP of Asia-Pacific has almost doubled in the last two decades and continues to grow. Fortune 500 companies have established their offices throughout Asia. Business schools there attract international students and some of them even offer scholarships to foreign students. Even though most of the students turn to the West after graduation in search of better career opportunities, Asian employers want those with MBAs from Asia to stay and work in the region. The work experience that students gain by working in the region of their studies will help them throughout their career. Asian Business schools are fast adapting to an international standard and can provide international exposure just by working within the region, apart from training in additional language skills. Career opportunities for foreign MBA students are on the rise in Asia and the Asian business schools are helping to make this transition easier. As Ananth Sundarrajan, an international CEIBS MBA student remarks, “An opportunity to observe and learn from not only Chinese peers but also peers from 21 other countries was a good enough reason for me to pack my bags and fly to Shanghai.”

Despite the flourishing East, there is very little reason to ignore the West as far as obtaining an MBA degree or pursuing a thriving career is concerned.

Business schools in the West have a lot to offer. Those in New York, London and Chicago have an outstanding reputation, particularly in the field of finance. Their location is actually one of their key advantages. They even provide better alternatives for summer placements and post–MBA careers. These Business schools not only have experienced faculty, but are also capable of arranging venture capital for entrepreneurial business plans and can offer work-study programmes on and off campus, as well as practical in-company training so that students can get professional work experience along with their MBA.

European Business schools have achieved an equal footing with their American counterparts and have improved their standing as leading global institutions for MBA programmes. Even though the US has long been the spiritual home of MBA aspirants, recent numbers indicate that Europe is fast becoming a popular hub for students willing to pursue an MBA, with the universities there offering considerable advantages. Today, many Business schools in the UK, Spain, France, and Switzerland have much higher ranking across the globe. In addition, Business schools located in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have emerged as some of the top choices for domestic and international MBA students in the last few years. This preference is supported by the fast-growing economy of CEE. Countries such as Poland and Romania reported a GDP growth rate of 7-8% prior to the economic recession. Even during the recession, Poland successfully balanced its economy compared to other EU countries. According to Mark Stoddard, accreditation projects manager for the Association of MBAs (AMBA) in CEE, “We expect a future increase in schools and programmes from the wider Eastern European region [outside Russia] in the coming years as there is increasing need for high-quality, global business leaders in the region.” Some European Business schools even offer an MBA programme spread across various countries and continents to provide a holistic experience to their students.

Not only domestic students but those from around the globe are enrolling in MBA courses in Eastern Europe to gain international experience. The students’ learning experience can be summarised in the words of Tadeusz Kowalski, a teacher at Poznan University of Economics in Poland: “An MBA here enables a foreigner not only to expand his or her knowledge and skills, but also to make friends and learn more about a specific business environment.” The global nature of business and the MBA has infused the European region with a vivacity which is remarkably visible in the Business schools. Even France, the fifth largest economy in the world, is attracting more international MBA aspirants and this trend is expected to increase in the coming years, as revealed in recent research by FIND MBA.

The economic and job scenarios have also improved tremendously in the West. The CEE nations' membership of the EU has increased the confidence of investors as their economies have emerged and implemented the western-style regulatory frameworks. Almost all the major multinational companies have established their subsidiaries in CEE on account of the human expertise and speedy growth in the domestic consumption market. Due to the economic rise of this region, the career prospects of those having a local MBA degree have also increased tremendously. Recently, it has been observed that more and more French companies are hiring international graduates with the objective of internationalising their workplace. France is home to some of the biggest companies, such as BNP Paribas, EADS, Accor, Carrefour, and GDF-Suez. Thus, studying in the West can offer not only various brilliant perspectives, but also opportunities for those looking for exciting challenges and experiences.

The trend to hire students who have completed their MBA in the region (East or West) where the company is located is on the rise. This is because businesses want graduates who understand the local market, are well versed in the local rules and regulations, have a calculated business attitude, and are self-motivated. Companies look for managers who can act as negotiators between the two parties of a contract, understand the local culture, and can manage ideas and local resources for new business ventures. It is always possible for a student to obtain a degree from the West and then maybe look towards the East for working options if he/she is so intent on getting international work experience across continents, and being part of the spectacular growth of the Asian economy. The opposite is equally true. However, working and studying in the same region facilitates understanding the economy of the particular country and surrounding regions, as well as the various fiscal policies influencing business. Having a thorough understanding of the cultural inclinations, lifestyle and daily habits of people in the region improves a student’s chances of success both in the short-term and long-term. Any company will be more than willing to select students who can benefit their business from the start rather than spending time getting to know the influencing factors.

Choosing one’s study destination is a very important decision. Settling on where to kick-start one’s career is even more important. Students need to consider various criteria before blindly rushing to the East or West for studies and work. Ultimately, the final decision should be about finding the right match and what is best for the student, rather than just following a trend. There is a huge growth of Business schools in the West and East, especially with the increasing need for leaders in a fast-changing and dynamic market. Whatever one decides, blindly trailing the herd is not the answer.

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This article has been produced by Advent Group and featured in the 2015-2016 Access MBA Guide

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