The MBA degree has always appealed to business professionals aspiring to an international career. However, the globalisation of the degree has significantly intensified in recent years, with business schools setting up campuses abroad, teaming up with foreign counterparts, or organising trips to buzzing business hubs around the world. The global MBA is no longer an exception. It is the norm.
The trend towards globalisation in business education is not simply an attempt by business schools to look cool to applicants. Nor is it just a fad. Business professionals are aware that to succeed in today’s environment they need to be aware of the complexities of business in an international setting. Besides, the ability to work effectively in multiple cultures and interact in diverse communities has become indispensable in the contemporary workplace.
The focus on preparing global-minded professionals is especially evident in the Executive MBA field, where partnerships between providers from different countries are most common. Schools have realised that together they can create appealing programmes that are more suited to the challenges of today’s business world. Managers and executives, for their part, welcome the prospect of studying in multiple campuses and building an international network.
Below are some examples of business schools seeking to escape the confines of their national borders and deliver a truly international experience.
The Middle East is a growing MBA market, mainly fuelled by the desire of oil-rich nations to establish programmes capable of producing the next generation of business leaders who will direct the course of the region’s vibrant economy.
Needless to say, established business schools were happy to oblige. INSEAD (France), which brands itself “the business school for the world”, opened its campus in Abu Dhabi in 2007 to expose participants to the region’s key sectors and senior insiders and give them the opportunity to take on actual projects for companies in the UAE.
Dubai is another popular location for MBA and Executive MBA providers. London Business School (UK) set up its EMBA programme in Dubai in 2006. Laura Tyson, then dean of the school, said at the time that the programme was “a response to a growing demand for world-class business education in the area, and [...] indicative of the school’s interest and increasing activities in the region.”
For the internationally minded, non-European business school, Europe is an obligatory location. Chicago Booth (US), which created the world's first Executive MBA programme, opened its European campus in Barcelona in 1995. The school relocated the campus to London in 2005 to use the city’s corporate and financial power and its connections to market-oriented economies around the world. The campus serves as home to Booth’s Executive MBA Europe programme.
But US schools are not the only ones interested in Europe. CEIBS (China) has a campus in Zurich which it is currently expanding. "CEIBS is bringing this European and Western management know-how, values and practices to China. In return offering European and Western executives the chance to gain in-depth insight on how to successfully do business in China,” CEIBS Dean Yuan Ding said, explaining the importance of the European campus. Further elaborating on the role of CEIBS as a bridge between the East and West, Robert Straw, CEO of CEIBS Zurich, points out that western businesses are often unsuccessful in China due to a lack of understanding of the Chinese market or its regulations or by applying western business models without adjusting them to local differences. The same goes for many Chinese companies when trying to do business in Europe.
The expansion of CEIBS can serve as an example of Asia’s progress in terms of business education over the last years. The continent's growing appeal as a key business education centre is largely fuelled by the emergence of China, Singapore, and India as global economic powers. The Financial Times points out: “Fast rising demand in Asia for MBAs has shifted emphasis from exporting students to western business schools to developing more in the region. China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia are among those leading the way.”
INSEAD opened its campus in Singapore in 1999 in a bid to differentiate itself from competitors. The French school has been expanding the campus ever since to meet the growing demand for management and leadership education in Asia.
Yet, setting up a campus is not the only way to expose participants to different business environments. Ross School of Business (US), for instance, has its Global MBA students spend one month each in Japan and Korea, where they live together in a hotel while exploring business in the region.
The stature of the US as an economic superpower and innovation hub makes it an attractive location for non-US business schools. Many joint EMBA programmes include study periods in the US. In addition, many business schools around the world organise shorter trips to the country’s top economic hubs.
Silicon Valley, with its concentration of high-tech companies and access to venture capital, is undoubtedly one of the most desired locations. Both the MBA and Executive MBA cohorts at IMD (Switzerland) visit Silicon Valley once a year. Don’t let the word “visit” fool you, though. The point of the trip is not industrial tourism. Rather, participants are there to understand why the region is the world’s number one innovation and entrepreneurship hub. They go through a series of activities, including visits to big companies and a pitching event where they present their start-ups to Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
Indeed, MBA and Executive MBA aspirants cannot complain of a lack of choice when it comes to location. The world is more globalised than ever before and the same holds true for business education. Those in pursuit of a global career can rejoice – it is now easier than it has ever been. You just need to choose the route to achieving it.