B-School News

AACSB Urges B-Schools to Adapt to a Global World


Business schools are lagging behind in preparing students for careers in an increasingly global world and need to become more strategic about how they weave cross-border content into their programs, according to a report released today by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

The study, titled "The Globalization of Managements Education: Changing International Structures, Adaptive Strategies, and the Impact on Institutions," was presented to deans at an AACSB conference in Phoenix. It suggests that business schools need to make deeper and more sustained efforts across the curriculum to help students understand the challenges of conducting business in different cultures and countries. Robert Bruner, chairman of the AACSB Globalization of Management Education Task Force, which wrote the report, calls the study "a real wake-up call" for business schools.

"If we drill into the curriculum of the schools, there is a large gap between aspiration and achievement," says Bruner, who also serves as dean of the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business (Darden Full-Time MBA Profile). "Schools have a long way to go when it comes to globalizing their curricula, and the majority are still in their infancy in figuring out how to do that."

Another Milestone

AACSB, one of the leading accreditation agencies for business schools, is comparing the 335-page study with the 1959 Ford Foundation report written by economists Robert A. Gordon and James E. Howell. At the time, the Ford report criticized business schools' vocational approach to management education, setting off a spate of reforms that helped business schools refine their mission and elevate quality.

AACSB is hoping its report will have a similar impact, with the potential to transform the way business schools approach the globalization of management education, says Daniel LeClair, the senior vice-president and chief knowledge officer of AACSB and a member of the task force.

The study comes as the growth of business schools worldwide is accelerating. Some 12,600 institutions worldwide offer undergraduate or graduate-level business degrees, but fewer than 10 percent are accredited by AACSB or one of the other top accreditation agencies. From 1997 to 2007, 3,410 new graduate management programs were added, according to the report. At the same time, there has been a surge in student exchange programs, cross-border alliances between business schools, and joint-degree programs, the report says.

"Business schools are facing the biggest set of changes in more than half a century. Not since then have we seen this scale and magnitude of change happen," LeClair says.

Increasing Collaboration

In this competitive landscape, it has become more important than ever for business schools to be perceived as global, the task force notes. To accomplish this, the report says, business schools have done everything from incorporating global modules into their curriculums to recruiting a more diverse international student body. Collaborations with foreign institutions have been one of the more popular approaches in recent years.

In a 2008-09 survey of more than 200 AACSB member schools, 3,126 collaborations with other schools were reported and 1,212 unique institutional partners were identified. The vast majority of schools—more than 70 percent—said the reason they formed these partnerships was to encourage specific activities such as student-exchange programs.

But Hildy Teegen, dean of the University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business (Moore Full-Time MBA Profile) and a member of the task force, says she worries that some of these partnerships have the potential to be "pretty shallow" and are often not tied into the curriculum in a more meaningful manner or aligned to specific learning objectives.

"I don't mean to be denigrating when I say shallow, but some schools have a partnership that reflects an exchange of three students in each direction every year," Teegen says. "We don't see lots of evidence yet across the board of more mature globalization strategies or richer sets of engagements internationally."

Need to Internationalize

Another area where business schools are struggling is incorporating global content effectively into the curriculum, says Pankaj Ghemawat, one of the task force members and a professor of global strategy at IESE Business School (IESE Full-Time MBA Profile). Only six percent of schools have international business departments, the study says, and at most institutions, globalization issues are weaved into core classes, rather than taught as a separate subject.

In one 2007 study cited in the AACSB report, Ghemawat and Jordan Siegel, a professor at Harvard Business School (Harvard Full-Time MBA Profile), looked at syllabi for core strategy courses at 51 leading business school programs. They found that 33 percent of the courses they reviewed did not have a single case study that took place outside of the U.S., and most didn't teach global strategy concepts or tools.

"The natural tendency is that global content tends to be the last module in many courses, and as the semester wears on, it is the one most apt to fall off the truck, as it were," says Ghemawat. "There's also not enough directives or mandates to include it in courses. We've seen too many instances where something has been launched with global content and it has gotten diluted over time."

Some Unusual Solutions

In the report, the task force points to examples of nine schools that are taking "novel approaches" to making their curriculums and objectives more global in nature. For example, the Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford Full-Time MBA Profile) has a Center for Global Business and the Economy, which helps promote course development and research in international business and economics.Duke University's Fuqua School of Business (Fuqua Full-Time MBA Profile) has launched what it calls a "global campus network" with facilities in five countries around the world in addition to its U.S.campus in Durham, N.C., which all serve its Cross Continent MBA program.Other schools have formed strategic alliances that have led to degree programs, such as the joint executive MBA program between Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Kellogg Full-Time MBA Profile) and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's School of Business and Management (Hong Kong Full-Time MBA Profile).

A handful of undergraduate business programs also are innovating in this arena. At the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management (Carlson Undergraduate Business Profile), undergraduate students are required to have international experience before graduating. At the University of South Carolina, 20 undergraduate business students from the Moore School and 20 from the Chinese University of Hong Kong participate in an exchange program that requires students to split their college years between the two campuses. The goal of Moore's International Business and Chinese Enterprise program is to train students who can work and succeed in roles at Chinese-based companies.

Example of Spain

Not all schools have the resources or time to replicate such ambitious projects, but there are concrete ways schools can bring a more distinct focus on globalization into the curriculum, the task force writes. One of its recommendations is for schools to introduce a required course on globalization early on in the curriculum of a graduate or undergraduate business program—and then ensure that subsequent classes have some connection or tie-in with the global ideas and concepts introduced earlier.

Spain's IESE has embraced this model, introducing a required course for MBA students last year called the Globalization of Business Enterprises and stipulating that other classes at the school have 10 percent to 15 percent of globalization-related content in their syllabi. Other schools following in this direction include Stanford, which requires students to take Global Context of Management in their first quarter, and the Wharton School (Wharton Full-Time MBA Profile), which plans to introduce a course called the Wharton Global Summit in the second year of the MBA program.

AACSB can also play an important role in helping business schools improve the way they globalize management education, the task force says. While globalization is already part of AACSB's standards for accreditation, the accrediting agency can do a better job of helping schools understand how they can incorporate content into their curriculums in more meaningful and concrete ways, says AACSB's LeClair.

Plans are underway for a new AACSB blue-ribbon committee on accreditation quality to look further into this issue in the coming year, he says.

"We think we can not only help motivate schools to do a better job with globalization, but [also] support them to do a better job," says LeClair. "We think it's a huge opportunity."

Damast is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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