International B-Schools

Asian B-Schools Target Western Students


Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST Full-Time MBA Profile), Asia's top-ranked graduate school of business, has joined with three rivals to raise the schools' visibility in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. They aim to draw additional Western candidates to Asia to earn MBA degrees.

The Hong Kong university will recruit jointly with the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS Full-Time MBA Profile) headquartered in Shanghai, the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business, and Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU Full-Time MBA Profile), according to a statement released on July 19.Officials from the institutions will travel together to North America and Europe, give joint presentations, and maintain a common website, www.topasiabschools.com.

Asia's universities are trying harder to compete for master's of business administration students with U.S. and European institutions led by the London Business School (LBS Full-Time MBA Profile), the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School (Wharton Full-Time MBA Profile) in Philadelphia, and Harvard Business School (Harvard Full-Time MBA Profile) in Boston. The Asian allies aim to create a brand—Top Asia B-Schools—that can generate the sort of cachet associated with the Ivy League, said Nick Soriano, director of marketing and admissions at Nanyang, in an interview.

"There's the Ivy League in America, so we thought: 'Why can't we Asian business schools do the same kind of thing,'" Soriano said. "Even though we are very much each other's competitors, we thought we can all work together in trying to attract and convince people to come to Asia for their MBA."

The Ivy League consists of eight institutions in the northeastern U.S., including Harvard.

much greater economic growth in Asia

The robustness of Asian economies may help the four institutions convince Western students that studying in Asia can advance careers, said Nunzio Quacquarelli, managing director of the QS World MBA Tour, a series of events for business school applicants. The tour is organized by London-based QS Quacquarelli Symonds.

"Asian business schools are becoming more relevant, and there are a number of factors that make them attractive now," Quacquarelli said in an interview. "The likelihood of these four schools having success in recruiting Western candidates is very high."

China's domestic economy advanced 10.3 percent, year-over-year, in the second quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. India's economy expanded 8.6 percent in the first quarter, the latest period for which a figure is available, compared with growth of 2.4 percent in the U.S. and 1.6 percent in Germany.

The Asian business schools use English as the language of instruction, which appeals to students from the West. Without disclosing base figures, the Hong Kong and Singapore universities said their Western applications have doubled in the last five years, even before joint marketing commenced. At Nanyang, students from the Americas increased fivefold last year, making up 10 percent of the class, Soriano said in an interview.

Students are attracted to the programs, which are shorter in duration and priced lower than those in the West, said V.K. Menon, senior director for admissions and career advancement services at the Indian School of Business. Asian business schools typically take a year of study and cost less than $50,000, he said. At Wharton, the course runs two years for a total of $100,000, according to that school. Another lure is the chance to get work experience in Asia's economies, Menon said.

all four schools place in FT's top 30

In the 2010 Financial Times world ranking of MBA providers, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology tied for ninth place with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (Booth Full-Time MBA Profile). The Hong Kong school opened in October 1991 on a 150-acre campus on the Clear Water Bay Peninsula in East Kowloon, in Hong Kong. The school has 9,515 students, including 1,189 graduate students in business, according to its website.

The Indian School of Business, founded in 2001 in Hyderabad, has 577 students and placed No. 12 in the Financial Times ranking, which is based on 20 criteria, including alumni salaries and faculty research.

The China Europe International Business School, founded in 1994 and known as CEIBS, tied for No. 22 on the list. The school's main campus is in the Pudong district of Shanghai. CEIBS also has operations in Beijing and Shenzhen, and has 201 full-time MBA students and 742 executive MBA students, usually corporate managers who take classes on weekends.

Nanyang, in operation since at least 1995, has an enrollment of 589, including 177 full-time students seeking MBA degrees. Nanyang was No. 27 on the list of 100 schools. London Business School was No. 1 on the list, just ahead of Wharton and Harvard.

Officials from the four Asian schools will travel later this year to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Paris, and Madrid to speak with students at recruiting events, said Pauline Cheung, spokesperson for Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.

Western recruiters are hiring

Companies are recruiting from more Asian business schools, according to a list QS publishes every year of the top 200 schools preferred by international employers for hiring MBA graduates. About 30 to 40 Asian business schools are expected to make the 2010 list, up from 20 in 2005, Quacquarelli said.

Indian School of Business students are being hired by New York-based McKinsey & Co., London-based HSBC Holdings (HBC), and New York-based Citigroup Inc. (C), Menon said. Dublin-based Accenture (ACN), New Brunswick (N.J.)-based Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and the General Electric Capital unit of Fairfield (Conn.)-based General Electric (GE) recruit at CEIBS, according to the school's website.

Enrollment by Western students at Asian business schools is growing. European and U.S. students make up 20 percent of the MBA class at Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, up from 10 percent in 2001, Cheung said in an interview.

"We all feel like we're seeing more European and American applicants, but in some cities our exposure is not quite as strong," Cheung said. "It can be hard for students to reach us, which is why we thought it would be good if we joined together."

At CEIBS, about 22 percent of the MBA class comes from Europe and the U.S., said Lydia Price, director of MBA programs and an associate dean, in an interview. About 80 percent of the Western students work in China after graduation, she said.

ISB aims to triple overseas share

"We are extremely well-known in China and certainly within the business community around Southeast Asia, but in recent years we've been making a stronger push to try to get our brand reputation to extend to Europe and America," Price said.

At Indian School of Business, about 30 students, or 5 percent, in the 580-person MBA class this year held international passports, Menon said. The school would like to have 15 percent to 20 percent of the class coming from outside of India, Menon said in an interview.

"Asia is not really seen as a very strong education destination by the American students, which is something we want to change," Menon said.

Thomas Hyland, 32, a 2010 graduate of ISB from Greenwich, Conn., is an exception. He spent six months traveling in India in 2005 and was fascinated by the business dynamics in the country. ISB offered him the perfect "entry strategy" to India, and he entered the school last year, he says. Hyland has since become entrenched in the Indian business community, spending much of his time as a student working with the school's Center for Emerging Market Solutions. This fall, he plans to launch a venture capital fund in Hyderabad.

"ISB has been just an incredible launching pad for me. Going to a place like ISB, you are as plugged into the South Asian business community as anything you'll find out there," he says.

CEIBS: "not a household name"

Devon Nixon, 28, a 2010 graduate of CEIBS from Orange County in Southern California, says he has been fascinated by China since he was a child. The grand-nephew of the late President Richard M. Nixon traveled with his family to visit Chinese dignitaries as a boy and always wanted to return, he says. Then, while researching MBA programs in China, Nixon found CEIBS, which appealed to him because of the opportunities it afforded for doing business in an emerging economy.

"It was definitely a leap of faith as a U.S. student to go to CEIBS. It's not a household name like Stanford (Stanford Full-Time MBA Profile) or Harvard," Nixon says.

For Nixon, one of nine Americans in his MBA class, the bet has paid off. In between his Mandarin lessons, he's launched two companies so far—a dry cleaning business and a student coffee and tea shop on the CEIBS campus—and is consulting on the side. He's considering jobs in China's health-care industry, a field he had worked in for three years in U.S.

"The whole package I've obtained being here at CEIBS is far beyond what I would have obtained if I'd stayed in the U.S." Nixon says. "I look back and know without a question I made the right choice."

Damast is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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