Posted by: Frederik Balfour on November 4, 2009
More and more Asians are looking closer to home when choosing B-school programs. Regional schools such as Indian School of Business and National University of Singapore are starting to give MBA programs at Harvard, Stanford and Wharton a run for their money. “A whole lot of schools are stepping up their game in terms of curriculum, students and faculty and new schools partnering with other business schools,” David Wilson, president and CEO of the Graduate Management Admission Council [GMAC] explained to me over lunch at the Four Seasons Caprice Restaurant in Hong Kong yesterday. http://prod-blogs.businessweek.com/mt/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&id=23423&blog_id=29
But that’s not the only thing tipping the scales in favor of home-grown Asian B-schools. Most Asians who study in the U.S. do so with the intention of landing jobs there after graduation, but moves by U.S. lawmakers to restrict the hiring of foreigners on H1-B visas has narrowed their options. “We see strong protectionism that is most disappointing,” says Wilson, as I sneak a forkful of langoustine carpaccio. “There was a free flow of human capital for a long time,” he adds, noting that five of the seven U.S.-based Nobel Prize winners in sciences and medicine were actually born there.
Yet Asia is likely to account for most of the growth in prospective B-school candidates for the U.S. and Europe. That’s why GMAC, which administers the GMAT exams worldwide, is looking to open an office in the region. Indeed, in 2008, 29% of the GMAT test takers were Asian, a 70% growth since 2004. Wilson sees no reason why that number shouldn’t double in the next couple of decades. Meanwhile the number of U.S. test takers has barely budged over that time.
Over the course of lunch we discussed many of the findings from the Geographic Trend Report for GMAT Examinees published by GMAC. For example, test takers from Asia forwarded a lower percentage of their scores to U.S. schools [a strong proxy for applications] than they did in 2004. India saw a 470% increase in the number of score reports received, and Singapore 305%, while Chinese schools saw a 112% increase.
Here’s something else interesting from the report on the gender gap in test taking. [And no doubt one that fans of India vs China debate will want to weigh in on.]The number of women taking the test in from China outnumbered the men two to one. Now that either reflects their believe that China is a meritocracy, or it could mean that women feel they need to arm themselves with more degrees to compete with men in the workforce. [The world average is 39.5% of women among test takers of the GMAT in 2008 vs 60.5% by men.] The ratio was roughly the same for Vietnam and Thailand. For more on gender inequality in the region, have a look at this commentary by Bloomberg’s William Pesek.
India, however exhibits almost the complete opposite phenomenon to China. Last year only 25% of the test takers were women, while men accounted for 75%. Even Japan and Korea, countries well known for their glass ceilings had a higher percentage than India. [Only Pakistan ranked lower, with women representing just 20% of test takers. I’m at a loss to explain this gender breakdown and hope you readers will offer your theories.
Region-wide, the Indian School of Business Post Graduate Programme in Management received more score reports from test takers than MBA programs at Harvard, U. Penn and Columbia. More tellingly perhaps is the country breakdown. From Singapore, more test scores were sent to local schools than U.S. schools. However Chinese candidates clearly prefer the U.S. education option, with 77% of scores sent to schools there. A mere 2% of scores were sent to Chinese MBA programs.
When Wilson and I weren’t reminiscing about our alma maters [we both went to Queen’s University in Canada and did graduate degrees at the University of California at Berkeley] and how in our day all you needed to do was sharpen your Number 2 pencils and limit your alcohol consumption on the eve of taking the GMAT, we puzzled over some of the more arcane data in the report. For example, more Nepalese took the GMAT in 2008 than did Malaysians. Neither of us could come up with much of an theory on that. Or why did so many Vietnamese test takers send their score reports to the University of Houston? It ranked number one, while Harvard was number nine among their choice. It sure seems like the admissions folks down in Clear Lake are making a big push to recruit Vietnamese.
One answered question in the report is why so few U.S. B-school hopefuls send their scores to our side of the pond over here in Asia.