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Since 1st March, 1999
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International is so yesterday...

Not so long ago business schools boasted that their MBAs were international. Today that is no longer enough, they now need to be global. “Globalisation is changing business education just as surely as it has changed international business,” says Paul Danos, dean of the Tuck School of Business in New England.

Among the factors driving the changes are a more mobile student population, demand from employers for leaders who can operate anywhere in the world and the emergence of the new economic powerhouses of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Structural changes, such as the Bologna Accord that seeks to harmonise masters degrees across Europe, are also encouraging the global trend.

Global MBAs currently come in four basic models:

(i) Joint degree programmes with partner business schools around the world.

(ii) Multi-campus MBAs.

(iii) Where the business school sees itself as a global hub.

(iv) The virtual model that taps into the online world.

As an example of joint degree programmes, London Business School (LBS) offers an executive MBA (EMBA) with Columbia Business School in New York. It is a classic two-for-one offer.

“Our EMBA-global students are living and studying for four or five days every month in the world’s two greatest business and financial centres, London and New York,” says Lyn Hoffman, associate dean at LBS. “They have access to two world-renowned faculties and two exceptional alumni networks.” The students also receive two MBA degrees for their efforts.

Leading advocates of the multi-campus MBAs include the Chicago Graduate School of Business, which offers MBAs at its home campus as well as an executive MBA in London; and Insead, with campuses in Paris, and Singapore. A particular strength of the multi-campus option is that students on different continents get the same MBA content and receive the same degree. Often they can transfer between campuses.

Exponents of the approach that sees the business school itself as a global hub include IMD in Switzerland, and Said at Oxford University. “IMD is known as the global meeting place. We encourage participants from all over the world to come so that they can benefit from the international environment, with no single nationality dominating,” says IMD’s Professor Benoît Leleux.

Oxford, too, champions the global melting pot approach. This year, for example, MBA students are organising “how to do business in” seminars about their national markets. These include America, India and Israel.

The virtual model, meanwhile, taps into the online global village. The most ambitious of these to date is the global MBA launched last year by Instituto de Empresa, the Spanish business school. Aimed at young professionals who want to pursue an MBA without interrupting their career, the 18-month global MBA is an online programme. It is taught in Spanish and English, with two intakes a year starting in February and September.

A big plus of the Spanish school’s approach is that it utilises its network of 35,000 alumni around the world through virtual learning communities. These are focused on specific business functions, sectors and geographic regions. Students can decide which communities they want to join and continue to interact with them after they graduate. Students are also required to attend at least two face-to-face sessions, held in 15 cities across Asia, America, Africa and Europe.

“The global MBA is a whole new learning experience in which participants are in constant communication with each other and interact with their professors and key corporate players, connecting online from anywhere in the world,” says a British student, Michael Aldous.

“It is an opportunity to replicate the intense and focused environment of an international team. With teammates spread around the world, through different time zones, with really different ideas, I have learnt how to communicate, manage and lead within this complex environment.”

Whatever the model, that has to be the objective of any global MBA.

©The Times, London

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