Such a transformation has many characteristics but one telling sign that things are moving eastwards is the massive demand in high quality managers in Asia, particularly MBA alumni.
The 2011 TopMBA.com Jobs and Salary Trends Report discovered that, out of the top 10 countries in the world for MBA demand in the past year, three of them are in Asia. India, ranked first by the report, has reportedly grown by 57% in demand for MBAs, Japan 27%, and China 14%.
“Even prior to the global financial crisis, Asia was growing at an astonishing rate, fuelled by foreign investment and outbound exports,” says professor Lydia Price, associate dean and academic director of CEIBS’ MBA program.
“Since the [financial] crisis, the trend has accelerated.”
First to rebound after the crisis was Asia, adds Vinika Rao, associate director of career services at INSEAD Singapore. “The region’s banking, financial and consultancy industries bounced back first, and those companies were looking to MBA holders to fill the positions created in their re-expansion.”
Aside from the importance of Asia to the job market though, the experience of studying for an MBA in Asia itself offers students an alternative to the classic courses found in Europe or North America.
Demands for qualifications among the Asian workforce are high and in cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore it is expected that employees continuously train outside of their work, says Scott Goddard, director of Nottingham University Business School’s MBA program in Singapore.
As such, many business schools in the region offer part-time courses for those who see the need to gain an MBA while holding onto their current position. International students though, will find plenty of traditional full-time MBAs.
The clearest difference to western MBAs when studying in Asia is the business experience that the region provides. Students working for their MBAs in Asia benefit from first-hand experience in Asian companies, or multinationals that are accustomed to working in the region.
Understanding the ethos, values and methods of businesses in the world’s fastest growing region is a valuable commodity in the jobs market. In countries such as India however, acquiring an MBA in Asia may prove more of a necessity than simply a bonus.
India’s demand for MBA holders is insatiable - demand rose 57% year-on-year to mid-2011 - but the country also enjoys a large number of homegrown MBA holders, meaning those hoping to relocate to India may find studying in Asia a crucial means of getting a foothold in the jobs market.
There are several such trends and idiosyncrasies within the regional MBA market that are worth noting.
“South and South East Asia have excellent economies and are demanding a lot of MBAs,” says Goddard. “But, while the same can also be said of China, the salaries offered by Chinese companies just don’t meet the level found in the rest of the region.”
In 2010 China showed a 19% rise in demand for MBA holders, and Goddard says that the market will eventually mature. “Right now though MBA holders will find plenty of positions available but it will be some years before the salaries catch up with the demand.”
There is also the issue of reputation.
North American, European and, particularly well-liked Asian and Australian business schools still command the affections of many employers and it is likely that even in the near future the prestige of older establishments will continue to add value to their graduates that newer Asian schools simply cannot currently offer.
However, many schools in the region are well-accredited. Furthermore, there are many opportunities to study an MBA in Asia under western business schools, offering both experience of the Asian business world with world class institutions.
Professor Price provides an example of how the pace of change in Asia demands that business students pay close attention to the region: “Fifteen years ago, professors at CEIBS were introducing basic western business practices into China,” she says.
“Today things are different... Chinese companies are developing new ways of competing - ways that challenge long held assumptions on ‘how the game is played’.”
It is clear that a knowledge of Asia will become increasingly required of MBA holders but, while much of Asia’s markets are still in development, the region is already home to some of the most advanced cities and best business schools in the world, while also offering a low cost of living for students compared with the West.
Combining the benefits of these two facts by choosing an MBA in Asia could prove to be a powerful step forward for many.
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