Asian Business Schools Boom in Downturn |

Asian Business Schools Boom in Downturn

By QS Contributor

Updated July 19, 2014 Updated July 19, 2014

Could the booming economies of Asia be the place to study if you want to avoid the economic downturn in Europe and North America? The current downturn may be a key moment in the ongoing rise of Asian business schools. Up in the rankings and with the local economic conditions predicted to be less difficult than those in the West, it may be that Asian business schools will profit as the world's attention turns east. David Williams investigates.

A softer downturn?

As China and India have boomed, a number of key schools in the region have risen to global prominence. And with the prevailing wisdom being that the Asian downturn will be softer and the upturn quicker to arrive than in the West, many Asian business schools are predicting they will do even better when the upturn comes.

Chris Tsang is Associate Director (Postgraduate Programs) at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School (HKUST). "Admittedly, we have mixed feelings at the moment," he says. "In the short term, our graduates have obviously been hit by the downturn. For students graduating this year it will be a tough time, no matter if they are in the US, Europe or Asia. However, in the medium term, the economy is not likely to be hit as hard as Europe or the US. There is a lot of cash in China and savings are higher, so, if the mainland government can shift demand from export to domestic consumption and undertake more infrastructure activities, the downturn will not be as severe and the recovery will be faster. Those applying for MBA programs starting in 2009 will graduate in 2011 and the economy should have picked up by then. On top of this, an Asian MBA costs less, it makes people from outside the region branch out a little more and helps them become much more truly global in orientation."

With Asian markets bouncing back more quickly, it is here that the multinationals are likely to be recruiting. "Most recruiters recognize that Asia will be their key growth market when things turn around," explains Joan Tay, Director of the Career Services Office at the National University of Singapore Business School (NUS).

"We have been seeing a rising trend from global multinational corporations towards hiring from top Asian business schools. More and more campus recruiters from US and Europe, which have never hired in Asia for MBA level roles before, are coming to Singapore to evaluate and to add us to their list of target schools."

Thanking the rankings

This success has been reflected in the rankings. HKUST and the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) have both entered the top twenty of the Financial Times ranking of Global MBAs in the last couple of years. While since 2000, The Indian School of Business, Shanghai Jiao Tong's Antai College of Economics and Management, Nanyang Business School, NUS and the Chinese University of Hong Kong have all made appearances in the rankings. The QS list of Global Top 200 Business Schools tells an identical story, with the number of Asia Pacific schools included leaping from ten to 23 between 2006 and 2007.

Think different about Asia

The combination of international recognition with a softer downturn leaves Asian business schools well placed to profit from the current global economic situation. "This economic turmoil will make people think of Asia in a slightly different perspective," argues Marjorie Chang, Administrative Director, Career Services for MBA Programs at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "There are a lot of students who may not have thought about Asian business schools before who will think about them this year."

"I wouldn't say there is a shift in economic power as yet but there is a shifting of economic attention from the West to Asia and particularly to China and India," adds Chris Tsang at HKUST, "This translates into a very positive outlook for this year's applications. We are not dominating yet, but people are no longer only looking at the US or Europe, they are prepared to look at alternatives."

"This reminds me of the saying that it takes twenty years to become an overnight success," says Professor Chris Adam, Postgraduate Programs Director at the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) within The University of New South Wales. "Schools in our region have been building on success over time, and what we are now seeing is Asian business schools developing in both scale and reach. They are growing the size of their programmes and, because of the relative health of the Asian economy, are able to place their graduates in jobs."

Change already happening

It may be a short-term consequence of what has happened to the financial sector over the last few months but many schools are reporting anecdotally that there has been a significant increase in the number of enquiries from potential students based in the West, and particularly from finance professionals. Professor Steve DeKrey is Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and Senior Associate Dean of HKUST Business School. "Preliminary data on applications tells us we are about fifty percent up on inquiries and getting interest from finance professionals in London and New York," he says. "We haven't had a lot of interest from this direction before but we are getting it this year and it is really dramatic. People like to go to school where they can get jobs and they know Asia is where the future will be." "We are now getting enquiries from finance industry people in regions of the world that only ever used to send us students with IT or accounting backgrounds," agrees Jennifer George, Associate Dean of Academic Programs at Melbourne Business School.

Beating America?

Jennifer George is however cautious about taking the idea of Asian dominance too far. "It is true that this could be one of those turning points in the perception of the business eduction sector," she says. "But it would be a very brave person who would say that the American schools - with their huge endowments, long history and business eduction know-how - aren't going to ride out this crisis and come out the other side looking good. At the same time however we do have an opportunity to appeal to people who might not have looked to Asia in the past, and that can only mean that we will see a wider range of people thinking seriously about coming to us."

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in July 2014

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