Asia’s Top Business Schools Must Follow Their Own Path |

Asia’s Top Business Schools Must Follow Their Own Path

By Tim Dhoul

Updated June 28, 2019 Updated June 28, 2019

The US model of management education is not one that Asia’s top business schools should seek to replicate if they want to enhance their global credentials, according to the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School’s dean, Kalok Chan.

“Asian business schools need an Asian model and should not copy the US model because even the United States’ model is being questioned by many, and does not work for Asia, “ Chan said, while pointing out that “it is not of comparative advantage to compete on western theories and practices.”

The CUHK Business School dean was speaking at the second annual gathering of senior figures from some of the top business schools in Asia, the Asian Management Conclave (AMC). The overriding message from the 125 deans, directors and decision-makers in attendance was that, when it comes to competing with global players, management education in the region will be best served by following its own path.

An independent path means shaping management education with a knowledge base rooted in local contexts, in the opinion of HKUST Business School’s dean, Jitendra V Singh. The central aim being, as CUHK’s Chan noted, to “address the needs of the communities we seek to serve.”

Communities in Asia have consistently displayed a growing appetite for graduates of quality management education in QS’s annual MBA jobs and salary reports and this is something that has gone hand-in-hand with the pace of the region’s economic development. However, with this has come a challenge for both Asian businesses and its top business schools to look beyond the region and compete on a global stage.

“Businesses need management education that is global in outlook and context,” the former dean both of CEIBS and of INSEAD’s Asia campus, Hellmut Schütte, said at the AMC as he outlined some of the challenges facing schools who want to improve their international credentials. It is a point Schütte has plenty of experience in, for while dean of CEIBS, he was keen to stress the difference in being seen as a ‘Chinese business school’ as opposed to an ‘international business school in China’.  

The global appeal of Asia’s management education

Perhaps most notable among internationalization challenges is the need to attract talented international faculty and students to Asia’s top business schools. Indeed, at present, only Singapore and Australia can count themselves among international applicants’ 10 most-favored destinations for MBA study, according to QS research, and Singapore is comfortably most attractive to applicants already based within the region of Asia-Pacific.

In enhancing global appeal, one feels that Asian institutions can still gain much from the western management education experience, even as they forge their own contextualized way forward. At the conclave, NUS Business School’s deputy dean Sin Hoon Hum, for example, talked up the benefits of belonging to the CEMS network through which students can take a one-year pre-experience MIM (master’s in management) program - something that allows them to split their study seamlessly between schools in different countries and even regions.

However, in ensuring Asian business school graduates are job-ready, regional collaboration between institutions could be just as important. Resident director for the ASEAN region at Tata Sons, K V Rao, cautioned against training local managers who are well-versed in western practices yet experts only in their home countries, as opposed to understanding business practices across the region as a whole.

This brings us back to the AMC’s main theme of Asian business schools harnessing lessons from within the region to maximize their effectiveness and competitiveness. After all, the region’s growing economic influence on the global stage certainly gives its top business schools the opportunity to make an impact – a point not lost on Gerard George, dean at SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business, which hosted the gathering, when he said that “Asia, and Asian business schools, must play a leading role in redefining the future of management education.”

This article was originally published in March 2016 . It was last updated in June 2019

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Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).