Although the MBA degree was invented (for the most part) in the US and the country still dominates the business education industry, every day schools in Europe, Asia, and particularly in China, are stepping up to challenge the established order.
For some, this is merely the unpleasant diffusion of capitalist greed. Gao Xiqing, president of the China Investment Corp, one of China’s sovereign wealth funds, complained in an interview in the Atlantic last December that the high salaries MBAs receive "distorts the resources of the country" by draining talent from professions that don’t waste time inventing weird derivatives and destroying the world economy.
Gao wasn’t just referring to the American economy: "Many of the brightest [Chinese] youngsters come to me and say, ‘Okay, I want to go to the U.S. and get into business school, or law school.’ I say, ‘Why? Why not science and engineering?’"
Harsh words, no doubt, but Gao isn’t just another cadre off the science and engineering production line. He went to law school at Duke and then to work on Wall Street.
There are some problems with his hypothesis. For one thing, there’s not much evidence that getting an MBA was ever an easy way to get a raise. According to survey last November by the Graduate Management Admission Council, MBA salaries are already flattening in the US. And of course demand for half-witted finance professionals had already plunged by the time Gao gave his interview.
In this issue of Focus, we look at a wide variety of issues involved in the process of learning to do better business, learning to teach better business and, of course, how to benefit personally from both endeavours.
First, big news for a very few, but very proud Chinese MBA programs that have recently moved up the school rankings to compete head-to-head with the best Western institutions ("National champions," p14).
This has implications for employers and students. Is it better to hire a domestic graduate or an international one? Our inspired answer: It depends! Read "Blurring the line" on page 10. For other Chinese students, however, there’s nothing that can dissuade them from a stint overseas ("Save the turtles," p18) – and they’re willing to spend a lot of money getting ready ("Over-prepared," p22).
Of course, an MBA can’t cure every career ill. Some very sad Western business professionals are looking to roost in China while they wait for the recession at home to end. But desperation is the world’s worst cologne ("Need not apply," p8).
For recent Chinese graduates starting to look for work, they’re wondering whether to go to alumni events, or call their cousin’s best friend’s brother ("Getting over guanxi," p26).
We’re also fortunate to have expert advice from William Hua Wang of Euromed, who gives us pointers on how to set up our very own MBA joint venture ("Casing the joint," p6) and chat with Professor Farrokh Langdana of Rutgers about the joys of commuting from New Jersey to teach EMBA students in China ("Executive summary," p12).