Hong Kong Business School Allies With Three Rivals to Woo West

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Asia’s top-ranked graduate school of business, and three rivals are uniting to raise their visibility in the U.S., Canada and Europe, aiming to attract more Western candidates to Asia to earn MBA degrees.

The Hong Kong university will recruit jointly with the China Europe International Business School, the Indian School of Business and Nanyang Technological University, according to a statement released yesterday. Officials from the institutions will travel together to North America and Europe, give presentations together and maintain a website, www.topasiabschools.com.

Asian universities are trying harder to compete for master’s of business administration students with U.S. and European institutions led by the London Business School, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in Philadelphia and Harvard Business School in Boston. The Asian allies aim to create a brand, Top Asia B-Schools, and generate the sort of cachet associated with the Ivy League, said Nick Soriano, director of marketing and admissions at Nanyang, in Singapore.

“There’s the Ivy League in America, so we thought why can’t we Asian business schools do the same kind of thing,” Soriano said in an interview. “Even though we are very much each other’s competitors, we thought we can all work together in trying to attract and convince people to come to Asia for their MBA.”

The Ivy League consists of eight northeastern-U.S. institutions, including Harvard.

The robustness of Asian economies may help the four institutions persuade Western students that studying in Asia can advance careers, said Nunzio Quacquarelli, managing director of the QS World MBA Tour, a series of events for business-school applicants. The tour is organized by London-based QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd.

‘More Relevant’

“Asian business schools are becoming more relevant, and there are a number of factors that make them attractive now,” Quacquarelli said in an interview. “The likelihood of these four schools having success in recruiting Western candidates is very high.”

China’s domestic economy advanced 10.3 percent, year over year, in the second quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. India’s economy expanded 8.6 percent in the first quarter, the latest period for which a figure is available, compared with growth of 2.4 percent in the U.S. and 1.6 percent in Germany.

The Asian business schools use English as the language of instruction, making themselves more appealing to students in the West. Without disclosing base figures, the Hong Kong and Singapore universities said their Western applications doubled in the last five years, even before the joint marketing. At Nanyang, students from the Americas increased fivefold last year and made up 10 percent of the class, Soriano said in an interview.

Lower Costs

Students are attracted to the programs that are shorter and priced lower than those in the West, said V.K. Menon, senior director for admissions and career advancement services at the Indian School of Business. Asian business schools typically last a year and cost less than $50,000, he said. That compares with two years, costing a total of $100,000 at Wharton, according to that school. Another lure is the chance to get work experience in Asia’s economies, Menon said.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology tied for ninth place, with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, in the 2010 Financial Times world ranking of MBA providers. The Hong Kong school opened in October 1991 on a 150- acre campus on the Clear Water Bay peninsula in East Kowloon, in Hong Kong. The school has 9,515 students, including 1,189 graduate students in business, according to its website.

The Indian School of Business, founded in 2001 in Hyderabad, has 577 students and placed No. 12 in the Financial Times ranking, which is based on 20 criteria, including alumni salaries and faculty research.

The China Europe International Business School, founded in 1994 and known as CEIBS, tied for No. 22 on the list. The school’s main campus is in the Pudong district of Shanghai. CEIBS also has operations in Beijing and Shenzhen, and has 201 fulltime MBA students and 742 executive MBA students, usually corporate managers taking classes on weekends.

Nanyang, in operation since at least 1995, has an enrollment of 589, including 177 fulltime students seeking MBA degrees. Nanyang was No. 27 on the list of 100 schools. London Business School was No. 1 on the list, just ahead of Wharton and Harvard.

Officials from the four Asian schools will travel later this year to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Paris and Madrid to speak with students at recruiting events, said Pauline Cheung, director of overseas marketing and admissions at Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.

Company Recruiting

Companies are recruiting from more Asian business schools, according to a list QS publishes every year of the top 200 schools preferred by international employers for hiring MBA graduates. About 30 to 40 Asian business schools are expected to make the 2010 list, up from 20 in 2005, Quacquarelli said.

Indian School of Business students are being hired by New York-based McKinsey & Co., London-based HSBC Holdings Plc, and New York-based Citigroup Inc., Menon said. Dublin-based Accenture Plc, New Brunswick, New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson and the General Electric Capital unit of Fairfield, Connecticut- based General Electric Co. recruit at CEIBS, according to the school’s website.

Western-student enrollment at Asian business schools is growing. European and American students make up 20 percent of the MBA class at Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, up from 10 percent in 2001, Cheung said.

Seeking Exposure

“We all feel like we’re seeing more European and American applicants, but in some cities our exposure is not quite as strong,” Cheung said in an interview. “It can be hard for students to reach us, which is why we thought it would be good if we joined together.”

At CEIBS, about 22 percent of the MBA class comes from Europe and America, said Lydia Price, the director of MBA programs and an associate dean, in an interview. About 80 percent of the Western students work in China after graduation, she said.

“We are extremely well-known in China and certainly within the business community around Southeast Asia, but in recent years we’ve been making a stronger push to try to get our brand reputation to extend to Europe and America,” Price said.

At Indian School of Business, about 30 students, or 5 percent, in the 580-person MBA class this year held international passports, Menon said. The school would like to have 15 percent to 20 percent of the class coming from outside of India, says Menon said in an interview.

“Asia is not really seen as a very strong education destination by the American students, which is something we want to change,” Menon said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alison Damast in New York at adamast@bloomberg.net

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