Chicago’s Booth to Move MBA Program to Hong Kong Detention Site

The University of Chicago is moving its executive MBA program to a former detention center in Hong Kong from a century-old house in Singapore to capitalize on the growing demand for education in China.

The move is part of the school’s expansion into the country and other key markets in Asia, Sunil Kumar, dean of the university’s Booth School of Business, said in a statement. The university, whose full-time and executive MBA programs were ranked No. 1 by Bloomberg Businessweek last year, also opened a center in Beijing in 2010, it said.

“The proximity to China, the world’s second-largest economy, is particularly attractive,” according to the statement.

Asia’s booming demand for MBAs have drawn U.S. and European universities to set up campuses in the region. Last year, 27 percent of all foreign applicants for MBA programs globally were Chinese citizens, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s survey report. Harvard Business School holds a senior executive program for China, while Duke University has a partnership for a campus in the city of Kunshan near Shanghai.

Hong Kong was named the third-best city globally in terms of overall returns from an overseas education in the Economist Group’s Bank of Communications Sea Turtle Index. Singapore was ranked 12th, ahead of Chicago, which took the 14th spot.

New Campus

Booth will spend HK$300 million ($38.7 million) to HK$500 million on the new Mount Davis campus in Hong Kong, Sing Tao Daily reported, citing Wendy Lam, the school’s executive director of Asia development. MBA classes will be held in June next year at a temporary location, targeting as many as 100 students, the paper reported. It doesn’t expect to move into the permanent campus until 2016, according to the report.

“The establishment of a campus of Chicago Booth in Hong Kong will enhance the city’s position as a regional education hub,” Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said in a statement yesterday when announcing the site allocation.

The Victoria Road Detention Centre was first used as a mess for British engineers before being renovated in the late 1950s to hold political prisoners, according to a government statement.

In Singapore, more than 1,000 students have received their MBAs from Booth’s Asia Executive MBA program since it was offered 13 years ago, according to the university’s statement. The school will continue to offer executive education, as well as recruiting and alumni services in the city-state, it said.

The Singapore campus is located at the House of Tan Yeok Nee, the residence of a 19th century Chinese merchant.

The property was bought by ERC International Pte from UniImmo Global, an open-ended real estate fund, for 38.7 million euros, the seller said in September, almost twice what it paid in 2007. The building, a national monument, was put up for sale again in May, according to a statement by marketing agent Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

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