Most business school deans have the opportunity to meet their foreign students once the admissions cycle is over and the would-be MBAs have arrived and settled in the campus. Not Professor Robert Bruner, the newly appointed dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business, who was in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila in December to give a series of talks to MBA applicants.

Perhaps it is a part of what Prof Bruner, appointed dean in November, describes as Darden’s “high touch” approach to business education, which emphasises a high level of engagement between faculty, alumni, ­students and prospective students.

“Darden school deserves recognition in Asia for its standing and for what makes it unique in the field of business education,” said Prof Bruner in Manila shortly before attending a reception for applicants and Darden alumni.

About one-quarter of Darden’s 600 full-time MBA students come from outside the US. While applications from Europe have declined, those from China, India, South Korea and other Asian countries are rising.

To attract more applicants from Asia, Prof Bruner, accompanied by his admissions officer and the associate dean for international affairs, visited several cities in the region during the school’s winter break to drum up interest.

Darden’s programme was ranked 14 in the Financial Times MBA 2006 ranking of full-time US MBAs. “The dynamism of the Asian region is something we should reflect in our student body,” says Prof Bruner.

Prof Bruner believes Darden will allow Asian managers and entrepreneurs to learn global best practices in business.

He does not believe in teaching business as it is practised in specific countries or regions. “If you run a local firm and you are competing with a foreign multinational, you’re likely to have to compete …as if you, yourself, were already a global corporation.

“So the relevant benchmark to business managers around the world really should be the global gold standard.”

Prof Bruner, author of the 2005 book Deals from Hell: M&A Lessons that Rise Above the Ashes, has a further message that appeals to young, aggressive Asian managers contemplating future takeovers of US and global companies.

In his book, he analyses failed mergers and acquisitions and draws lessons to avoid future disasters. He argues against the notion, often repeated in MBA finance courses, that most M&As destroy rather than create value. “Investments through acquisition appear to pay about as well as other forms of corporate investments,” he writes. “M&A is no money-pump. But neither is it a loser’s game.”

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