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In a move that will be closely watched by many top universities in the US and Europe, 21 business schools from as far afield as the US, China, Brazil and South Africa, have announced their intention of setting up a global network that could potentially become one of the most influential groups of schools over the next decade.
Masterminded by Yale School of Management dean Edward Snyder, the Global Network includes some of the top business schools in the world - Insead, IE Business School in Spain, Fudan in China and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology - with others that are less well known, such as the University of Ghana Business School and the University of Indonesia Faculty of Economics.
The aim of the network is to take collaboration to the next level, says Bernard Yeung, dean of the National University of Singapore, one of the participating business schools. To date partnerships have been of two types, he says: first, student and faculty exchanges; second joint degree programmes. “These are not satisfying enough. A globalised framework is the next model.”
David Bach, dean of programmes at IE Business School agrees. “I think most partnerships we have are very pragmatic,” he says, centring on one degree or programme. “What should we be doing when it comes to the future of business education?”
Prof Yeung goes on to say that joint research and case-study writing are likely to be important to the participating schools but that partnerships and exchanges may continue to be two of the ways in which business schools within the network continue to interact.
What is clear is that the 21 schools have a range of aspirations. At the London School of Economics, for example, Dina Dommett, associate dean, sees the network helping LSE to build its knowledge about Africa. Meanwhile, Woon-Oh Jung, Chair of the Committee of International Relations at South Korea’s Seoul National University Graduate School of Business, says that for his school one of the primary aims is to help improve the job prospects of MBA graduates - in Korea the MBA is not well-recognised as a qualification.
Damien McLoughlin, associate dean at the Smurfit school at University College Dublin, says the bi-lateral partnerships that the Irish school already has, have limited benefits. “What we need to create is a global manager who can operate in India or Brazil.”
None of the schools underestimate the difficult of setting up and managing such a network. One initial move to bring students together will be the Yale School of Management Master of Advanced Management, which will enrol between 12 and 15 selected graduates of Global Network schools for a one-year programme of study at Yale.
The second step, for which all the schools gathered in New Haven, Connecticut, last week, was to design an agenda, set up a single point of contact in each school and organise an annual conference.
Persuading faculty across all the schools to take part in joint research and case-writing will be one of the big issues. Three of the topics that the schools hope to tackle in terms of research and teaching are sustainability, social inclusion and entrepreneurship and innovation.
But involving companies in the network will also be challenging, says Zhihong Yi, dean of Renmin University of China School of Business, who has discussed collaboration with leading Chinese companies. “I think we can get these companies involved in terms of case development.”
Other business schools will be looking at the network with interest, as all top schools strive to increase their global footprint. Rival networks may follow, in the sort of liaisons established more than decade ago in the airline industry. The dotcom boom also saw the establishment of business schools network eager to participate in online learning, through companies such as UNext (which included Chicago, Columbia and Stanford) and Quisic, which listed London Business School and UNC Kenan-Flagler among its members.
Several of the 21 members of the Global Network, including LSE, Smurfit, Koç in Istanbul and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, already belong to the Cems network, which includes 27 schools that teach a Masters in Management programme.