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Of the industries that have been affected by globalisation, one could argue that one that has responded to globalisation in minimal ways is the management education industry.
The business of business schools has been good over the past three decades and management education has flourished, but growth has been driven by the entry of new business schools in all regions of the world.
Established incumbents have grown little, reflecting, I believe, that schools compete primarily on the quality of the small slices of talent they attract and develop, rather than by gobbling market share. Moreover, business schools have been understandably reluctant to divide their faculty across multiple campuses.
Thus, while the world has flattened, most business schools have remained in their unique corners and focused on other ways, such as changing the mix of students and faculty to adapt to the drama in sectors and regions beyond their immediate reach.
In this column, I look at whether it makes sense for business schools to have more than one campus for the purpose of granting their degrees. I argue for a mixed approach by comparing what my school, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has in fact done since it began offering executive MBA degrees in 1943, with an alternative example.
Chicago Booth, it turns out, was the first school to offer an executive MBA degree. It is the same MBA that we offer to full-time students, but is targeted to working executives who attend classes on long weekends or for week-long modules. In 1994 the school began offering its executive MBA in Europe and added yet another campus in Asia in 2000.
The result is that Chicago Booth now has three platforms for the executive MBA. Roughly 270 students begin the programme in June of each year in Chicago, breathing the air in Rockefeller Chapel, taking a class and getting oriented to the University of Chicago.
Those 270 students are comprised of three 90-person cohorts. The three cohorts use, respectively, our campuses in London, Singapore and Chicago for most of their classes.
But as their 21-month- long programmes proceed, the full contingent gathers again in Chicago for classes. In addition, the students from London travel to Singapore and also host students from North America and from Asia. Thus, fully a quarter of the classes for this cohort involve learning with the other cohorts.
The overall result of Chicago Booth having three campuses is a global learning system for our executive MBA students. The learning from our faculty is phenomenal, but so too is the learning among the executives and entrepreneurs in the programme.
Indeed the programme tends to attract students who are interested in two levels of international experience – within their region and across regions. The London cohort itself is drawn from all over Europe, including central and eastern Europe, as well as Russia, the Middle East, Africa and India. We even have some students from Latin America.
The current group of executives to select London as their platform hails from 26 different countries of residence and represents 31 different countries in terms of citizenship.
Suppose that, instead of our current strategy, Chicago Booth had decided merely to expand the size of our executive MBA programme in Chicago. Now, while many of those associated with the University of Chicago, with its 90 Nobel Prize winners, have believed that Chicago’s Hyde Park is the centre of the universe, and while many of those who live in the city believe it is the best place in the world, I doubt that anyone could argue that our school and our programme would be as vibrant in this alternative example.
We would, no doubt, have been more efficient with greater scale with one location.
Our faculty might be a bit fresher when they teach, compared with now when they travel around the globe to be part of our global learning system.
But the bottom line would be far less learning for all involved.
Edward Snyder is dean of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business
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