MBAs Across Borders: International Business Schools


As businesses become increasingly global, MBA programs are following suit with the emergence of truly international business schools, offering innovative courses that allow students to understand and experience business around the world. For students, this means the ability to create a more flexible, tailor-made MBA experience with opportunities to study in and experience different campuses, cities, or countries.

“I went on exchange because I wanted to get a taste of the US, especially of the MBA experience at a top business school there. I also wanted to focus on the not-for-profit sector and Stern offered some great courses in this field,” says Jason Chuei, a full-time MBA student at Melbourne Business School in Australia. Originally from the UK, Chuei did his exchange at the Stern School of Business in the US.

For the international business schools, this means spreading their brand across borders.

“It’s all about building international presence” says Andrew Crisp, director at CarringtonCrisp, education marketing specialists. “For every business school, international recruitment and liaisons with alumni are priorities. Increasingly schools are going global, often building networks through partnerships with other universities.”

Today, international opportunities are no longer limited to simple exchange programs. Here are a few examples of the different ways MBA programs are going international.

Exchanges and Course Work

International MBA exchanges are still a standard fixture of most programs, offering students the chance to spend a term studying at another university, often in another country.

Melbourne Business School in Australia, to name one example, offers students the opportunity to choose from 45 different universities across Asia, Europe, and North America.

In the US, programs such as Harvard Business School’s Immersion Experience Program provide students with the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks learning about business in another country through a one-off course, giving them exposure and practical experience through applied management projects, often outside the classroom.

International Business School Campuses

Several schools are taking things a step further and creating new campuses in other countries, providing students with opportunities to study across both campuses.

INSEAD, for example, has had a dual campus structure since 2000, with a European campus in Fontainebleau, France and an Asian campus in Singapore. The MBA program runs parallel on each campus, giving students the ability to study at either.

In the UK, Nottingham University allows students the opportunity to take all or part of their MBA on campuses in China, Malaysia, or Singapore, in addition to the traditional exchange semester. Vlerick Management School in Belgium has campuses in Leuven and Gent, but also in St Petersburg, Russia and Beijing, China, the latter through Peking University.

Some schools, such as Grenoble Ecole de Management and ESCA Ecole de Management Casablanca, have jointly established new campuses, in this case a new Euro-African campus for management aimed at training future high-potentials in Africa.

Dual MBA Degree

A growing number of schools are exploring opportunities to provide students with not just a few months at another international business school, but the ability to study towards a dual MBA degree — two degrees issued by two different universities.

Hong Kong University offers full-time MBA students the option of a London track where students spend a term at London Business School in the UK, or a New York track at Columbia University. In each case, the school provides a unique graduation certificate, official transcript, and alumni services.

Simon Korf, a 2006 graduate of the dual MBA degree program at HKU, offers, “The dual degree partnership provided the best of both worlds; the globally recognized brand of London Business School and the Asian business exposure of Hong Kong University. Business schools traditionally emphasize competition among and differentiation from other schools. A partnership focuses on complementing factors of each program. A partnership like this is therefore much stronger than an exchange.”

The National University of Singapore has dual MBA degree programs with HEC Paris and Peking University. It also has an Asia-focused degree program, S3 Asia MBA, jointly operated since 2008 by three leading universities — the School of Management at Fudan University, Korea University Business School, and the NUS Business School.

Another benefit of joint degrees can include the ability to gain work experience or post- graduation employment in another country. S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research in India and Schulich School of Business in Canada at York University have paired up to create a joint MBA offering where students spend the first six months of the 16-month program in Mumbai before travelling to Toronto. The Indian government is helping Indian students by subsidizing the cost of the program and offering low-interest loans. Students then have the opportunity to work in Canada both during year two and after graduation.

Eliminating Borders Altogether

Distance-learning MBA programs are also taking advantage of partnerships between campuses. The Thunderbird School of Management in the US and Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico have joined to create a distance-learning MBA for Latin-American managers. The program begins and ends at the Thunderbird campus, with classes via satellite and on-site on 33 campuses throughout Mexico.

China Europe International Business School, a not-for-profit joint venture established between the Chinese government and the European Commission, besides operating programs in Beijing and across developing regions of China, has also set up executive MBA programs in Accra, Ghana.

International business schools aren’t showing any signs of slowing down their expansions.  “Many universities are looking to partner with business schools in the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China, but they would do well to look at a bigger BRIICK, including Indonesia and Korea,” Crisp says.

One things for certain –, the next generations of MBA students will have more opportunities to learn and be exposed to global business than ever before.

Image courtesy of University Business