With a view to recruiting Westerners to do their Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees in Asia, the top four business schools in Asia have, in an unprecedented move, formed a friendly alliance — paving the way for cooperation instead of competition.

Nanyang Business School (NBS) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, HKUST Business School in Hong Kong and the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, which have traditionally competed with one another for Western students for their MBA programmes, have now teamed up to lure more Westerners to do their MBA in Asia.

They have united to raise their visibility collectively in the United States, Canada and Europe as the centre of world economic activity shifts from the West to the East.

NBS, ranked 27th globally in the 2010 MBA worldwide rankings by the Financial Times, is the best in South-east Asia. It offers the opportunity to study in what many believe is the world’s most business-friendly city and most open economy for international trade.

Says NBS’s Interim Dean, Professor Gillian Yeo: “While we compete with each other for students, we have joined together because we share a real passion for excellence in business education and for Asia. To sustain this region’s rapid growth, we need more global business leaders with a deep understanding of the region.

“By presenting ourselves as a group, it is easier to showcase opportunities for North American and European students at each of our schools. We want to encourage their applications to increase the numbers of globally-minded students in our annual admissions.”

Asian universities are trying harder to compete for MBA students with Western institutions led by the London Business School, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in Philadelphia and Harvard Business School in Boston.

Adds Associate Professor Chung Lai Hong, Associate Dean and director of the MBA programme at Nanyang Business School: “As the global MBA rankings of the top four Asian business schools have risen significantly in recent years and all four of us are now in the top 30, we believe that we are ready to attract a larger percentage of Western students.

 “Our big attraction is that our students get a globally recognised MBA with an Asian flavour. On top of that, a top Asian MBA such as Nanyang’s costs on average 30 to 50 per cent less than similar American programmes. Additionally, Singapore as a top global business city offers unique learning and career opportunities to Western as well as Asian MBA students.” 

NBS admits about 100 full-time MBA students every year. Already 24 per cent of the new batch of full-time MBA students are from Europe and another 9 per cent are from North America.

The idea of the top four Asian business schools forming a friendly alliance developed over the past two years as they found themselves in a minority at international MBA fairs, which typically have 30 to 40 Western business schools participating and only a handful of top Asian schools. While participants were curious about Asian business schools, they still gravitated towards the Western schools.

Asia’s rapid rebound from the global financial crisis and the growing Western business interests in this part of the world gave further impetus to the four top business schools to come together to increase their visibility in Europe and North America.

For a start, the top four Asian business schools will jointly market their MBA programmes outside Asia. Next month, senior officials from the four schools will travel to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto to speak jointly with prospective students at recruiting events. A European tour covering London, Paris and Madrid will follow in October.