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5 Amazing Alternative Business School Destinations For 2019

Want a new challenge this year? Look beyond the United States and Europe for your business school degree

Wed Jan 2 2019

The United States continues to be the leading destination for international business school students, but it’s facing choppy headwinds—applications have fallen for the past four years on the bounce.

A key factor behind the fall is the drop in demand from foreign students, who are put off by negative immigration rhetoric and stringent visa rules.

But in other parts of the world business education is flourishing, notably in Asia, Canada, and some parts of Europe. The UK and France have long been dominant student destinations, but there are lesser known nations where management training is on the rise.

For anyone hoping to get a business master’s degree in 2019, here are the five emerging education markets you should be considering:

1. China

China has for many years been a target for western business schools—the region’s leading institution, CEIBS, in Shanghai, was born from a partnership between the Chinese government and the European Commission in 1994.

Now, China is increasingly drawing international students from the west, as well as Asia itself. Alongside CEIBS, Hong Kong’s HKUST Business School (pictured) and Shanghai’s Antai School of Economics and Management are accredited and ranked well globally.

“Chinese schools are on a mission to internationalize their classrooms and are teaching in English,” says Sangeet Chowfla, CEO of the Graduate Management Admission Council. The schools are also buoyed by the strength of the Chinese economy and home-grown companies, like Alibaba and Tencent, he adds, which means there is a good availability of jobs.

2. Japan

Japan’s declining and ageing population means there is a dire need for dynamic young management talent. The economy is also stuttering, and the Japanese government knows it must be a more open country—it’s becoming more liberal with the awarding of post-study work visas.

A number of Japanese business schools teach programs in English, notably the Nagoya University of Commerce and Business, which is also accredited by AACSB and ranked by the Financial Times as one of Asia-Pacific’s top schools.

Andrew Crisp, co-founder of education market research company, Carrington Crisp, which surveys prospective students on their study destinations, notes that Japan is also a leader in technology and innovation, particularly in the production of industrial robots. Huge global sporting events upcoming in Japan—the Rugby World Cup 2019 followed by the Olympics in 2020, will further raise the country’s international profile.

3. Russia

Russia has been mired by recent rising geopolitical tensions with the west, and its economy is under pressure from US sanctions, but the fall in the ruble has made the course fees look more attractive to international students.

The cost of living is lower in many Russian cities, too, compared with western capitals like London, Paris or Berlin. The best business schools in Russia include St Petersburg University GSOM, EMAS Business School, and Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO.

Tim Mescon, chief officer for Europe at business school accreditor AACSB International, says that Russian business education programs are increasingly being taught in English and their classrooms are becoming more diverse, too. “Business schools in Russia provide opportunities for students to engage in a range of industries— from banking and finance to mining and everything in between—in a large, complex, multicultural marketplace,” he says.

4. Africa

It is a continent, not a country, but it deserves a place on this list nonetheless. It suffers from a lack of management expertise and business education is therefore on the up.

Edinburgh Business School was among the first to offer courses on the continent, but others are following suit. Spain’s IESE runs a joint course with Strathmore Business School in Nairobi, CEIBS has a campus in Ghana, and ESSEC Business School of France has chosen Morocco as its bridgehead in Africa.

Entrepreneurship has been a driver, with many young Africans seeing setting up a company as a solution to the continent’s high unemployment rates, many of them tech businesses. Several local schools are also growing their international reputations, with Lagos Business School, the Gordon Institute of Business Science and American University in Cairo School of Business gaining global accreditations, such as AACSB or AMBA.

For anyone hoping to understand economic and geopolitical complexity, Africa could offer a unique and compelling experience. The huge mixture of cultures, religions and languages, plus vague borders mean it is hard to teach—and often do—business on the continent. 

5. Brazil

Latin American countries have long lived in the shadow of their northern neighbor, the US. But in Brazil, plenty of business schools are coming of age. Arguably the best-known schools are FIA Business School, and the COPPEAD Graduate School of Business, which is in Rio de Janeiro.

The economy is small but there are career opportunities as demand for talent grows in sectors such as professional services, consulting, finance and technology. The opportunity to learn Portuguese may be another draw. Brazil is also striving to become a hub for entrepreneurship, attracting more innovators and investors.

Political turmoil could be a risk, and salaries tend to be lower. But the cost of tuition is generally far cheaper than at a top US or European school. On a more personal side, students have cited the vibrant cultural scene in cities such as Sao Paulo as a big benefit to being in Brazil.