Links between western business schools and Asia’s universities have become a modern silk road. Now, academics are in a rush to establish physical campuses in fast-growing economies.
China is the most prized market. Stagnant enrolments in the west have seen a flood of investment flow into Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong.
According to data compiled by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, 60% of full-time one-year MBA programs reported a decrease in applications in 2014.
In Asia, bricks-and-mortar locations are on the rise. Duke University in 2010 revealed plans to establish a campus in Kunshan, just west of Shanghai. One of various global residencies, the university’s Fuqua School of Business teaches executive MBA students at the campus.
Fuqua follows Nottingham University from the UK, one of a growing number of European educators moving into China, which established a Chinese base a decade ago, Nottingham Ningbo China.
It more recently launched the Guangdong-Nottingham Advanced Finance Institute, in collaboration with Guangdong University of Finance, in Foshan, a city north of Hong Kong.
Since then, a flurry of US and European business schools have set-up physical locations, from alumni and admissions offices to lecture halls and full-scale campus sites.
Gloria Batllori, associate dean of the full-time MBA at ESADE Business School, said: “Business schools are looking for local partnerships to tackle this increasingly important market.”
China’s decade of fast economic growth and an increasingly global business climate promise new students for the world’s leading business schools.
“The more buoyant the market, the more demand for both MBA and executive education,” said Roy Chason, assistant director at China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. “China has been the fastest-growing education market in the world in the last couple decades,” he added.
From Executive MBA to Masters in Management (MiM) degrees, Asia’s countries are carving out an increasing portion of the global business education market.
For all higher education, China attracts 8% of the 4.3 million globally mobile students, according to the Institute of International Education, compared with the US which has 11%.
“The demand in Asian countries is growing constantly,” said Julie Dagonet, associate director of china strategy at London Business School, of MiM programs.
These new physical campuses are in addition to dual-degree and other partnerships between high-ranking business schools including ESADE and LBS in Europe, and MIT's Sloan School of Management and the Kellogg School of Management in the US.
America's New York University established a campus in Shanghai with East China Normal University. The institution, known as NYU Shanghai, offers a spread of business and management programs taught in the Chinese city.
The UK’s Liverpool University too has invested in an education venture in Suzhou, west of Shanghai, in a tie-up with Xi’an Jiaotong University of China.
The new Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University teaches masters programs ranging from finance to business analytics.
SKEMA Business School of France has also invested in a campus in Suzhou, from which it teaches MSc programs in entrepreneurship and luxury and fashion management, among other business-related subjects.
This increasing investment in overseas campuses extends beyond mainland China to Hong Kong, Singapore and other parts of southeast Asia.
INSEAD, a business school with campuses in Europe, Singapore and Abu Dubai, recently broadened its Singapore base, with a S$55 million ($43.9 million) campus extension.
The expansion will raise capacity by 50%, and the business school hopes to teach 5,000 executives on the campus annually.
Virginie Fougea, associate director of admissions for degree programs at INSEAD, said the opening of the original campus in Singapore was the recognition of the rising importance of Asia in business.
She added: “Since then, interest in studying in the region has increased immensely, and we bring in over 400 students a year.”
Less developed business education markets in the south of Asia are also seeing a bout of development activity.
The business school anticipates more interest in its MBA degree from prospective Indonesian students, said Angeline Chivapathy, MBA program director at EBS Malaysia.
HKUST Business School allows its EMBA students to take elective courses at partner schools in Beijing, Tel Aviv and Toronto, said Professor Jitendra V Singh, the school's dean.
Professor Eric Chang, dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Hong Kong, said that the university works with international partners to provide both education and cultural exchange opportunities to students.
He added that cultural sensitivity is important in the development of future business leaders.
Meanwhile, Audencia Nantes of France recently partnered with Tsinghua University in Beijing to launch an executive DBA program in responsible management.
The French university joins Cornell’s Johnson School of the US, and BI Norwegian in Europe, as the growing number western business schools in tie-ups with Chinese universities.