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Multi-cultural student body is an MBA booster

Published on Friday, 21 Sep 2012
Linda Yeung

The vast array of choices in MBA education are currently being showcased worldwide as leading business schools get on with their annual ritual of global MBA tours. Since late summer, business faculty representatives have been dispatched to various countries in recruitment drives, aimed partly at increasing the racial mix of students.

The tours by the US-based Thunderbird School of Global Management, for example, go far and wide, covering China and other parts of Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East. They are due to reach Hong Kong in November as part of the QS World MBA Tour.

Maintaining a rich global mix is important for a school that has been ranked number one in the Financial Times' list of full-time MBA programmes in international business for six consecutive years. Its full-time student population comes from more than 40 countries and represents a wealth of professional, and often international, experience.

Hong Kong institutions have some catching-up to do internationally. One exception is the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA programme, which has attracted students from a similar number of countries over the years. On average, 14 per cent of its students are local, while 9 per cent are from the mainland, 21 per cent from other parts of Asia, and the rest from about 30 other countries. It has just completed the global tour it launched in June, after trips to Indonesia and India.

There is no doubt about the growing importance of cultural diversity in education today. That is why even at undergraduate level, universities have strived to provide more exchange opportunities to increase students' chances of experiencing other cultures.

Certainly, knowledge in fields such as accounting or finance can be advantageous to career advancement, but the complex issues in today's global economy also demand broad perspectives.

Global businesses know no boundaries; to be successful, a broad understanding of the basic differences between the parties involved is required.

On top of that is the need for a willingness to respect mutual differences and come up with creative solutions to problems. A broad education involves not just academic or professional knowledge, but also personal attributes.

Broad cultural exposure can therefore add a lot of value to MBA education.

Linda Yeung is the Post’s education editor, a veteran journalist who studied in Hong Kong and abroad

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