Masters of E-Commerce
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These are two of the many stories Asiaweek came across in compiling our
first-ever rankings of Asia's MBA schools. Most institutions started offering New Economy courses or integrating
e-commerce elements into existing modules this year. More comprehensive
offerings are in the planning stages. Technology stocks may be out of
favor, but there is no question that the New Economy is altering the way
business schools think and teach. "The major challenge is that things
change so rapidly that what is right last year is already wrong this year,"
says Andrew Chan, director of the MBA program at the Chinese University
of Hong Kong. "There is no time to wait for a business expert. We just
have to tap into our alumni network to come and explain these concepts."
Asia's business schools face other challenges. Corporations pay the tuition
and other fees of a good number of MBA-ers. They may well rethink their
programs if an MBA school's e-commerce courses encourage students to set
up their own dotcom companies, rather than rejoin their sponsoring organization.
The Internet, broadband networks and other technological advances are
enhancing the appeal of cheap distance education (see story page 42),
which could have an impact on demand for traditional face-to-face instruction.
And well-known foreign schools - among them INSEAD of France and the University
of Chicago - are coming to Asia (see story page 44). Clearly, the region's
management schools will need to be agile and open-minded about change
to remain at the top of their game.
As it is, Asiaweek's reputational ranking suggests that they need to do
more to be perceived as equal to the world's best business schools. On
a scale of 1 (for "unsatisfactory") to 5 (for "world-class"), Asia's best
regarded school, the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, got
an average of 3.74 points. Rounded up, that is equal to 4 points (for
"outstanding in its country and in Asia"). Only three other institutions
- Singapore's NUS Business School, the Manila-based Asian Institute of
Management and Melbourne Business School - have grades in the 4-points
range. Sixteen schools got ratings close to 3 points (for "outstanding
in its country"). The rest of the 50 MBA schools in the survey were rated
Who made these judgments? We asked the schools to rate each other. We
also requested grades from international MBA institutions like Wharton
School in the U.S. and from 130 top corporations in Asia. (We chose eight
to 10 respondent companies from each country, based on the 1999 Asiaweek
1000 ranking of Asia's corporations by sales.) After averaging the grades,
we generated a ranking based solely on academic reputation - in effect,
a listing of MBA schools as brand-names. We compiled four other rankings:
for schools that offer a full-time MBA program (46 out of 50 institutions
in the survey), part-time MBA (30 schools), executive MBA (16 schools)
and distance or correspondence MBA (six schools). Some offer more than
one type of program, so they appear on more than one list.
For these four listings, we assigned a weighting of 20% for academic reputation.
More than 30 objective attributes, such as student selectivity, faculty
resources and linkages with corporations and government, comprised 80%
of the final score. Generally, schools that ranked high on reputation
did well on objective measures. But there are surprises. Thailand's AIT
ranked just 14th as a brand-name, but its executive MBA program emerged
as third-highest and its full-time program fourth. The school rates particularly
high on faculty resources - all its 32 full-time and part-time teachers
have a PhD and two-thirds used to be or still are business executives.
They are also very well paid. (We converted local-currency figures like
salaries into purchasing-power parity units - PPP dollars - to make them
comparable in cost-of-living terms.)
One caveat: Our decisions on what attributes to measure and how much weight
to assign to each one were guided by what we believe an Asian MBA school
should be. If you think its primary purpose is to turn out thinkers steeped
in management theory, you're out of luck. That kind of school, if it exists,
will rank low in our listings. We believe that an Asian MBA school should
arm its students with practical skills to manage a company, thereby advancing
his or her business career. Thus, we award points to a school that requires
students to have working experience, because they bring with them insights
of the workplace and networking contacts. We place a premium on teachers
who have links with companies as consultants or as former corporate executives.
And we think case studies should focus on Asian rather than Western companies.
We also give extra weight to a school's spending on an outplacement program
for its full-time students, how many students found jobs three months
after graduation, and what their median pay is. (We assume that part-time,
executive and distance MBA students already have jobs.) Surprisingly,
NUS Business School, University of Malaya, Seoul National University and
a number of other schools do not check whether their graduates have found
jobs. Of the schools that do, 20 report 100% employment - they include
the University of Adelaide in Australia, Taiwan University of Science
and Technology and Hitotsubashi University in Japan. In purchasing-power
parity dollars, graduates from the China Europe International Business
School in Shanghai command the highest starting salary (see table above).
What about e-commerce? We did not rate the schools' Internet initiatives
because they are too new. But we have good news for prospective MBA students
interested in e-business: Almost every school is focusing on this area.
Sheer demand is driving the trend. At Thailand's AIT, more than 120 students
signed up for the e-commerce class. "The usual size for our courses is
normally 30 to 40 students," says marketing professor Clemens Bechter.
At the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, seven of every 10
students have opted to pursue information-technology (IT) courses in their
second year. "Students are asking for more e-business in b-education,"
says IT professor Subhash Bhatnagar.
One strategy is to invite resource persons from dotcom companies to talk
to students, an approach that works well in Japan and Hong Kong, where
the Internet revolution is relatively advanced. Top executives from Net
companies like Sun Microsystems Japan and Infoweek have given talks at
Japan's Waseda University Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies. Others
are putting more formal structures in place. At AIT, the three-month e-commerce
course is a three-credit elective. A two-credit class on mobile commerce
(selling over cellular phones and wireless appliances) will be offered
later this year. The Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad has also
introduced e-commerce and mobile commerce courses - and they are mandatory.
"They used to be non-credit, but now they represent the core of the curriculum,"
says IIMA director Jahar Saha.
The International University of Japan will soon require entering students
to take an e-commerce class. "We have one of the strongest information-technology
faculties in Japan and in the Asia-Pacific region," says dean Sumita Ushio.
NUS Business School plans to allow its students to cross-register in a
Master of Science in E-Business program that its mother school, the National
University of Singapore, will launch in July. Nanyang Business School
is going further. It is tying up with the local unit of Sun Microsystems
to provide venture capital for e-commerce ideas that its MBA students
An obvious problem is writing case studies and other materials in a rapidly
evolving field. "Professors are learning and teaching almost at the same
time," says Nanyang dean Neo Boon Siong. It helps if they are in close
contact with New Economy firms, which is the case at the University of
Hong Kong. "Many of our faculty members are consultants and executive
trainers at [clicks-and-mortar companies like] Sunevision," says David
Tse, the university's MBA director. At India's IIMA, professors hope to
develop case studies on dotcom companies financed by Walden, a venture-capital
firm with links to the school. In the meantime, their students write critiques
of various websites and portals for discussion in class.
Another issue is infrastructure. Schools need to give students a high-speed
connection to the Internet and access to servers that will host their
web projects. Institutions like AIT's School of Management and NUS Business
School, which are part of a bigger university with computer-education
facilities, have the advantage here. Even so, they have to scramble for
expensive computer programs. NUS wants to acquire ERP - enterprise resource
planning - software to help its students tackle marketing, financial management
and other operations in an e-business environment. "It has been difficult
to find a stable ERP platform to mount our modules," says NUS deputy director
Quek Ser Aik. The school is talking with software developers like SAP
That is why some MBA schools are being very careful about offering an
all-out e-commerce program. "We haven't studied it well yet and we don't
know whether we can sustain it," says Elvira Zamora, dean of the college
of business administration at the University of the Philippines. The Asian
Institute of Management (AIM) is focusing at this point on imparting a
conceptual understanding of e-commerce. "There are a lot of senior executives
who know e-commerce exists, but who sometimes chuckle uncomfortably that
their kids know it better than they do," says AIM president Roberto de
Ocampo. "They want to know about it a little better, to be more comfortable
with computers and the Internet."
One option: teaming up with partners to spread the cost. Melbourne Business
School developed a course on strategic opportunities and threats of e-commerce
through a research project funded by IBM in New York. Sasin Graduate Institute
of Business Administration in Thailand has long-standing links with MBA
schools in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan. Nine out of ten professors
are flown in from these schools, which are developing e-commerce programs
on their own. "And students can now do one year at the Schulich School
of Business at York University in Toronto," says Prapanpong Vejjajiva,
who is deputy director for planning and development at Sasin. They will
get a degree from Schulich and another from Sasin.
Watching these trends, Bruce McKern, chief executive of Monash Mount Eliza
Business School in Australia, predicts far-reaching changes. "Most schools
attempt to be a generic business school, but this will not be possible
in the future," he says. "Schools will need a clearly differentiated strategic
focus." What is not likely to change, however, is the demand for MBA graduates,
which is rising as Asia emerges from its financial crisis. "We did not
give much attention to MBA holders in the past," says a Korean banker
who worked with foreigners on the restructuring of troubled conglomerate
Daewoo. "I did not realize the gap until I began comparing the reports
of my staff with those prepared by consultants." Add the region's inexorable
New Economy march, and the MBA holder in Asia could well be king.
Reported by Sanjay Kapoor/Ahmedabad, Julian Gearing/Bangkok, Maria
Cheng/Hong Kong, Ian Jarrett/Perth, Raissa Espinosa-Robles/Manila, Joseph
Dawes/Singapore, Laxmi Nakarmi/Seoul and Murakami Mutsuko/Tokyo
Write to Asiaweek at firstname.lastname@example.org
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