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 > asia's best MBA schools 2000



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 merely "adequate."

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 may develop.

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 and Oracle.

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 mail@web.asiaweek.com

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STORIES
Masters of E-Commerce
In its first-ever rankings of Asia's MBA schools, Asiaweek discovers how the Internet is altering many institutions

The Virtual MBA
Technology reinvents distance learning

Enter the Foreigners
Are Western MBA schools a threat to Asia?

Can't Find Your School?
Why it might not be in

Webmasters
Information on linking to the MBA website


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