Can the ‘European’ masters in management go global?
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Growing up between Germany and Brazil, Richard Breitschwerdt became fascinated by tales of China’s economic miracle, a period of rapid growth initiated by market reforms starting in the late 1970s.
So when the time came to decide where to study for a masters in management (MiM), the economics graduate did not limit himself to Europe, the birthplace of the degree and home to most top programmes. Instead, he chose to dedicate a year to studying in China, where MiM programmes are making inroads.
Last year, Breitschwerdt joined the Global Masters in Management programme run jointly by London Business School (LBS) and Fudan University School of Management in Shanghai. He spent the initial year in London and is now in China. “The dominant factor guiding my decision was the opportunity to immerse myself in two global economic centres,” says Breitschwerdt, 25.
The MiM degree, which was pioneered in Europe and usually taken soon after a first degree and before business experience, has become a global phenomenon. The success of the MiM in Europe has motivated business schools worldwide to introduce their own programmes. This trend is reflected in the 2023 FT ranking, which includes schools from locations including Australia, India, Morocco, Singapore and Taiwan.
“MiM programmes are still concentrated in Europe — however this is becoming a globally recognised degree,” says Echo Liao, programme director for the Master of Management at University of Sydney Business School in Australia.
In Asia, business schools see a significant opportunity to cater to the rising demand for management training. The continent’s growing economy, coupled with a large population and expanding middle class, has resulted in more disposable income for investment in education.
“The growth of the economy is driving the rising importance of business education in Asia,” says Yun Fong Lim, academic director of the Master of Science in Management at Singapore Management University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business.
In China, the programme is providing a lifeline to graduates amid a challenging job market. The country’s slow recovery from three years of Covid-19 restrictions has left many young graduates unemployed. However, many see the MiM degree as giving them a competitive edge, says Kevin Mi, director of the undergraduate and postgraduate education centre at Fudan University.
“Around 80 per cent of our undergraduate students pursue a masters or PhD after graduation, while fewer than 20 per cent join the job market directly,” he says.
Collaborations and partnerships between institutions have played a role in expanding the MiM’s global reach. Initiatives such as the Global Alliance in Management Education (known as Cems) have connected European schools with international partners, exposing students around the world to the MiM.
Instead of perceiving heightened competition for students, some European schools view the globalisation of the MiM degree as a boon for its original proponents, effectively broadening the pool of prospective applicants.
“I view it as a net positive, as it reinforces the value proposition of the MiM degree that we have believed in for a long time,” says Oliver Ashby, the programme director for graduate masters programmes at LBS.
He notes that most of the school’s MiM students are from overseas, with a recent increase in applications from regions such as south-east Asia, China, India and north America.
Despite gaining popularity globally, the MiM remains relatively uncommon in the US, where the MBA has long been the flagship business masters programme. The newer MiM degree is still unfamiliar to some employers in the US, as demonstrated by the hiring statistics. The Graduate Management Admission Council reports that in 2022, 42 per cent of US employers recruited MiM graduates, in contrast to 89 per cent in western Europe.
Nonetheless, some prestigious US institutions, such as the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, are now launching MiM programmes. Nita Swinsick, associate dean for graduate and executive degree programme admissions at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, in Washington DC, says: “I think we’ll continue to see that trend. There is a student demand for it.”
Georgetown’s Master of Science in Management experienced a three-fold surge in application numbers during its first year in 2019. The programme has continued to expand, albeit at a more gradual pace.
The coexistence of MiM and MBA programmes in the US market raises questions about potential overlap. “When you introduce any newer product into a market, there is the threat of cannibalisation,” says Ashby at LBS. Nonetheless, like others, he believes that both programmes can coexist in harmony, as they cater to distinct markets. The MBA primarily targets seasoned professionals, whereas the MiM is tailored towards recent graduates.
Concerns are different in India, where the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) face the challenge of internationalisation for their Post Graduate Programme (PGP) in Management, akin to a MiM. Traditionally reliant on a robust local applicant population, the IIMs have more recently strived to attract candidates from overseas to meet global accreditation standards that emphasise the value of diversity in student cohorts, says Rishikesha Krishnan, the director of IIM: Bangalore.
Yet Krishnan concedes that it remains uncertain how the branding of India’s PGP, distinguished from the label “MiM”, might affect its international appeal. “Whether international applicants want to come to India is an open question,” he says.
Nevertheless, it is evident that the MiM degree has evolved beyond its European origins into a qualification that is exported worldwide.
For Richard Breitschwerdt, studying in London and Shanghai will expand his understanding of the global business landscape, preparing him to work in a multinational company. “My aspiration is to serve as a bridge connecting eastern and western businesses,” he says.