Business schools are enjoying a soaring appetite for executive education in Asia, with the growth driven by factors including the region’s economic dynamism. China and India in particular are attracting larger cohorts of local students, with the former expected to get an influx of international demand now that the government has dropped its strict pandemic controls.
Australia and Singapore are also increasingly attractive destinations for organizations looking to train their senior managers. “There is an increase in demand, and partly it’s because the rest of the world is looking to study at Asian schools too,” says Sameer Hasija, Dean of Executive Education at INSEAD, which has a campus in Singapore. “For Asian executives, this means that getting global exposure no longer means that they have to travel outside of the region; the world is coming here.”
INSEAD offers more than 60 courses for executives at all career stages, as well as tailor-made training programs for organizations that tackle their unique challenges. A welter of online options also enable individuals and companies to access Asian-made content from a distance.
Developing a global perspective
Despite the geopolitical issues the world is facing, Hasija says executives increasingly want to understand how to do business globally. “The West is no longer the unique center of economic growth and business activity in the world,” he adds. “The world is poised to flatten out as parts of Asia start catching up and assuming a dynamic role in fueling global and societal progress. For that reason, there’s a real imperative to understand the unique opportunities and challenges that exist in this part of the world.”
That does not, however, mean that participants should forgo the local, contextual and nuanced understanding of where they are and where they do business.
“Everything we do on campus, and off campus, is designed to bring our students deeper into China and more connected globally. Local needs are met for our students, partners and alumni by offering courses, resources and experiences that help them to excel here,” says Professor Shameen Prashantham at China Europe International Business School, based in Shanghai.
He says that for some participants it’s a very practical decision to attend an executive course in China, whether virtually or in-person. “They are attracted by the growth and potential of business opportunities here compared to more traditional markets,” Prashantham says, adding “you need to go to where the action is, so right now Asia occupies a very favorable place”.
Teaching quality increases across Asia
He also notes that the quality of teaching has been increasing in the region. “The rise of excellent business schools in Asia has been well documented, and has certainly helped with this trend” of higher demand for training programs on the continent”. CEIBS runs a wealth of executive courses across the Chinese cities of Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing.
Such courses appeal increasingly to executives based around the globe, a direct reflection of the economy. “Asia is the fastest-growing economic region in the world. Asian consumers are expected to account for half of global consumption in the next decade. There has also been a shift toward more region-centric supply chains,” points out Nicole Tee, Director of Graduate Studies at NUS Business School in Singapore, “a cosmopolitan city that is home to an array of large regional companies and multinationals”.
Coupled with a high quality of life and a welcoming environment for foreigners, Tee says Singapore can act as a springboard to doing business in the rest of Asia. “Asia is a highly heterogeneous region, with huge diversity between countries and even within cities in terms of income levels, technological adoption and political landscape,” she adds.
NUS offers a wide range of Asia-focused business management and leadership programs for senior executives, which take into account the nuance of each location.
“Business schools cannot teach one specific model of doing business in Asia; they must equip participants with the skills to be adept at managing the cultural nuances of different markets at very different stages of development,” Tee continues. “The consumer behavior in Indonesia, for example, is distinct from that in neighboring Singapore, which has an income per capita that is close to 20 times higher.”
Ramabhadran Thirumalai, a Deputy Dean at the Indian School of Business (ISB), agrees on the importance of a global education rooted in local context, something he believes Asian institutions have, in spades, which gives them an edge. “Problems and solutions are different in Asia. The business schools in Asia are in a unique position to offer something that is very different from the business schools in the West,” he says.
With that said, Thirumalai notes that going to the West is still considered aspirational and attractive because of the educational as well as career opportunities. “While there has been a change in the latter over the last couple of decades, barring a few educational institutions in Asia, not many can compare or compete on the quality of education,” he says.
“Both the Indian government and private sector have to invest far more in educational institutions to make it appealing for international participants to come to India to study.”