Why West is best: MBAs thrive in North America

North America, Western Europe retain their status

Despite great advancements in the ambitions of business schools in other regions, respectable international MBA rankings reveal a simple truth: North American and Western European business schools dominate the MBA world now as ever before. Ross Geraghty looks into why.

In TopMBA.com’s MBA employer rating, the QS Global 200 Business Schools Report 2012, 82 business schools feature in North America, 67 in Europe, 36 in Asia-Pacific, and 10 in Latin America. Further, looking at the various global MBA rankings available, it’s not common for a business school outside of North America and Western Europe to appear in the top 20 MBA providing institutions.

“As countries such as China and South Africa increasingly feature in global economic discussion, MBA applicants are attracted to  business schools with a cultural understanding and close ties with local employers,” explains Nunzio Quacquarelli, managing director of QS Quacquarelli Symonds and author of the Applicant Survey 2012.

“However, at the same time, the top 10 MBA study destinations retain a strong lead in popularity amongst MBA applicants and are almost exclusively western nations. The only exception is Singapore; a nation well-known for offering western business ideals, as well as strong business education links to Western Europe.”

North America’s strong business education history

The MBA began in America, of course, with Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth creating the first management program in 1900 and Harvard Business School with the first actual MBA in 1908. Chicago introduced the executive MBA in 1943 while, in 1950, the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey became the first business school outside the US to offer an MBA.

For Professor Sridhar Balasubramanian, associate dean for the MBA program at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, this educational heritage is an essential reason for the dominance of North American schools. “A key reason for this dominance is the role of business research, the development of theories and concepts, the establishment of important empirical findings, and the publication of impactful books.

“The research culture that supports research productivity has been nurtured over time. This culture cannot be transplanted or mandated. It has to be built from the ground-up. But attracting an accomplished cohort of scholars to ‘kickstart’ the process can be difficult.”

Recognition by the major accrediting bodies, the US-based AACSB, Europe’s EQUIS and UK-based AMBA, coupled with a strong reputation amongst recruiters are major factors. This is not to say that Asian business schools will not compete to some extent, particularly with domestic recruiters, for business talent but, as Sauder’s Chandrashekaran continues: “The consequence of this well established tradition is a global acceptance of North American and European MBA and other business degrees as valuable commodities in the global job market.”

In short, and rightly or wrongly, approaching a recruiter with an MBA from long-established North American or Western European school carries a more weight than an MBA from a relatively fledgling school based elsewhere, in the minds of some international MBA recruiters.


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