Foreign Business Schools Eye Indonesians
The QS World MBA Tour, billed “The Biggest MBA Fair,” has been visiting major cities in Southeast Asia to recruit prospective MBA applicants for the past few years. This year it added Jakarta to the schedule, reflecting a wider push to recruit Indonesians to top business schools.
The tour includes Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Manila, and it made its Indonesian debut two weeks ago. The company brought with it 26 prominent business schools from Asia, Europe and America to greet more than 700 prospective students — a majority of them young professionals — who thronged the packed exhibition room eager to find out more about the graduate business programs and scholarships offered at the one-day event.
Just a few months ago, the famed Wharton business school of the University of Pennsylvania — whose alumni include Vice President Boediono — hosted its first Global Alumni Forum in Indonesia. The dean of the University of California Los Angeles Anderson School of Management, Judy Olian, also visited Jakarta for the first time to leverage its network of alumni, which include prominent Indonesian business leaders.
MBAs seem like a hot commodity nowadays. Long seen as the “holy grail” of business education, it opens a door to a lot of opportunities — higher salary and social status and better business opportunities through access to prominent alumni networks.
“The return on investment for graduates from top business schools remains high. MBA is a valued credential and I believe that investing in skills and experiences that will benefit your career well into the future is one worth making,” said Sarah Perez, executive director of the Executive MBA program at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School.
In the past, opportunities to pursue an MBA abroad used to be only available to those with deep pockets. A traditional two-year MBA at a top US business school like Harvard, Stanford, Wharton or Kellogg can set you back $56,000 in tuition fees per year.
Thomas Ahonen, the Asia-Pacific marketing manager for QS, the educational promotions organization that organized the fair, acknowledged Indonesia’s rising middle class and stronger purchasing power as the reasons why top business schools see the country as fertile ground for recruitment.
“We have been receiving many requests to conduct this fair in Indonesia. Apparently there is a big demand and interest for overseas MBA in the country,” he said, adding that he was happy with the turnout and planned to come back next year.
The pool of MBA graduates — known locally as Magister Manajemen — in Indonesia is small relative to the country’s sizeable economy.
“High-caliber MBA graduates with strong overseas credentials are rare in Indonesia,” said Hengki Mardjuki, president director of Edupac, which owns the Kaplan franchise. Kaplan administers the GMAT and GRE tests that prospective MBA students must take to satisfy entrance requirements at top universities.
“They are an elite group highly sought by multinationals and top local corporations, especially in the expanding financial and banking sector. Competition for top MBA talent is fierce. Companies often have to poach experienced ones from each other,” he added.
Himawan, a 25-year-old IT consultant who attended the fair, said he realized the career opportunities awaiting those with MBAs. Having graduated from the University of Indonesia, he obtained his master’s degree in electronic engineering from the University of Melbourne. But even that was not enough for him.
“For you to have a shot at becoming part of the top management, business skills and knowledge is a must. And an MBA degree can help me leapfrog my career,” he said.
Asked why he didn’t consider the local MM degree, he pointed out that while he has no doubt of its quality, he seeks the “intangible” benefits of studying overseas, such as more polished English skills and the opportunity to network globally.
Indeed, his point is supported by a shrinking world with growing economic interdependence, requiring MBA graduates to operate in an international environment.
“The last few years have seen businesses become more international. As a result, businesses are growing faster and looking for employees, and especially managers, who understand how to operate across borders and take into account different business cultures and practices,” said Patrice Houdayer, vice president of graduate programs at EMLYON Business School.
With Indonesia’s per capita income expected to reach $5,000 by 2014 and the country on track to become one of the world’s largest economies, more big name business schools are expected to flock to Indonesia to capture a bigger slice of its overseas study pie.