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    Promoting diversity in MBA cohorts to prepare students for the global marketplace

    An MBA aims to prepare people for international careers; to succeed students need to be able to relate to people from different backgrounds.
    Last updated:
    December 3, 2021

    The MBA is a popular degree programme, appealing to people from a range of backgrounds and industries. Creatives and elite athletes as well as more ‘traditional’ applicants from across the finance and consulting sectors are counted among the MBA’s alumni every year.

    And despite rising economic uncertainty in countries like the UK, the MBA remains a prominent choice.

    “Demand for graduate business education remains strong, especially among the largest programs, which tend also to be the most well-known programs with brand recognition,” explains Sangeet Chowfla, Graduate Management Admissions Council and CEO.

    Image credit: Caleb Woods

    MBAs are recognised and respected globally, and as such the majority of students on MBA courses will be ‘international’. This provides students with a unique opportunity to network with business people from diverse range of backgrounds, which in turn can lead to more career opportunities upon graduation.

    There has been an increasing focus on the make up of MBA cohorts in recent years, with variables like gender, nationality, and professional background being taken into more careful consideration.

    Experience in working in a diverse team alongside people from different walks of life is an important prerequisite for many businesses hiring MBA graduates; it is a vital skill if they are to meet the needs of a global market.

    A global marketplace

    There seems to be a particular focus on working with people from different countries at the moment, and it’s easy to understand why. Technological advancements mean businesses can hire the best talent from around the globe to work remotely.

    Having a diverse management team also makes a lot of sense from a business perspective and is key for a company’s the bottom line. Being able to draw on multiple viewpoints and perspectives inevitably leads to better problem solving.

    There’s evidence to back it up too. In their study, consulting firm BCG surveyed employees at more than 1,700 companies in eight countries (Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Switzerland, and the US) across a variety of industries and company sizes.

    They looked at perceptions of diversity at the management level across six dimensions: gender, age, nation of origin (meaning employees born in a country other than the one in which the company is headquartered), career path, industry background, and education (meaning employees’ focus of study in college or graduate school).

    BCG found that “companies that reported above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity.”

    Promoting diversity through the MBA

    One of the main purposes of the MBA is to prepare people for international careers; to succeed students need to be able to relate to people from different backgrounds. A good MBA will bring people with opposing views together in an educational context and facilitate debate.

    This builds skills and qualities like tolerance and empathy and equips individuals with the social skills needed to be able to negotiate and get on in the international world of business.

    Writing for AMBITION, Andrea Masini, Associate Dean of prominent international business school HEC Paris, describes one way in which her institution prepares MBA students for a global marketplace. HEC Paris’ current cohort is 93% international and contains 50 nationalities, making it one of the most diverse in the world.

    Every year, students are sent to a bootcamp at French military academy Saint-Cyr, with the aim of building leadership skills by exposing groups to challenging tasks supervised by leadership experts.

    Masini explains:

    “Recently, I witnessed a shy student from Asia discover the solution to one of the Saint-Cyr challenges. Her nine teammates - who were more dominant Western MBA candidates - loudly offered their own thoughts to the point that she gave up trying to sell her idea.

    They failed the task. Since no one has heard the one team member who had the solution, the whole group learned an important lesson about their own cultural norms and the need to listen to every voice.”

    What are other universities doing do promote diversity?

    At FULL FABRIC, we’re lucky in that we get to have in-depth discussions with higher education professionals on a monthly basis via our My Job in Higher Ed interview series.

    Over the past few years many of our conversations have touched on why diversity is so important when it comes to preparing students for the international workforce, not just in business schools but mainstream universities too.

    Conrad Kheng Hwa Chua, Executive Director of the Cambridge MBA

    “When I speak to alums, they all say that the biggest takeaways from their MBA are the personal skills. This comes from academic courses such as Management Praxis where they learn about different kinds of team roles and how to negotiate with others

    For us diversity is about different backgrounds, different viewpoints. So we have people from the usual MBA areas of consulting, finance and industry, but also entrepreneurs, professional sportspeople, people from the military or the public sector.

    Our spread of students from different countries is such that - not by design -  no one nationality is usually above 15%.”

    Marleen Aasa, Head of University Relations at European Innovation Academy

    Marleen Aasa and her team collaborate with universities and other institutions all over the world. They believe in the power of innovation and entrepreneurship; their programs provide a rare opportunity for students to develop their skills in an interdisciplinary, international, and hands-on environment.

    “We stand behind a product that has such a positive impact on people's lives. Day 15 of the program -- this is the day when students cry out of happiness and marvel at the experience they gained during the three week program.

    They started as strangers, doubting whether they could launch a startup. At the end, they pitch their start-ups in front of investors from Silicon Valley and have formed beautiful friendships and networks of mentors, speakers and faculty that will last for the rest of their lives.

    As our participants say, it is life changing!”

    George Yip, Professor at Imperial College London

    “We have three internal residencies in the three most important economies in the world where students have lectures in local top universities and visit local major companies.

    For this, we've partnered with with The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), ESMT in Berlin and Cornell's management School in Manhattan.

    By combining these lectures with company visits, students really learn about the principles and the theory about doing business in these economies.”

    The bottom line

    Diversity is a hot topic across all industries. As such, it’s important that every institution  goes the extra mile to ensure they are adopting a diverse and inclusive approach.

    When it comes to recruiting students from different countries, an institution's reputation will go some way to securing applications, but it’s easier with a higher education marketing strategy that focuses on providing a personalised application experience for international students.

    And it’s made even easier with the right technology. A all-in-one admissions software like FULL FABRIC’s Origin solution will allow you to attract the best talent in different countries and nurture individuals through the admissions process to enrollment - and beyond.

    To find out how FULL FABRIC’s admissions software can enable your university to attract a more diverse cohort, get in touch with our team of experts today.


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    Kate Tattersfield

    Kate Tattersfield is a former teacher turned content creator at FULL FABRIC, specialising in writing for the education sector.

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