Going Global: For a Nation, Exporting Management Education to Other Countries Is Strategic. (Viewpoint)

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HOW GLOBAL SHOULD A COMPANY GO, AND HOW QUICKLY? HOW many new markets should it enter? What will it cost? Where can needed information be found? What about partnering for knowledge, connections, and specific functions? If these are the questions many businesses are asking themselves these days, that means that business schools are faced with a similar-looking list of questions. Should they convert their approach to a fully global approach to business education? If not, how far should they go in accommodating students and corporate clients that need global expertise? What kinds of resources will it take to bring in knowledge about new markets and new approaches? Can they afford to develop it on their own, or do they need partners abroad? And what are the implications for faculty roles and governance?

Recently, I spoke about such challenges with Patrick Molle, president of the French business school Ecole de Management de Lyon. E.M.LYON is one of France's most innovative, entrepreneurial business schools. With about 2,000 MBA students (a quarter non-French), and an additional 1,500 students in executive programs, the school has an extensive network of exchange and dual-degree programs, plus worldwide offices that not only recruit students but support the school's international business in executive education, courseware, etc. When I spoke with Molle, the school was in the process of spinning off its executive education program (already set up as a separate business unit) as a for-profit subsidiary, with the hope of attracting corporate clients--and even individual students--as investors.

E.M.LYON is committed to the idea of global business, but it faces some real constraints. Compared to giants like Harvard and Wharton, it's small, and 90 percent of its operating budget comes from tuition and fees. Though E.M.LYON is fundraising, it doesn't have the kind of endowment that would allow it to innovate without keeping one eye firmly on the marketplace. (An example: E.M.LYON won't develop an online course until it finds a corporate client to pay for the original development costs. After the client is served, the school creates a new version of the course, minus proprietary information, for its own use.) It simply can't afford to retool as a global business school.

What it can do, Molle explained, is partner. And over the past few years, E.M.LYON and Canadian counterpart Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (Montreal), have been building the AEA Alliance, a "cross-regional business school." AEA stands for the Americas, Europe, and Asia, and it aims to have members from the European Union, NAFTA, MERCOSUR, and ASEAN. …