By Elliot Davis, Associate, Research, AACSB International
Representing three schools in three distinctly different cultural and economic contexts, Zabid Abdul Rashid, Thami Gorfi, and Pierre Tapie shared best practices with local relevance for the developing world during one of the many sessions offered at the International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) 2013 in Chicago. The session, moderated by Guy Pfeffermann, the founder and chief executive officer of Global Business School Network, highlighted the stark differences between schools in developed and emerging markets. This session's eclectic mix of speakers offered an exploratory glimpse into the best practices for each particular school's academic environment.
Md. Zabid Abdul Rashid, the president and vice chancellor of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (UNIRAZAK) in Malaysia, shared his thoughts on the Malaysian environment. The growing issue he opened with was that Malaysian universities struggled to produce individuals primed for leadership and innovation. "Our university was asked to play an active role in producing future leaders and innovators," said Abdul Rashid, "We had to be different than the existing universities and play an effective role in building up our country."
"The business environment in Malaysia is changing very quickly, and businesses were saying that we were not producing individuals ready for the workforce," he noted. He went on to mention that the businesses are calling for a greater focus on ethical standards, as corporate social responsibility is rapidly "becoming a fashion in Malaysian companies today."
Abdul Rashid shared his own university's best practices to combat these challenges. The first was the organization of round tables with industry, where the university invites key speakers from multi-national and local companies to give their view on what they expected from graduates. The strategy driving this was to create jobs and encourage students to consider a broad range of potential career paths, as there is an acute shortage of graduates in several areas of focus. In a collaborative partnership with Babson College in the U.S., UNIRAZAK now offers a program in which students start up small enterprises with a strong focus on entrepreneurship. Yet, the program itself is not enough, as Abdul Rashid noted the Malaysian culture carries with it a "fear of failure," making it difficult for many to start their own enterprises. To alleviate those fears, the Malaysian government offers 20,000 USD for the start-up of small local enterprises.
"We changed the pattern of learning in UNIRAZAK from the typical pedagogy to action learning, getting post-graduates and undergraduates to do social entrepreneurial programs," Abdul Rashid explained. "We realized that we needed to collaborate with industry more. We created positions within our school where people from industry came to work with our faculty members for several weeks at a time. We encourage local business and faculty collaborations as well."
ESCA Ecole de Management's chief executive officer Thami Ghorfi cited different challenges for his school, located in Casablanca, Morocco. Attracting high quality faculty can be difficult according to Ghorfi, but he pointed out several characteristics of his school's environment that can make the location more appealing. Ghorfi shared that Morocco is considered the westernmost part of the Arab world. At the same time, Morocco is less than ten miles from Spain, across the Straits of Gibraltar, in addition to being a part of Africa. This provides ESCA Ecole de Management with a cosmopolitan blend of culture that can make it attractive to faculty. In the same respect, many exchange students see Morocco as a hub to learn more about Africa and the Middle East.
Despite an insufficient amount of funding for research, ESCA has made it a priority, particularly the research intended to be shared with other emerging countries that may face similar issues as Morocco.
"We invested in two key topics," said Thami Ghorfi during the session. "One is job issues, based on what we know about our surroundings. Good managers need to understand how to decode what's happening in the world. The second is dedicated to entrepreneurship and leadership. In our country, many of our people seek self-employment, even in social businesses."
Ghorfi went on to note that there are more than one hundred million people in the Arab world looking for work, with seven or eight million in Morocco alone. "Many of these people are educated. We have to think about what kind of impact we need to have on our society. We have to try to face these challenges as business schools," he said.
Pierre Tapie, the president of ESSEC Business School in France, shared techniques utilized by ESSEC to intertwine international competencies into their program, something which Pierre noted can be challenging. ESSEC requires immersion periods for its students, which can be up to twelve months in length. There is also a rigorous foreign language component, requiring students to gain proficiency in three to four languages.
ESSEC's highly selective Global MBA program requires students to work in groups of six on a consultancy project with an organization in an emerging country, providing significant hands-on experiential learning. ESSEC also does considerable research on emerging markets, looking at India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Nigeria, to name a few.
While challenged in extremely different ways due to their local surroundings, each school, from France to Morocco to Malaysia, must find a way to produce globally and culturally aware students who can become leaders in the international workforce. International collaboration with other schools was a common thread through each of the three presentations, as was the importance of experiential learning. The more schools can learn and partner with one another, the presenters agreed, the more effectively they can meet the needs of each school's unique environment.