Maxim Feldman on business education and the EMBA for Eurasia programme
Your business school has already been around for 12 years. It has also delivered an EMBA programme for virtually the same period. This may well be your school’s most popular programme. Why did you decide to launch the EMBA for Eurasia - and also in another first for the school – why did you opt to partner with another educational institution for this project?
You are right. Our EMBA is a successful and robust programme. It has already existed for 10 years and continues to develop! We decided to focus on international managers actively engaged in business in the Eurasian region. Consequently, this programme also has a more substantive focus (if you like, a macroeconomic and geopolitical edge).Today we are witnessing a significant number of fascinating developments in Eurasia. It is as if the key regional powers have recalled the words of the English geopolitician and geographer Halford MacKinder: “whoever rules Eurasia, rules the whole world”, and have started to act. In actual fact such regional development opens up a vast range of new opportunities, and that is why we also decided to launch the new programme and to do this specifically with HKUST.
Regarding partnerships, such practice is quite common at business schools. For example, all the EMBA programmes at the top of the rankings in the rating of the Financial Times — and this is one of the key ratings in the business education industry — are conducted jointly by two or three business schools. Clearly, when schools pool their resources, they can offer greater opportunities to their students.
And would I be right in thinking that the focus of the new programme is Asia’s burgeoning development and processes directly related to the growth of China’s economy and its proactive stance towards its neighbours?
Not exactly. We are focusing on Eurasia as a whole, on the economic integration processes here. In this respect, we will in actual fact focus primarily on the role of China’s economy and the major international projects that it is initiating. For example, the Belt and Road Initiative that is also known as the New Silk Road. This is a grandiose initiative being promoted by the Chinese government, which already brings together 70 countries and offers regional business players new development opportunities.
However, the programme also has other important topics. Above all, innovation and technological entrepreneurship. We plan to make our students travel a great deal. For example, we will send them to study in Israel. Today this country is the second Silicon Valley. Admittedly Israelis call their valley Silicon Wadi. Translated from Arabic, Wadi means a dry river bed. And so you end up with Silicon Valley. Thirty years ago Israel took a big, risky bet on technology – and came up trumps.
However, when we talk about innovation, we don’t mean only technologies. For us “innovation” is a broad concept related to management. That is why we are also studying in Switzerland – a country that has ranked first for a number of years in the rating of the Global Innovation Index.
The topic of leadership is another traditional focus for international business schools. We are preparing an extremely interesting, and even slightly unconventional cross leadership course, for programme students. Both SKOLKOVO and HKUST accord considerable significance to this discipline, although the schools have slightly different views about the appropriate methodology for teaching Leadership. Programme students will have an opportunity to understand both perspectives.
Is that the reason why you opted for cooperation with the business school from Hong Kong? So that you could use the difference in approaches to provide the students with a broader understanding of the problems and show them several ways of resolving them?
That is partly the case. However, for the record our partnership with HKUST business school didn’t start yesterday. We had worked together before then: we would exchange faculty members, write joint case studies and implement projects aimed at popularising business education in Eurasia. And the joint EMBA for Eurasia programme is the culmination of our cooperation.
In actual fact HKUST is a well-known and robust institution and boasts a very fascinating history. In just 27 years HKUST has become one of the leading universities in Asia. And the business school has ranked first in the ratings of the Financial Time with its Executive MBA for eight years in a row. And it just so happens that this is also an Executive MBA programme that they are also jointly implementing – with America’s Kellogg business school. We are staking a great deal on our partnership with HKUST and remain confident that it will enrich both schools.
Enrich – in the sense of the quality of teaching?
The quality of teaching at both schools is already very high. I am referring more to the opportunity to learn from each other about how to grow and develop organisationally, how to position business education, and how to deploy new methodologies. It goes without saying that we are a fairly young business school and it can be hard to both compete and cooperate with international stalwarts. However, we will find this easier to do after drawing on the reputation and experience of our Hong Kong partner.
HKUST also provides us with something else – it goes without saying that we gain access to Asian markets. On the global macroeconomic map Asia is now shining the brightest beacon. It is the site of far greater economic activity and this will continue for many more years to come. In the case of Russia and Russian business, the focus on Asia – on China – is extremely important in particular in view of specific geopolitical developments.
Partnership educational programmes, for example, in institutions of higher education, imply an exchange of methodological best practices, certain courses, tours of teachers, and frequently, PR. Will your work with the HKUST business school also be structured similarly?
No. Our partnership is far deeper. In actual fact we conduct research and develop educational content jointly with our colleagues. In this area HKUST will be represented by an academic team headed by Professor J.T. Li. He is a very famous economist in Asia. Our team will be led in this area by Professor Tomas Casas I Clett.
Firstly, these academic teams must decide on the content for each of the 14 programme modules. They must determine the specific professors to run them, the specific material that must be taught and how it will be linked with the general concept of the programme. How this will increase the knowledge of students about innovation, about the Belt and Road Initiative, Eurasia, leadership, etc.
We will also prepare case studies together with HKUST which will be studied in the modules – primarily about China and the country’s Belt and Road Initiative. Incidentally they will be uploaded at international case centres and all the business schools internationally will be able to use them.
We will also form the professorial teams jointly. Half the professors will represent SKOLKOVO, and the other half HKUST. Meanwhile the teaching will be conducted in Moscow, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Tel-Aviv, Saint Gallen, Berkley, Astana and Dilijan.
The programme costs as much as the programmes of leading global business schools that already lead the ratings. Is this due to the fact that the students will, as you mentioned earlier, be taught at the business schools of different countries?
In terms of the organisation of the educational process, we are closer in terms of format to GEMBA (Global Executive MBA), which focuses on global coverage – these programmes rank highest in ratings and are the most expensive. If you take the top 20 international schools, then it is highly unlikely that you will find an EMBA that is cheaper than USD 90,000-100,000. Meanwhile the most expensive Executive MBA in the world costs more than USD 200,000 – this is Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois. Good management education is expensive.
The programme will last 17 months. The students will study approximately 55% of the time in Moscow, and 45% in the other locations. Such coverage expands horizons, ensures an incomparably greater amount of content and facilitates networking. It provides an opportunity to look at the problems facing the world, perhaps from unexpected angles. And this is not standard practice. I have still not found any programmes where the students travel around the world so much.
On graduation the students of the EMBA for Eurasia programme will receive two degrees – HKUST and SKOLKOVO. Graduates may indicate both degrees on their CVs. Or just one. In any case, the graduates will become part of the alumni community of both schools and have access to all their resources.
Let me now ask you about the benefits of the programme for students. SKOLKOVO applies a well-considered approach to studies. When students select a business school not according to its prestige, for example, but instead based on usefulness: whether it meets their personal goals or not. Who will find your EMBA for Eurasia programme useful? Do you have an ideal student? What kind of background should the student have? What should these students set as their goals?
First of all they are individuals who have or may have business interests in Asia, Eastern Europe or in the Caucasus. And they are people determined to achieve a great deal.
Secondly, and this is far more important, our students are individuals who don't conform to stereotypes. Or to be more accurate, who can break stereotypes. We understand that if managers come from the West to study in Russia – this means that they are breaking certain generally acknowledged ideas that a business education must be obtained in Europe or America. By contrast we are looking for people, who realise that the world is changing, that Eurasia is its centre and that breaking the mould almost always leads to unique opportunities that nobody else can see. Participation in the EMBA for Eurasia programme represents one such opportunity.
I would also like to add that our unique selling point is that we know how to work with entrepreneurs better than leading Western business schools. As a rule, in the west, 90% of MBA and EMBA programme students are managers of corporations. On SKOLKOVO programmes half of the class are entrepreneurs. We teach them how to recognise that they are simultaneously entrepreneurs and managers. And how to work with these two roles.
It is important that we can draw on extensive experience on how to do business in Eurasia. SKOLKOVO has a great deal to offer to students. At the same time, we have probably created with HKUST the best management education programme for this region.
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