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        European B-schools Miss Out on Asian Talent

        Lack of commercial experience works against Asian applicants

        Lack of commercial experience could reduce Asian applicants's chances of getting into top European business schools and, as a result, the schools are missing out on Asian business talent according to researchers at Germany's European School of management and Technology (ESMT).

        The research, titled “How and Why MBAs Buy an MBA”, shows that the majority of Asian applicants - 82 per cent - tend to apply for an MBA within eight years of working, compared with 53 per cent of Europeans. And of the Asians applying for an MBA, 39 per cent have only three years or less work experience.

        While 80 per cent of applications from candidates with over eight years experience convert to an MBA offer, only 65 per cent of those with less than three years’ work experience do so.

        In May, Berlin-based ESMT partnered with Ruhr University of Bochum to survey 820 current and prospective MBA students. Researchers used direct emails, affiliations other European business schools, and posted threads in MBA forums and websites to conduct interviews.

        Compared with the 82 per cent offer-conversion rate for European applicants, only 63 per cent of Asian students’ MBA of applications were accepted by European business schools.

        Bülent Gögdün, co-author of the report, says lack of commercial experience among Asian applicants is “probably” a differentiating factor: “Many top b-schools think that work experience is more important than GMAT results.

        “We observed that Asians have less [work] experience than American and European students, so they have more difficulties in getting into their favored programs.” 

        Over the past decade competition between business schools for students has intensified. According to GMAC, a total of 3,710 new graduate management programs were launched between 1997 and 2007.

        Former logistics expert Qin Liu, 28, met ESMT at an MBA tour in Shanghai last year, and she soon signed up for a year-long stint in Berlin.

        Hunan-born Liu had 6 years work experience in Jade Cargo, an airline in south China, and decided it was time for a change.

        Liu, one of 25 full-time MBAs in this year’s ESMT program, says it was important to meet school representatives in person: “Asia is very far away from Europe, so that’s why more schools make the trip and extra effort to do exhibition shows there.”

        Business schools could also make an effort to consider a student with less work experience says Gögdün. Students with “great academic results” should be given more chances even if they lack experience.

        Asians value links between school and industry and the quality of career services more than Europeans, he says. Schools can attract more Asian students by emphasizing their placement activities, inviting companies to campus and setting up real-life projects.

        ESMT holds many of these attractions - it was founded in 2002 by 25 leading German companies and maintains string links with them for student recruitment.

        Another difficulty facing Asian applicants is preference for full-time MBA programs. The ESMT study shows their success rate for less traditional degrees such as part-time, executive and distance MBAs are much higher - up to 96 per cent – than for full-time programs.

        However, the research reveals that 88 per cent of Asian respondents opted for a full-time MBA program, compared with 50 per cent of European students.

        “Asians seem to be mainly interested in full-time MBA programs,” says Gögdün, “If they could apply for more EMBA courses, they’ll have a better chance of getting in.”