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AACSB Urges Business Schools to Adapt to a Global Curricula Perspective

International Business Programs Necessary on College Campuses

Business schools are lagging behind in preparing students for careers in an increasingly global world and need to become more strategic about how they weave cross-border content into their programs, according to a report by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The study titled "The Globalization of Management Education: Changing International Structures, Adaptive Strategies, and the Impact on Institutions," suggests that business schools need to make deeper and more sustained efforts across the curriculum to help students understand the challenges of conducting business in different cultures and countries. Robert Bruner, chairman of the AACSB Globalization of Management Education Task Force, which wrote the report, calls the study "a real wake-up call" for business schools.

It is well known that business is a popular field of study. A UNESCO report (page 45) highlights the popularity of business as the field of choice for foreign students studying abroad. Business was chosen by 17 percent while science had 15% and engineering, 14%. The study includes a chart in 2009 using 2007 data, the most recent available. It is logical to conclude that the spread between business as a chosen field and other areas of study should have widened since then because of the continued globalization of business, unprecedented economic development in China, the emergence of India as a growing economy, and efforts to invest resources in and develop the economies of African countries.

Compared to many academic and professional departments, business schools have been more proactive in recruiting international students. Business schools are also thought to be more entrepreneurial and independent than other academic units. In the Great Brain Race (page 120), Ben Wildavsky wrote that business schools "were early adapters to globalization." True enough but progress has somewhat slowed with cutbacks in state funding for public universities that creates the need to make trade-off decisions about what courses to offer to students. I know because it is happening where I teach at the Orfalea College of Business at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis ObispoBusiness. However, business school deans must recognize the importance of international business education and, if necessary, re-prioritize resource allocations to support international business courses and degree programs. Given the emergence of China as the second largest economic power in the world, India's rapid economic development, and interest in Africa as a country for investment and economic development, U.S. business students must be adequately trained and become culturally-sensitive to the increasing globally-connected business world.

Foreign students often decide to study outside of their home country because they believe they will get a higher quality education. According to UNESCO, Intl Bus Ed in 2007 the top two sending countries were China and India, where business education is relatively new, and the top two host countries were the United States and United Kingdom, where business education is more mature. However, there is emerging evidence that prospective students, especially for graduate management education, are finding what they want at home.

The challenge for U.S. business schools is to recruit faculty capable and willing to teach international business. Like ethics, international business is a field of academic pursuit that isn't always highly regarded but like ethics and leadership, international business is the wave of the future. The skills needed to be successful as we move along in the 21st century are increasingly those related to interpersonal communication, cultural sensitivity, leadership, and ethical decision making.

Blog by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, July 2, 2011