The Rise of the Multilingual MBA

The MBA has for years been a largely American phenomenon, but this is changing. The Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive ranking of corporate recruiters’ favorite MBA programs has this year added a new category: the international MBA program.

I predict that the international MBA category is going to overshadow (or replace) the North American category. After all, what company today does not want an executive with a strong understanding of and appreciation for global markets? Granted, the top US schools certainly offer their share of international business courses and draw students from around the world (MIT Sloan is one excellent example), but there’s something to be said for immersing US students in foreign programs and forcing them to learn different languages and cultures.

So here are the top five international schools:

  1. IMD International (Lausanne, Switzerland)
  2. London Business School
  3. ESADE (Barcelona, Spain)
  4. HEC School of Management (Paris)
  5. MIT Sloan

And here is an interesting excerpt (subscription required) from The Wall Street Journal:

    Some schools received kudos for encouraging students to be multilingual. “ESADE stipulates that part of the M.B.A. curriculum includes knowing two languages [English and Spanish] by graduation, which in my opinion, should be a requirement for every M.B.A. graduate in the world,” says James Dress, a survey respondent and brand manager at Grupo Panrico, a food company in Barcelona.

Language should absolutely be a component of an MBA program these days. I’m not suggesting that students need to be fluent in multiple languages, but a healthy appreciation for various languages will only help students appreciate various cultures. It also underscores an important point I find often overlooked at business schools: knowing how to read a culture is just as important as knowing how to read a balance sheet.

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