French, Russian business schools come together in Moscow
The increasingly global nature of national economies is having an effect not merely on business itself, but on business education.
Looking to expand its service for business students in Moscow, the Institute for Business Studies is teaming up with the Grenoble Graduate School of Business to introduce a truly cross-cultural, Western-Russian training course, set to launch in January 2014.
"Today on the Russian market, we have about 20 joint ventures for strategic alliances of Western and Russian business schools," Sergei Myasoyedov, the Dean of IBS, told The Moscow News. "With maybe one or two exceptions, this is pure franchising: the major faculty, the whole program, all the textbooks, everything - the ideology - is imported from Europe to Russia."
While Myasoyedov sees the introduction of these ideas to Russian students as positive, the transplantation of European curricula is insufficient in today's business context - an insufficiency IBS and GGSB hope to make up for by combining the local knowledge of the former and the modern business expertise of the latter.
"I think there is probably a more cooperative and collegial approach to our program, where we learn from each other, rather than a prestigious business school moving in and imposing its views on the local school," Judith Bouvard, Dean and Director at GGSB, told The Moscow News in an e-mail. "We are going to take advantage of the strengths of each school."
From economics and marketing backgrounds
Born in Moscow, Myasoyedov graduated with a PhD in economics from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO) and stayed on to teach macroeconomics and microeconomics. In 1988, he and three friends established IBS at MGIMO, where it remained as an independent unit until becoming part of the Russian Academy for National Economy in 1996.
"We decided to let the big academy become an umbrella brand for us, and work on what we enjoyed," he said. "We would be working with the executive students and the managers, instead of filling out paperwork."
Despite its home at Russia's largest state university, Myasoyedov insisted that the school is fully supported only by its own income.
Bouvard grew up near Manchester, England, moving to France after leaving school. Following her postgraduate studies, she worked mostly in the luxury shoe business before starting to teach marketing at the Ecole Superieure de Commerce at Grenoble. She created the school's first international postgraduate program in 1995, and has since established a range of programs in Grenoble itself and in nine different countries, including Russia, Moldova and Georgia.
"I became interested in the needs of students for business education and the needs of companies in identifying the talent and profiles to become competitive," Bouvard said. "That's how I started in the business education sector, which has changed so much over the past 20 years due to globalization and new technologies."
Sharing and learning
The mutualistic nature of the program is one of its strengths, as IBS has found a partner it can both share with and learn from, Myasoyedov said.
For Bouvard's part, the dynamism of IBS was what attracted GGSB into the partnership.
"Working with IBS is a real plus for GGSB, as one can sense a real dynamic and professional atmosphere in the business school," she said. "I have been impressed by the intellectual level of professors I have met and the openness and cooperative spirit."
The uniqueness of the program goes beyond a cross-cultural foundation, however. In looking at advertisements for other Russia-based programs, Myasoyedov said, he found that while they promoted themselves as exclusively for executives, in reality they were mixing executives with middle managers despite the fact that managers at different levels have different needs.
"The mids need techniques, they need practical training," he said. "[Executives] need a broad way of thinking, they need a development of vision, they need personal development exercises to increase their leadership ability."
IBS and GGSB decided to maintain separate courses for their executive and middle management students.
Management of change
An additional feature of the program is what Myasoyedov described as "management of change," based on the rapid shifts in emerging economies. While state-run giants such as Gazprom play a significant role in Russia, the school's interest is more in companies in the middle to large range, with an annual turnover of between $50 million and $500 million.
"The vast majority of those companies were created by a progressive group of people who found some market niche, who had a lot of problems while developing their businesses, but now they are functioning," he said. "Those people... think about strategy, and they are pretty open, looking for opportunities."
The joint program is looking to capitalize on this growing mentality, and GGSB will bring its encouragement for students to participate more actively than traditional Russian teaching styles would dictate.
"GGSB has a very interactive pedagogy where students are encouraged to learn and not to be taught, making them take a very active part in their education," Bouvard said. "The older Russian students see a difference from what they were used to in their undergraduate studies. The new generation that are technology-savvy will have to learn how to balance technology and social and interpersonal communication."
For Myasoyedov, the cultural differences extend to the relationship between the institutions as well, but he hopes that the mutual understanding of "the roots of those differences' can filter through to the students to their benefit.
"People who speak several languages see the world in many more colors, they can feel other cultures," he said. "People who understand different ways of behavior among people in different countries, they have lots of advantages while managing people."
Questions of the week
Yelena Zubkova, vice rector, MIRBIS business school
1. How strongly are features or trends in the Russian economy shaping your curricula?
Everything happening in the country in the economy and business has an immediate impact on the content and practice of business education. Society and business are not only the environment where MIRBIS graduates and current students work, but are also our end-consumers: The better our graduates are prepared for work, the more highly we can rate the effectiveness of the business school. One criterion is the demand for graduates: 83 percent of MIRBIS graduates find work in their field or get a promotion in the first three months after finishing their program.
More than 70 percent of instructors on the MBA and 63 percent on the masters' and bachelors' programs work in business by day. By night, they come to MIRBIS lecture halls to do seminars, master classes and consulting on students' projects. Business representatives also sit on the Board of Trustees.
This year, MIRBIS turns 25. Our slogan is, "MIRBIS - a world of limitless possibilities!" We are using all of our efforts to be efficient and modern. Every year we review our academic programs and renew our practical assignments and case studies, so they reflect the basic trends in the economy and in business.
2. What do you try to pass on to your students? Does this differ according to whether they're from Russia or abroad?
Themes of corporate social responsibility, steady development, business ethics, and observing norms and quality requirements are present in practically all courses, through case study analysis and a review of best practices of international and Russian companies.
There are no differences in the programs for MIRBIS's foreign and Russian students. For a lot of subjects, foreign students study together with Russians. At the same time, they take an intensive Russian language course and a module about Russia. This includes seminars about the history of Russian civilization and industry, foreign entrepreneurship in Russia, and the modern Russian economy in a global context.
This module and knowledge of the language give our foreign students an inestimable advantage in entering the workforce in their home countries, since companies outside Russia are ever more readily hiring graduates familiar with the country.
3. What do you think students today look for in their education that is different from the past?
Today's students aspire to get practical networking skills, an ability to work in teams and what we call "soft management skills." MIRBIS formulates them through its corporate culture.
The knowledge and abilities of MIRBIS graduates strongly distinguish them from graduates of other institutions. They demonstrate a knowledge of foreign languages, above all an outstanding grasp of English, which has become a key to the door of many companies for our graduates.
According to polls over the past five years, MIRBIS is one of the most well-known Russian business schools among employers. This eases recruitment for our graduates.
Even if undergraduates study in our day program, in the summer, they work in their parents' or friends' companies, starting out in the simplest positions. This way, when they graduate, they already have a level of practical work experience, which employers value very highly.
MIRBIS students try to take as many professional exams as possible and receive international-level certificates in commercial management, accounting, computing and foreign languages. When our generation was studying, none of this existed. Naturally, the new generation of students is the Millennium Generation!
Mikhail Zaitsev, deputy rector, Institute for Business Studies
1. How relevant is business education today for the new generation of managers? Is it possible to have a successful career in business without an MBA?
In many spheres of human activity, you can achieve success without specialist education. There are many such examples in business: Henry Ford, Taiichi Ohno, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and [social network VKontakte's] Pavel Durov did not receive MBAs.
Nevertheless, it is unlikely that a modern person would refuse the benefits of education. An MBA is a "generalist" program that allows participants to develop decision-making skills as well as leadership qualities.
Around 10 to 15 years ago, Russian companies ignored the MBA, thinking it superfluous, and instead required potential managers to have a postgraduate degree (master's or specialist's) in economics. Now, you more frequently see employers demanding an MBA from managerial candidates, and most young people understand that it is the first step toward a successful managerial career.
2. IBS offers an MBA and an Executive MBA. How are they different?
People on the Executive MBA are usually between 32 and 45, and have reached upper management positions. The basic aim is to structure students' experience to create an integrated picture, emphasizing strategy, leadership and decision-making. Upon the conclusion of the course, a manager should be "despecialized" and prepared to lead a company.
The MBA is designed for people from 25 to 35, involved in mid-level management positions, who are targeting significant career growth. As a rule, these programs include business specializations (marketing and sales, finance, etc.), as well as general management skills and leadership. Before assuming an executive role in a company, a person should work for a long time in some specific area of company management. Having an MBA specialization in this area helps her to perform this work successfully and climb the company ladder faster.
3. How do joint MBAs, carried out by Russian business schools and a Western partner, differ from Russian MBA programs and from the programs of Western business schools in Russia?
The MBA is a Western invention, and is a newcomer among the great traditions of Russian education. The oldest Russian MBA programs have only been running 13 years. The system of public accreditation, with the participation of the business community, is now developing.
Alongside very strong Russian programs, we often encounter programs under the fashionable sign "MBA" that sell a product in the spirit of "scientific capitalism" (as opposed to the Soviet "scientific communism").
The growing popularity of MBA programs - compared to more traditional economic and management education in Russia - comes from the fact that the Russian standard of MBAs follows the Western example, oriented toward practical business and Western standards of operation.
In my view, the best decision for people hoping to receive an MBA from a Western business school, but working and building their careers in Russia, is a joint program of a top-ranked international school and a leading Russian school. The Western partner is a guarantee of the program's quality and modern methodologies, and the Russian partner keeps the program close to the business, cultural and political realities of life in Russia.
For 15 years, IBS has been running a joint Executive MBA program with Antwerp School of Management, and this year we will be opening a joint International MBA program with the Grenoble Graduate School of Business. It appears to us that this is the way to increase the quality of Russian business education and secure international recognition for it.