Certain business schools - notably London Business School and Insead in France - have been preaching this credo for some time. But it is only recently that the idea seems to have really taken hold.
One of the key developments is that well-known US business schools - which have traditionally had such strong domestic markets that they have not had to worry about the international dimension - have started to establish links with schools in Europe and further afield. For example, Chicago University's consistently highly-rated Graduate School of Business has recently opened a campus in London (after 10 years in Barcelona) in an effort to attract a more international clientele, while Duke University in Durham, North Carolina has an executive MBA partnership with the London School of Economics. In addition, Columbia Business School in New York has built up its presence in China as well as offering the EMBA-Global in partnership with London Business School.
At the same time, European institutions have been seeking to differentiate themselves from the US big players by offering something distinctive. One of these initiatives is the Community of European Management Schools, which was founded in 1988 with the idea of encouraging international co-operation and also meeting the perceived need of corporations to have access to internationally minded students and internationally trained managers.
François Collin, executive director of CEMS, explains: "It's a very precise niche. The programme is focused on international management." With students generally required to speak at least three languages, the one-year programme is clearly not for everyone. But for those who have such qualifications and are willing to work overseas and to develop an international career, it provides great opportunities and - since students are required to study for the course in two centres - experience of living and working in different cultures.
And, with a record 580 students spread over the community's 17 centres starting this autumn, it clearly has appeal to the growing numbers of would-be managers, particularly from central and eastern Europe, who are comfortable working in different countries.
Collin says that the success of the programme can be shown by the fact that 3,300 members of its alumni network live throughout Europe, with half working outside their home countries.
"Most of them work for international companies and a third speak four languages fluently," he adds.
Moreover, companies appear to be sufficiently interested in what it produces to become corporate partners. To date, 47 - ranging from food companies Nestlé and Danone to the accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and oil companies BP and Shell - have signed up, and the network is growing, says Collin. And these organisations do not just take a back seat role. They are in the design and the delivery of the programme.
The need to produce international managers is also recognised by Lyn Hoffman, associate dean at London Business School. "Business is global, so business education clearly has to be global as well," she says. "The world in general is fast-moving, complex, competitive and increasingly global, so what we're doing is trying to help people succeed in that environment." She believes that LBS's longstanding international approach puts it in "a very strong position". Indeed, it has on its programmes about 1,000 students from 75 different countries and speaking 52 different languages. Combined with a faculty drawn from around the world, this provides a diversity of learning that people think is important, she says.
Although this provides some of the international feel offered by CEMS, LBS students are generally older than the CEMS students, who are usually following on from earlier studies.
In addition to its well-established MBA, LBS offers an executive MBA, the renowed Sloan Fellowship, offering an MSc in general management for experienced executives from around the world, and the EMBA-Global, which is a partnership with Columbia and so offers students the opportunity to attend two of the world's leading business schools in two of the world's leading financial centres.
The international element is also being taken up by less well-known schools. For instance, the increasingly highly-regarded Bradford University School of Management, which came fifth (just behind third-placed CEMS and fourth-placed LSE) in a recent ranking of European business schools, offers an MA in international business and management and a European MA in international management. The latter involves studying at Bradford and also at at least one of the university's partner institutions, in Nantes, France, Barcelona, Spain and Warsaw, Spain.
As with CEMS, Bradford points to its students' success in the jobs market as evidence of both demand for the qualification and recognition of its value.
But, as Olga Sachura indicates (see box, below), it is increasingly realised that no one business course is likely to be sufficient to last a full career. Just as she recognises that she might need to study for an MBA in a few years, so others might start with a traditional MBA and then augment it with more specialist courses, aimed at acquiring further expertise in such areas as finance or strategy, or with more general executive programmes that are either short-term residential or take place over a longer period on a module basis.
In short, even the well-established institutions such as Insead and Harvard have moved away from a small range of programmes and realised that they need to be as flexible and competitive as their customers in offering a variety of courses, in a variety of ways. The result is that potential students have a heady array of options from which to choose.
Olga Sachura: 'I wanted to go to LSE and combine it with a term abroad'
Olga Sachura is typical of a new breed of business recruit: intelligent, multi-lingual and prepared to work around the world.
Sachura, 23, comes from Ukraine, but studied for her A-levels in the UK and then went on to do an undergraduate business degree at Warwick University. Wanting to take her studies further, she applied for a postgraduate course at the London School of Economics and joined the Masters in international management offered by the Community of European Management Schools (CEMS), of which the LSE is a part.
The attraction, she says, lay in the international aspect of the course and the networking opportunities.
"I wanted to go to LSE, and CEMS combined the LSE with a term abroad. Also, there are a lot of corporate partners involved." She is now working for one of those partners - the cosmetics company L'Oreal - though she didn't obtain her position via an official route but through being part of the team that won the L'Oreal Marketing Award while doing her term at the Rotterdam School of Management. "I went to the final in Paris and met a girl in HR at L'Oreal," Sachura explains.
Such networking opportunities are part of the attraction of any business course, but at CEMS the close involvement of the corporate partners makes it doubly so. "You get to meet corporate partners all the time," she adds, pointing to the monthly alumni dinners and other events as occasions at which informal contacts can be made.
Sachura, who lists Ukrainian and Russian as her native languages and English as her second, but also speaks French, appears set on an international career. And, while she is considering doing an MBA later, she feels the Masters is fine for the moment.
"You spend half the time studying and half the time working on real projects so you get good skills," she says.Reuse content