The two imposing Georgian buildings overlooking Russell Square in Bloomsbury in London are quintessentially British from the outside. Step through the solid oak doors to the ultra-modern interior, however, and you'll find a piece of America. This is Hult, the only international school in the UK to offer postgraduate business qualifications and US undergraduate degrees under the same roof.

Hult International Business School prides itself on being international and has premises in four other cities – Boston, where it is based, San Francisco, Dubai and Shanghai. Students on the accelerated one-year full-time MBA rotate between one or two of the other campuses for the final two modules. Those who choose the two-year part-time MBA study in Dubai and another campus of their choice.

Ranked 44th in the world and 23rd in the US by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the college was set up in 1964 by the consulting firm Arthur D Little and had established an international reputation by the time the company went bankrupt in 2002. The business school was taken over by Kaplan, Inc and acquired its current name in 2003. In London it offers MBAs, a range of Masters and four-year American undergraduate degrees that are based on a broad-based education plus majors in business, international relations or communications.

Since its inception, the college has pioneered action learning, using real-life business events and simulated situations as the basis for classroom teaching, supplemented by field studies and internships. Students work as a team, coming up with ideas and solutions. In a commitment to lifelong learning, Hult offers its alumni access to free electives for life.

The emphasis is on international business, which is why rotation between campuses is important, according to Hult's president, Dr Stephen Hodges. "We want them to have contact with local businesses, so they understand the importance of Islamic banking in Dubai or supply-chain management in Shanghai. They get the chance to take local language classes in basic Mandarin or Arabic."

The British-born Hodges started his career with McKinsey in London. Now he divides his time between London and Boston. To be players on the international stage, managers need to understand the ways things are done differently across the globe and the culture of the countries they visit, he says. "We introduce students to a range of local arts and traditions, such as acupuncture or origami, and, most importantly, they learn how to get comfortable in a country where they do not speak the language. Even the most confident find it a shock."

Another important experience for Hult students is the first-hand experience of how some parts of the emerging markets have leapfrogged the West. "We tend to think about New York as being the most developed city in the world, but when you turn up in Shanghai or Dubai the infrastructure is far superior," he says. The college is considering opening a campus in India to give students experience of a different kind of emerging market with a less developed infrastructure.

The flagship MBA programme has students from across the world, from Spain to South Africa, Iceland to India and China to Chile, many drawn by the chance to complete the degree in one intensive year instead of two. Those who take advantage of the global rotation programme can start their MBA in London, and complete the electives in San Francisco, Dubai, Boston or Shanghai. Alternatively, they can take the elective courses over six weeks at the Shanghai campus.

MA students, too, get the chance to travel. International relations MA students, for example, can do all three modules in London or take the third one in Shanghai or San Francisco. The Master of international business can be started in San Francisco, London, or Dubai. When students take their elective courses, they can choose to remain at their home campus or study at a different Hult campus.

But the courses come at a cost. A one-year intensive MBA costs £31,800 in fees plus study materials, activity fees, accommodation, living and other expenses, bringing the total to an estimated £57,500. Spending part of the course at another campus can add £1,700 to £3,400, depending on location and duration.

'Looking back it was a bit of a risk but I've got my investment in the MBA back in spades'

When Hult graduate Chris Twyman decided to set up a company, the lecturers at the Hult International Business School in Boston, USA, were among the first he consulted. Raised in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, Twyman, 37, is now the founder and chief executive of Zapoint, a Boston-based talent-management company.

"I saw the need for a high-tech, computerised talent-management system to help employers deploy, retain and promote staff effectively. It's based on algorithms which identify skills, saving employers from the need to sift through hundreds of CVs. Some of the first people I went to were my former lecturers at Hult. A professor in organisational development saw the potential immediately, and within minutes we were sitting across the road in Starbucks. He wrote a cheque for $25,000 (£16,700) there and then to show his commitment. I never cashed it, because I wanted to show him more of a business plan before he made that investment. He ended up making an even bigger investment.

Zapoint has been very successful and we have just announced the acquisition of the social-networking jobs board Jobster. I've got my investment in the MBA back in spades. We raised $5m in 18 months, 80 per cent of it from Hult faculties and alumni.

The MBA gave me the tools to articulate where I wanted to go and then the management skills to take on the challenge of growing the company.

Looking back, it was a bit of a risk. I was working as a marketing executive for a telecommunications software company in London and spending two weeks of every month in California. We had just had our first child and my wife took me aside and said either I should get a job that kept me at home or we should move to the US.

I had wanted to do an MBA, and we decided the time was right. I enrolled with Hult in 2003, because it was one of the few places with a high reputation and a one-year MBA. I quit my job and we moved to Boston. By then, we had two small children.

The MBA was an investment for the long term."