Diversity on MBA courses means that everyone’s a winner

DIVERSITY is important for MBAs, not just because a class made up of people from varied backgrounds makes for a better learning experience but because it improves your prospects afterwards. For many MBAs the most valuable thing is a global network of contacts, and the more diverse, the better. Schools have been aware of this for years but as business gets ever more global they are increasingly working to bring in people from places where MBAs are in short supply.

ESMT, the German business school, is leading the way and has recently announced three €58,000 Kofi Annan Fellowships each year, “for an emerging leader from a developing country” to study for a one-year full-time MBA in Berlin. The school also has a full-tuition scholarship funded by daily newspaper Tagesspiegel for a German applicant who is a “first or second generation immigrant”, and others for students from Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The University of Melbourne has a scholarship for Indigenous Australians, while ESADE, in Spain, has scholarships for students from Mexico and Brazil, Central Europe and Scandinavia. HEC in Paris has ones for Brazilian, Indian and Senegalese students, and the “Fondation Rainbow Bridge Scholarships for women from Asian or African countries affected by natural disasters, drought or famine”.

At Spanish school IE there are scholarships for students from the Middle East, Africa and emerging economies. Lisa Bevill, director of admissions, full-time programs, says: “Students learn from each other just as much as they learn from our faculty so it’s important that the classroom includes individuals with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences from all over the world.” On the International MBA there are 75 nationalities, and 90 per cent are non-Spanish.

Irina Schneider-Maunoury is senior manager of MBA financing at INSEAD, which has scholarships for women from Nepal, Uganda, Palestine, Turkey and the Middle East and another for those from Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and Benin, and she points out that there are alumni associations in 42 countries, which gives students a massive global address book.

“Many people from developing nations start their own businesses,” she says. “Three to 4 per cent of students do so straight afterwards and many others 10, 15 or 20 years after graduating.” The strong ties that are forged on an MBA course mean that many students end up as business partners.

Schools offer scholarships because it’s the right thing to do, but as so often what’s good is also good for business.