BEST Alliance: MBA for the Next-Generation Business Leaders

TOKYO, Japan — A pioneering MBA program being offered by the top universities in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing will turn out a new generation of business leaders with an unparalleled understanding of commerce in the world’s most rapidly developing region.

Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy (Hitotsubashi ICS) has teamed up with Peking University (PKU) Guanghua School of Management and the Seoul National University (SNU) Graduate School of Business as part of a three-institution program called the BEST Business School Alliance or BEST Alliance (BEST stands for Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo).

The alliance, signed in January 2011, has come into effect this year. It is based on collaboration in programs that will include student exchanges, double-degree programs, intensive joint course, and research collaboration.

“Asia is today the engine of the world and we have to develop new leaders for this growing region,” said Kazuo Ichijo, Hitotsubashi ICS professor and Faculty Director of BEST Alliance. “We see robust growth in China, and Japan has strong competitors in South Korea; as long as Japan has rivals, there is a need to collaborate.”

“We want to develop new courses in areas in which Japan has expertise—such as knowledge management—that then can be taught around the world,” he said. “The courses are innovative and take a long-term view that gives us a competitive advantage.”

There are numerous advantages for students in this program that encourages them to spend time studying at affiliated schools. Not least is the fact that it gives participants different views of the same problems and provides alternative solutions.

“Students coming from Seoul or Beijing will have an opportunity to take part in courses developed here that will give them insight they would not otherwise get,” said Yoshinori Fujikawa, an associate professor and Faculty Director of the MBA Program at Hitotsubashi ICS.

“They will have opportunities to visit global Japanese firms to observe and experience the excellence that is in operation there,” he said, adding that Japan is also a fascinating case study in the area of marketing. Places such as Shibuya, Omotesando, Akihabara and Shin-Okubo, he explained, set the standard across Asia for fashion, pop culture, music and a host of other trends, known as “Cool Japan.”

“What makes this university the best destination is that it is the only national university in Japan that has an English-only MBA course, which it has had since 2000,” said Hitotsubashi ICS professor Michael Korver. “Hitotsubashi ICS combines the best of two worlds, East and West, by locating physically in Japan and taking advantage of its traditions, culture, and economic, managerial, and academic expertise,” he adds. “Our graduates are now our ambassadors and have spread throughout Asia and the world.”

Professor Korver teaches the “Doing Business in Asia” course, an intensive joint course by the three schools, which differs from other programs in that it gives students the opportunity to travel to each of the participating universities, bringing them face to face with the corporations and organizations that are doing business in those markets.

From this experience emerge case studies involving domestic firms operating in their home markets, and overseas firms functioning in foreign environments. Another area of study concerns social problems that the three countries share, such as population issues.

“We have assembled a collection of the top leadership through cooperation across three institutions, and we wish to establish ourselves as a center of excellence,” Ichijo said. “We want to develop insights and knowledge, and then communicate that to the rest of the world.”

Hitotsubashi University
Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy (ICS)
National Center of Sciences
2-1-2 Hitotsubashi, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 101-8439, JAPAN.