An MBA in Japan? – “Absolutely”, says Hitotsubashi ICS’ new dean Prof. Hiroshi Kanno
MBA News Barbara Bierach / 06-14-2012
Business schools are still a novelty for Japan. The Japanese Ministry of Edu-cation only began accrediting them 9 years ago. Since then only a handful of business schools is teaching MBA programmes in English.
Nevertheless, Hitotsubashi University in the center of Tokyo was the very first university in Japan that started teaching commerce 135 years ago and has since graduated many of Japan’s business leaders.
Hitotsubashi ICS was the first all-English MBA program in Japan and recently also launched the BEST Alliance programme with Peking University Guanghua School of Management and the Seoul National University Graduate School of Business – BEST referring to Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo. Under this programme, Hitotsubashi ICS students interested in Asian business are able to pursue a double-degree programme, exchange programmes, and study tours in partner schools.
But so far the local business community has limited respect for MBA pro-grammes. MBA Channel had a chat with Prof. Hiroshi Kanno, the new dean of the business school about the reason for the perception that an MBA is mainly an American thing.
Business school is a fairly new development in Japan. How is the image of MBAs in Japan? One keeps reading that the Japanese business cul-ture has limited respect for MBA programmes. Is that true – and if so, what are the reasons for this perception?
Because “life-time employment” has been a common practice within the Jap-anese corporate environment… The work culture here in the past has largely been focused on training employees internally – through work experience on the job – rather than depending on external training such as MBA pro-grammes,. This traditional model does not work anymore in a globalized economy. In recent years, more Japanese firms have come to value em-ployees that are capable of thinking strategically, and have an international perspective, and yet realize that such capabilities are difficult to teach internally. While there used to be an idea that an MBA is a very US thing, there is a growing demand towards MBA programmes that meet the emerging needs of Japanese corporations.
How well are the European and American accreditation organisations Equis, Amba and AACSB accepted in Japan?
The concept of accreditation is fairly alien in Japan. Within the country, the Ministry of Education is the accreditation body, so to speak, and controls the quality of the academic institutions here.
Why should a non-Japanese person do an MBA at Hitotsubashi ICS?
Based in the center of Tokyo, Hitotsubashi ICS is the gateway to top Japanese corporations that are mostly headquartered here. Our international students tell us that they are attracted to Japan because it is a leading innovator in manufacturing, technology and trends in new fashion and animation. It has also one of the safest, most efficient, and comfortable social infrastructures in the world.
Are Japanese corporations employing your graduates?
Yes, both our Japanese and non-Japanese graduates have been employed by top Japanese firms within and outside of Japan. We see that Japanese companies have been especially aggressive in expanding their businesses abroad in recent years, and non-Japanese talents, particularly those who have some level of Japanese language ability, are in particularly high demand.
In other nations a weak economy has pushed more professionals to seek degrees and certificates to improve their job prospects – is that true for Japan, too? And if so, are the numbers of Japanese applicants in business schools rising?
Japanese companies constantly feel that there is a need for stronger management skills. In other words, the substance of what an MBA education offers is what is important to companies, not the degree itself. Having said that, though, the demand in Japan for an MBA education is growing. Not because of the short-term weakened economy, but because of a fundamental shift in the Japanese job market to acquire solid management skills.
Many Japanese companies have largely stopped sponsoring expensive overseas degrees the way they once did for their employees. Does that help to make home-grown Japanese MBA programmes more attractive for students and employers?
Japanese firms are no longer sending their employees to pursue MBAs abroad because doing so no longer fits with their human resource strategy. And because the number of Japanese business schools is increasing to meet the demands of the Japanese companies, they have less need to send their employees abroad.
The earthquake and Tsunami of last year have shocked the world. What is the impact for your school? Do you have less or more applicants since?
March 11, 2011, when the earthquake and tsunami happened, coincided with the spring break in our academic year when many of our international students were back in their home countries, and yet all our international students returned to Tokyo to continue with the programme. In August that same year, just five months after the disasters, we saw a record-breaking number of family and friends who flew in to Tokyo to attend the commencement ceremony of our graduates. Those who have had first-hand experience living in Japan or who know people living here understand the reality of the situation and they all came back. Unfortunately, we realize that there are many others who may initially have had the interest in studying here but have not had any sources of information about Japan other than what is being portrayed in the media.
Facts and Figures
Hitotsubashi ICS offers one- or two-year MBA curriculums as well as a DBA programme. The selection criteria for admission is identical for both one- and two-year options since all students are integrated completely in the first year, follow the same academic calendar, and must meet the same academic re-quirements. Every incoming class is kept to fewer than 60 students to maintain the student-to-fulltime faculty ratio of about 3:1, and to allow faculty to know and mentor students personally. In the current class, 88 per cent of the class are international students and 37 per cent female students. In addition, typically up to 5 exchange students each term come in from top business schools abroad.
First Year total, including matriculation, tuition, educational materials and living expenses: 2,600,000 – 3,500,000 yen. (100,000 yen are about 1250 dollars.) Second Year total: 2,000,000 – 2,800,000 yen
CV of the Dean
Prof. Kanno became Dean of Hitotsubashi ICS in April 2012. He previously served ICS as Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Professor, teaching courses in Independent Research, Operations Management and Problem Solving, and facilitating the MBA Field Study. Before joining Hitotsubashi ICS, Prof. Kanno was Partner and Managing Director of The Boston Consulting Group in Japan, where he had worked for 17 years.
Other schools in Japan with MBA programmes in English language
Doshisha University, Globis, , International University of Japan, Nagoya Uni-versity, Kyoto University, Kwansei Gakuin University, Ritsumeikan University, Asia Pacific University and Waseda University.