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Some difficult times in the battle for business brains

AN interview with officials of University of Southern California.

Q: What executive programs are you currently offering?

A: Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) in collaboration with Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Q: In recent years China has experienced a boom in the executive education industry. Is this still the case or are we beginning to witness a retreat?

A: There have been a couple of new entries in the Chinese market and some programs are in the process of re-evaluating their presence. The challenge now is a limited applicant pool with the educational background, English language skills and budget.

Q: To what degree are you exploring new mediums such as the Internet and have you noticed a change in the demand for these alternatives?

A: We are using all forms of Internet marketing in addition to traditional media including magazines, newspapers, radio and direct mail.

Q: What are the effects of the downturn on the executive education industry?

A: Companies are reducing and/or putting on hold the corporate sponsorship of candidates. In addition, candidates are also postponing their pursuit of higher education. The fluctuation of some Asian currencies has also had an effect on overseas recruitment.

Q: MBAs and EMBAs often teach and offer insights into Western ways of thinking. Has it become more important, especially in the light of the economic situation and the future of global business, to shift focus toward Asian business sense?

A: It all depends. The cases used in the GEMBA program are "classic" and have dealt with previous economic downturns. The diversity of our students (15 countries and regions are represented) leads to very interesting case discussions including perceptions of Asian business practices.

Q: Many executive education institutions offer shorter courses. Some are open enrollments whereas others are customized especially for single companies. Is there a noticeable trend for one or the other?

A: This is a mixed bag. Companies and students are evaluating the value-proposition of all programs right now. Length is just one factor. Customization makes it difficult for educational institutions to make a profit.

Q: One of the main objectives of doing an EMBA must be to enhance one's career. Do you keep track of alumni's career moves?

A: Our alumni database is updated on a regular basis with employer contact information.

Q: How do you go about selecting the professors/teaching staff?

A: Our professors are based in Los Angeles, California, and are the top 10 percent of the Marshall School of the Business faculty at the University of Southern California.

Q: Where do you recruit them and do they tend to be Chinese or expatriate?

A: We have Chinese nationals who are USC faculty. It depends on the subject being taught.


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