ONDON — If Jeremy Hallett had his way, he would be
sitting on a leafy university campus in the United States with
plenty of time to contemplate the theories of business.
Instead, he spends hectic lunch hours and long evenings in
his office cubicle here, earning his M.B.A.
"It's not a perfect world," he says with a shrug.
Driven by the mantra of globalization and enabled by
Internet-based technologies, M.B.A. programs in the United
States are expanding rapidly into new markets overseas. The
schools are looking for full-time, on-campus students seeking
an international M.B.A. degree as well as part-timers like Mr.
Hallett, who want to learn from afar while they continue
Some of the universities are virtual, offering American
degrees via the Internet. Mr. Hallett, a London-based senior
vice president at Thomson Financial, is earning his M.B.A.
from Cardean University, a newly created entity that exists
only in cyberspace and markets a course package created by
other institutions, including Stanford, Columbia and the
University of Chicago.
For Mr. Hallett, it was the availability of these
prestigious schools on his computer screen that persuaded him
to enroll. "These schools are recognized around the world," he
said. "This degree will be truly international."
The M.B.A. is an American creation. More than 100,000
students are enrolled in M.B.A. programs in the United States,
and now tens of thousands more are enrolled overseas. Even the
threat of global recession has not diminished its popularity,
as unemployed workers sharpen their job skills.
The biggest growth opportunity today for American online
universities is inside the United States, but the schools are
also looking to carry the prestige of American education
"We're serving a global market," said Andrew Rosenfield,
the founder and chairman of Cardean University. A third of
Cardean's students are outside the United States, and he
expects the proportion to grow significantly over time.
"The United States certainly has no monopoly on running
successful businesses," he says, adding that business students
have to get their training somewhere.
Traditional campus-based programs are looking to train them
as well. Columbia formed a partnership with the London
Business School, and the Stern School of Business at New York
University recently inaugurated the Trium M.B.A. degree with
the London School of Economics and H.E.C. Paris. Thunderbird,
an M.B.A. program in Arizona that bills itself as the oldest
international M.B.A. program in the world, established its own
satellite campus in France last fall.
These programs are designed to appeal to executives who
want globally recognized names on their résumés.
Lawrence Naested, an American
Express executive in London, is enrolled in the Trium
program, studying in places like Hong Kong, Paris, Brazil, and
New York. "This is far and away superior to a traditional
M.B.A. program," he says. "Mixing with different backgrounds
and nationalities far outweighs spending a year in a
Even schools that are very careful about diluting their
brand names are looking for new growth opportunities. The
Harvard Business School is keeping its campus-based education
sacrosanct while offering noncredit Harvard-branded education
to managers who can tap into a database for answers to
specific questions. Instead of teaching what may be needed one
day, they offer continuous assistance to managers confronted
with real-life situations.
"We're moving from just-in-case education to just-in-time
education," says Jonathon D. Levy, vice-president of online
learning solutions at Harvard Business School Publishing, a
subsidiary of the Harvard Business School.
This wealth of new business models centered on education
has caught the eye of investors. "Very solid returns, solid
profits, and good cash flow," says Richard Close, a vice
president of SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, summing up why he
feels for-profit post-secondary education is a great
investment opportunity. "Online, you can leverage that success
Most of the online universities are hoping to emulate the
success of the University of Phoenix, whose growth is one of
the most remarkable stories in for-profit academia. The
university, with 140,000 students, has become the largest
university in the country in terms of enrollment. About 60,000
of those students attend classes online and 4,000 are
overseas. The stock of Apollo Group, which owns the university,
has kept pace, rising 500 percent since January 2000.
There have also been plenty of failures. Many online
programs founded during the Internet boom did little but
hemorrhage money. Pensare, an online M.B.A. company using Duke
courses, has been scrapped. Quisic, an online program
developed with the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, was
closed.last year, and SUNY Buffalo had an online M.B.A.
program that lasted only 18 months.
Administrators of campus-based programs believe the failure
of many online programs highlights the importance of extensive
classroom time and personal interaction. And while few of
those involved with online degrees dispute the superiority of
full-time, face-to-face learning, they point to the much
larger market of those who would like an education but cannot
quit their jobs or travel to a campus.
Unlike elite campus-based programs, which offer exclusivity
along with the degree, the online programs accept anyone with
a good credit history and a reasonable likelihood of finishing
the program. The online programs are expensive — Cardean's
M.B.A. costs $24,000 — but that is still much less than a
program like Trium, which costs $92,000.
The success of the American M.B.A. overseas already has
some foreign schools marketing themselves as alternatives. "We
reflect an Anglo-American way of doing business," says Mark
Fenton-O'Creevy, the director of the British Open University
Business School master's program.
But no nationality or new technology makes getting a job
easier these days. Sarah Ferguson, an Open University student,
was excited to hear that an American reporter was writing
about M.B.A.'s. "Can you mention that I'm looking for a job in
the States?" she asked.