(Crain’s Chicago Business, 24 March 2008)

In the past eight years, the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business has established campuses far beyond Hyde Park and the Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago.

The first: a floor in the prestigious Woolgate Exchange office building in central London. The second: an 1885 mansion in Singapore that’s the former home of a Chinese merchant. And, in February, the university announced plans to build another campus, on the site of a former nutmeg plantation in Singapore, which is scheduled to open in 2009.

The students at these campuses are for the most part European and Asian executives who pay comparable tuition to complete the same 21-month executive MBA program as students in Chicago.

“We thought it would expose our faculty to international issues through the students they were teaching, and they could bring that back to their classrooms in Chicago,” says William Kooser, associate dean for executive MBA programs at the GSB, which opened its European campus in 1994 in Barcelona (the program moved to London in 2005) and its Asian campus in 2000. Each has 180 students, who are taught by GSB professors and receive GSB diplomas.

The school isn’t the only one tapping foreign markets. Lots of area business schools have set up shop in other countries, hoping to draw students who can’t move to Chicago, retain faculty members interested in global issues and bolster their brand internationally.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign runs a 15-month MBA program for about 45 Polish executives a year at the University of Warsaw. The executives are awarded U of I diplomas without setting foot on the school’s Chicago campus, although they do spend a week in the United States on a junket to visit companies like Merck & Co. and attend a U of I football game.

“They don’t quite know what ‘Go Illini’ means, but you want them to feel this is their alma mater,” says Susan Cohen, director of the school’s Warsaw executive MBA program.

Professors from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management teach at four universities abroad: York University in Canada, Tel Aviv University in Israel, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and WHU in Germany. Those students receive a joint degree from Kellogg and their home institutions.

Even the lesser-known Dominican University’s Brennan School of Business in River Forest awards diplomas to students in Poland and the Czech Republic. (Loyola University Chicago and Northern Illinois University have study-abroad programs for their Chicago business students but none for foreign-based students.)


Going abroad offers some business schools another advantage: being No. 1 in the local market. For schools like DePaul University, establishing programs in places like the Czech Republic, Bahrain and Taiwan enabled them to avoid competition from more-prestigious rivals like the GSB and Kellogg.

“We’re not going to go into London or Germany or Singapore, places that already have a lot of strong MBA programs,” says Michael Jedel, associate dean for international programs at DePaul. “We go where we’re perceived as the top-quality provider in that environment.”

DePaul’s part-time MBA programs in Bahrain, which it began in 2001, and the Czech Republic, started in 2002, average 30 students per 18-month session. The university’s program in Taiwan, which started in 2006, draws between 15 and 20 students per session. At each location, the students are taught by DePaul professors flown in from Chicago who use classroom space provided by local executive education centers. All students receive DePaul University diplomas.


Although these foreign programs have yet to become cash cows for Chicago business schools, administrators say they are making a small profit or breaking even despite additional costs like faculty housing and travel. And some charge foreign students less than those in Chicago.

The U of I’s executive MBA program costs the equivalent of $24,000 in Warsaw vs. $74,000 in Chicago (which includes costs that are not part of the Warsaw program, such as room and board during weekend sessions, a laptop and a trip to China). DePaul students in Chicago pay $36,000 to $54,000 in tuition, depending on how many undergraduate business credits they have, for the part-time MBA program. The same degree costs $36,000 in Bahrain, $23,000 in Taiwan and $23,000 in the Czech Republic.

“Because these are people who would not otherwise be coming to DePaul, we feel the tuition is appropriate,” Mr. Jedel says.

The GSB goes the furthest to mix students from its foreign and local campuses. It runs its three programs in tandem and requires students from all three campuses to study together for a week each in London and Singapore. Students at its London and Singapore campuses must also spend two weeks in Chicago. Other schools are moving in that direction.

“I’m starting to promote the idea that our American MBA students could take a few weeks off in the summer and do a course in the Czech Republic, Bahrain or Taiwan,” Mr. Jedel says.

He’s also hoping DePaul’s overseas students can come to Chicago.

©2008 by Crain Communications Inc.

Read this story at Crain’s Chicago Business.