So I was waiting outside my hotel looking for our designated driver when I heard someone ask me 你需要帮忙吗 (do you need any help? in Mandarin). That shouldn’t be surprising except that I was in Luanda, the capital of Angola, and it was a Portuguese woman who was speaking to me in Mandarin. It was a great example of globalisation.
I spent three days in Luanda as part of a joint outreach trip featuring Cambridge Judge Business School, Saïd Business School, Oxford and London School of Economics. The trip was organised by Ernst and Young (now called EY) who have launched a scholarship for Angolan nationals resident in Angola to study a one year Masters programme at one of the three institutions. For Cambridge, the scholarship is applicable to either the MBA or the Masters in Finance.
While in Luanda, we had the chance to meet some prospective Angolan candidates and to briefly introduce our various programmes before having one-to-one consultations. I thought it would be beneficial to share (as best as I can recall) what I said and I would be interested to hear people’s comments.
My speech addressed three main issues, relative to the MBA.
Firstly, the MBA is a general management degree; the way I think of the course is as producing the T-shaped manager. Many of our students have had several years building up their deep functional expertise, in areas such as accounting, finance, marketing etc. What they need to make the transition to the next level is not more functional expertise but a broader appreciation of other areas and an understanding of how each area fits together. The MBA provides this horizontal understanding and also develops students who can lead people from different functional areas. Hence, the T-shaped manager.
Secondly I wanted to talk about our strategy in Africa. While we already have a small proportion of students from Africa we would emphatically like to have more; Africa is not only a continent that has an exciting economic future but more importantly, one which will develop its own path to prosperity. While students from Africa will enormously benefit from our programmes, it is just as important for students and faculty from other countries to learn about Africa through this exchange.
Thirdly I addressed precisely why Angolan’s should study in the UK instead of the US, where the majority of their study abroad students have traditionally gone to. One word. Globalisation. Many US programmes call themselves international if they have 30% non-Americans. In the UK, the norm is for 90% or more international students. I have heard from candidates that they want an African network, which is important. But what African leaders need more than that is a global network. Everywhere I go in Angola I have seen Chinese, Portuguese; even the people running the restaurant in this office building are Indonesians. As Angola and the rest of the African continent develops, it will be even more important for African leaders to understand how to work with business leaders from key trading and investment partners, such as China, Japan, the US and Europe. And you won’t get that skill from a textbook or an online course or Google. You have to learn that through immersing yourself in an environment where you are forced to interact with people from all over the world.
The eventual recipient of the EY scholarship for the Cambridge MBA programme will invariably be our first ever Angolan student on the course. And while this individual has a challenging road ahead – not least through the rigorous admissions process, we welcome the prospect of them joining the school and the valuable exchange they will bring to the class.
Head of MBA Admissions and Careers