Russian MBAs challenge West

For years a Masters in Business Administration from a Western business school was a mark of prestige. But now Russian MBA programmes are gaining popularity, allowing students to study and work at home.

Mikhail Zvyagin – a graduate of Michigan University – was working for an American pharmaceutical company in Russia when he decided that he needed an MBA.

He studies at St. Petersburg business school and says there isn’t much difference between Western and Russian MBA programmes.

“The difference is in money you pay and corporate culture – the knowledge is the same,” says Mikhail.

With the Russian market of business education as large as $US52 million some schools think about profits and forget about quality.

Sergey Mordovin – the head of the association of business education – says Russian schools lack professional teachers: “Out of more than 100 Russian MBA schools only 12 are comparable to those in Europe”.

Still, the demand in Russia is growing and an MBA – a symbol of professional knowledge and career growth – brings professionals back to class.

Human resources specialists say they are ready to pay more for MBA graduates but only if they also have good managerial experience and education.

Tatyana Urkevich, who heads the HR department of a large Russian company, says she would rather hire a person with a Western MBA than Russian.

“If Western schools require at least of two years of managerial experience and reference letters, in Russia entrance requirements are less demanding,” says Tatyana.

The education system is beginning to overcome this problem. The top ten Russian business schools have already introduced strict entrance tests. So others will have to follow if they want to match global competition.