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Students look East for opportunities
Published on Friday, 16 Apr 2010
Students are swapping Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, for a week’s worth of learning and networking in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Photo: Bloomberg

Although it is one of Europe's newest management centres - a mere 14 years old - Oxford University's Saïd Business School is one of the continent's most entrepreneurial institutions. It is also one of the world's best.

The Financial Times ranked Saïd's MBA programme 16th in the world in January.

With a reputation for innovative business education, academic rigour and forward thinking, and an MBA curriculum placing heavy emphasis on international management in a global economy, it is not surprising that seven Said students, yet again, visited Hong Kong and Shanghai from April 8-13 during the fourth annual Asia Business Trek.

Those taking part were from Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States. The trek helps students understand regional business and geo-strategic developments, and to network with Oxford alumni and corporate contacts in the region. Apart from the Asia Trek, other students visited Switzerland, Spain, Japan, India, Africa, the US and Middle East.

Students also wrote a blog of their experiences. Jan Allen, a recruitment officer with Saïd's career office, also joined the trip.

Student organiser Rory Huang believes "China continues to be a primary driver of the global economy and many of the MBA students are keen to take advantage of the rapid growth and are considering a post-MBA career in the region".

"Our class has discussed different business cultures and approaches, so I thought some of my classmates would be interested in joining a trek to get firsthand experience of Chinese culture  and trade," he says.

Similarly, Huang's classmate, Rony Tanoto Lim, contends that Asia is the "current engine" of global economic growth.

"It has two major industrialised economics, which are Japan and Korea, two newly industrialising countries, which are Taiwan and Singapore, and three emerging economies with huge potential, which are the mainland, India and Indonesia. As Asia becomes more prominent in global politics and economics, it is imperative that we build close links with the continent," Lim says.

A graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and formerly an accountant at a Big Four firm and then a financial controller at a subsidiary of PSA Corporation, one of the three largest global container terminal operators, Lim is an impressive candidate.

He firmly has his eyes on the future which he believes is in Asia.

To that end, he believes the trip broadened both his horizons and network. "We met key players in consulting, finance, logistics and the manufacturing industries in the region.

"From these meetings and factory visits, we gained insights on business on the mainland and Hong Kong," Lim says.

He can see himself planting roots in the region.

He also says his Oxford MBA has prepared him well for the possibility of a career outside the West because Saïd's curriculum incorporates "substantial international content" in its courses.

Oxford MBA students undertake courses, such as business on the mainland, "to be able to operate in countries with different business practices from that of the West", Lim says. Its international student body also comprises people from 48 nationalities and alumni from many more countries in the world. Oxford has always had a close association with Asia.

During the trek, students met with multiple companies and organisations to gauge their regional career prospects. "We have been pleased with the positive response we are receiving from companies in the country. There was great interest in meeting Oxford's MBAs to discuss the business environment in Asia, and to highlight specific career opportunities," Huang says.

Derek Walker, Saïd's career services head, also believes Asia "continues to present good opportunities" despite the global financial downturn.

He stresses that visits such as the trek are ideal for employers seeking to meet MBA students who are highly motivated to work in the region, and "who have a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, business [specialisations] and sector experience", including finance, technology, consulting, media and entrepreneurship.

Students were eager to learn more about Asian employment opportunities and wanted to form connections with companies such as Goldman Sachs; management consultant OC&C Strategy Consultants; investment bank

EJ McKay; merchant bank China Renaissance; merchant bank Standard Chartered Bank; global consumer goods trading group Li & Fung Group; merchant bank Hang Seng Bank; and global port operator Hutchison Port Holdings.

Past treks have yielded lucrative job offers for students.

Saïd's students are grateful to their alma mater for opening doors for them.

"We also promoted the Oxford Saïd Business School to companies in China so as to pave the way for further co-operation such as joint consulting projects and internships," Lim says.