Where have all the Japanese MBA students gone?

Dartmouth Tuck Class of 1996 MBA Kinya Seto offers scholarship to his alma mater for Japanese students. Enter the photo

The decline in Japanese applications and enrollment in full-time MBA programs in the United States has been going on for many years. Japanese graduates of top US MBA programs have fallen nearly 50% since 2009. On the contrary, signs indicate that this trend is accelerating rather than slowing down, according to a survey by a Japanese career counseling company. : GMAC data shows the number of management graduates Japan’s admissions test applicants fall to a new low in 2020.

Kinya Seto, a member of the 1996 Dartmouth Tuck School of Business MBA class and CEO of a large Tokyo-based manufacturing company, worries the decline will have a dramatic negative impact on business leadership in Japan, and therefore on the future of companies in Japan. his home country. So he decided to do something. Seto recently made a seven-figure donation to endow a scholarship fund in Tuck for MBA applicants from Japan, hoping to inspire peer school imitators and – possibly – to reverse the trend of the decline in Japanese students seeking an American MBA.

“Japanese students may feel comfortable staying in Japan, but then it may be too late for them to adapt to a changing world,” Seto explains. Poets and Quants from Tokyo, where he is CEO of LIXIL Corporation, a manufacturer of building materials. “So I think they should take a chance.”

Kinya and Yoko Seto, who endowed a new scholarship at Dartmouth Tuck for Japanese MBA students. Enter the photo


The decline in corporate sponsorship for Japanese students seeking higher education in the United States has been a major factor in the decline in MBA enrollment. But it is not the only reason. In 2015, Dean Nitin Nohria of Harvard Business School lamented the fact that Japan’s MBA applicants – and therefore Japanese students – had dropped alarmingly, and in an interview with The Wall Street Journal blamed the increasingly island country.

“One of our concerns is that we used to see 30 to 40 Japanese students out of 900 MBA students each year,” he told the newspaper. Newspaper. “Now there are only four to five. Japan is just one part of Asia that is retreating. They were so engaged in the global economy in the 1980s that they have now become more islanders Japan is the third largest economy in the world, it is important for us to find a way to reach out.

Kinya Seto says MBA sponsorships have declined for cultural reasons in Japan, and he agrees there are deeper causes for the decline.

“First of all, employment liquidity in Japan is very low,” Seto says. “A lot of people, after graduating from college, university or high school, tend to spend most of their careers in a business – which is changing, but it’s still more dominant than in other countries. So this means that most people who want to get an MBA on their own will be afraid of this financial cost, because once they leave the company, two years later, there is no guarantee that they will be able to get a better remuneration.

“So I think the problem of job security and low job liquidity in the company is one of the reasons. And a more important reason is perception. I think Japanese students don’t have a great deal of confidence in what kind of skills they will be able to acquire in American schools. And I think it comes from a deeper cultural reason: Japan is a homogeneous society. Thus, in this homogeneous society, the experience accumulated in a particular company and a particular industry might be perceived as more important than heterogeneous generic knowledge and expertise.

But that is changing, he adds.

“Before, Japanese companies could afford sponsorship for students. But they know that once people are exposed to heterogeneous cultures and generic education, they will be able to shine better in this outside world. So that means the sponsorship may not be a good investment for the business.

“Now people are changing. Global barriers are now disappearing. If you have been in a company for five to six years, and you are surrounded by people who have accumulated this same expertise for 20 years, then your perception opens on the need to be exposed to heterogeneous cultures.


Does Seto foresee a decline in the MBA in two years in favor of the online MBA or other alternatives?

“To a certain extent, yes,” he says. “And if the purpose of going to this MBA school is to gain this particular knowledge and expertise, it doesn’t have to be an MBA. In a sense, every time you try to learn something, there are currently hundreds of different ways. But there’s a reason I’m going to encourage people to go to this American MBA, and especially Tuck School, where the environment is more isolated and they can be more focused, and that’s also safe.

In the traditional two-year residential MBA, he says, “other students can motivate you to become better and they can be an inspiration. I think the personal aspect is necessary because in business training you need a lot of patience. If you’re really determined and have the confidence to spend 12 hours in front of the screen and learn it all without going to bars and things, then we might not have to. But you have to get inspired every morning – every morning wake up and say, “Okay. I will fight. I will study. I will be awesome. People are not like that, generally. I think people really need this real buddy who has a similar vision or a similar goal, and then they can motivate and inspire each other.

“It really is a difference from online. But you can do it online. I do not deny it. But it’s probably best in person.


Seto hopes that his decision to award a scholarship to one or two Dartmouth students each year will inspire other students from peer schools to follow his example – and that this, in turn, will lead to a rejuvenation of interest in the MBA among professionals in Japan.

“First of all, I would really like to encourage my peers at Tuck to invest as much as I do,” he says. “I think Tuck is a better school, so if you spend $ 1 million, we should spend $ 1 million on Tuck.” This is my feeling. But of course, in general, it would be pretty good for Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford graduates to spend and sponsor, invest the money to reimburse schools as well as the Japanese business community. That would be great.

“I hope that many talented young students will come to Tuck from Japan and develop the skills to become better business leaders while gaining valuable exposure to American culture,” he says.

Learn more about the new stock exchange at Dartmouth Tuck by clicking here.


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