Some friends and I are planning an undergraduate reunion, which means spending hours reconciling our undergraduate yearbook with facebook, linkedin etc. One pattern that struck me though was how many of my undergrad classmates have not moved outside California, where we spent our undergrad days, let alone the US, in the years since our graduation. One third of my undergrad class grew up in California, and less than one-third of the class has spent any significant amount of time outside the US since graduation.

This relative lack of geographical movement is mirrored in many top American universities. My hypothesis is that the strong economy that the US enjoyed in the decade betwen 1995 and 2005, was a huge disincentive for many top students to move outside the US. In particular, the two main booms during that period had their epicentres in Silicon Valley (the boom) and New York (the financial boom of the early 2000s) respectively.

However, this America-centrism also has its downsides. It does lead to a narrow world-view, which becomes increasingly untenable given the closer linkages across geographies and industries.

So, it did not come as a surprise to me when I read this article in the Vault that described the small but subtle shift towards European MBAs. While the article concentrates on the structural differences, (eg fees, the duration of the programme, the different demographics), I would think that the biggest differences are the demographics and the career outcomes. European MBAs such as the Cambridge MBA have a much more diverse student body (UK nationals only make up 9% of the Cambridge MBA class) which leads to a much richer educational experience. Also, as the Vault article suggests, European MBAs have more diversified career links which do cushion the impact of an economic downturn in any one area.

So, in 10 years time when I am planning a reunion of the first MBA class that I have helped built, I think I would face a different set of challenges — how to agree on one physical location that would satisfy a hugely diverse group of individuals!

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