Celebrating the NUS Executive MBA’s 25th anniversary

Think how different the world was back in 1997 - the year NUS launched their EMBA. We heard from the course’s management team, who told us what makes the NUS Executive MBA so unique, and how it has ridden the waves of change over two and a half decades.

In short

The NUS EMBA: Pursuing excellence since 1997

From MBAGRADSCHOOLS, we’re delighted that NUS Business School is celebrating its Executive MBA’s 25th anniversary. Sitting at ##22 in the world on the Financial Times 2021 EMBA rankings, it has a proven track record in Asia and beyond, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Since its inception in 1997, it has adapted with the times, and evolved from the Asia-Pacific Executive MBA to the NUS Executive MBA in 2016. Adaptability is one of the sources of its success. The past 25 years have been a time of rapid change, and programs that don’t react are doomed to fall by the wayside. 

Jochen Wirtz, Vice Dean of NUS Business School, speaks to how NUS adapts to the evolving business landscape. “ESG has gained in importance, governance has gained in importance, sustainability has gained in importance, inclusiveness has gained in importance,” he says. “And these are all topics that, while we may not have a module on it, they permeate every single class we teach.” (03:36

An EMBA that puts people at the core

As Dean of NUS Business School, Andrew Rose explains how people come together to make the course a success. “The instructors, the staff, but especially the students of the program have all put in great efforts in learning together, collaborating, and creating a tremendous network which is a great resource for our current students and will also be for our future students,” he states. (01:37)

In total, the course has welcomed over 780 students from 46 countries, so it can confidently accept the moniker of Asia’s most-established Executive MBA (EMBA). As each student has an average pre-EMBA career of 16 years, each cohort brings together around 1,000 years of experience in total. By focusing on senior leaders with a wealth of experience, standards have stayed uniquely high at NUS. All students are also full-time professionals, which adds even more cutting-edge know-how to the classroom. 

Jochen remarks, “If you look at my textbook on services marketing, you wouldn’t believe how much of the stuff in this book was learned from all of you over all of these years I’ve taught services marketing,” he reveals. “And you shared your experiences with the class and me, so from the bottom of my heart: thank you.” (00:47)

An Asian program with an international outlook

Academic Director Prem Shamdasani recalls, “When we designed this program, we were also mindful of the fact that you cannot learn about doing business in China or India or Vietnam from the comforts of our classroom in Singapore. We had to create that immersive learning opportunity.” (01:22) The unique solution is that NUS Executive MBA students enhance their experience in Singapore with study trips to leading destinations throughout Asia and beyond, including Indonesia, Vietnam, China, India, Japan, and Australia.

NUS runs classes in these locations, with industry leaders and keynote speakers to fast-track students’ understanding of local customs, markets, and opportunities. Company visits add another string to the course’s bow, and the combination of meaningful international activities is one of the reasons behind its popularity.

Rather than simply paying lip service to having an international mindset, NUS Executive MBA’s 25th anniversary is the perfect occasion to reflect on the difference its unique two-week residences make.

However, as Academic Director, Prem’s proximity to the trips has revealed that it’s not solely about the educational experience. “I’ve personally noticed the networking and the bonding happens a lot more extensively when students are out in different destinations, learning together and networking together and partying together,” he says. “That sense of camaraderie and building those bonds and friendships last for a long time, many years after they graduate.” (02:22

A world-beating network of leaders

It’s clear to anybody involved with the course – from the Dean, Vice Dean, and Academic Director of MBA programs to the students themselves – that such a successful course is far more than a well-designed curriculum. As Jochen puts it, “We are so incredibly proud of what this program has achieved, how many lives this program has touched, and how many friendships it has created.” (00:28)

NUS boasts a thriving executive network, which, although united through their experience at NUS, represents a plethora of different backgrounds and post-study career paths. The alumni community frequently meets up as cohorts. Prem explains, “[They] reminisce about the program, the travels, the kind of fun they had, the kind of insights they gathered about doing business in Asia in different destinations.” (02:50)

This is ultimately the legacy of the NUS Executive MBA’s 25th anniversary. So much more than a world-renowned degree for your CV, the EMBA is a global community of leaders. Prem seriously values the group and how active it is. “I’m also very gratified to see that they’ve been giving back – giving back to the program to the school in terms of sharing of experiences, guest speaking, providing internships and scholarships.” (03:11)

Looking at the future of the EMBA

“I’d like NUS Business School to be widely acknowledged to be the best business school in Asia, but I want something more,” Andrew shares. “I want us to be known as the best place to take the second degree in business in the world.”

Adaptable courses like the NUS EMBA are an essential part of training students to face ever-changing global issues. As Prem says, “The future is going to be a lot tougher, with frequent disruptions to business as usual. I think the EMBA program helps to transform and helps leaders to recognize the need to constantly reinvent themselves and their organizations.” (03:44)

Taking out a crystal ball and looking 25 years into the future is no easy task, but Jochen gives us his predictions: “What we know is that technology will really evolve and that absolutely includes teaching and learning technology. But I hope what is still a core part of the value of our EMBA is really the personal connection…this program really changes you as a person and I think that will be true also in 25 years.” (04:35)

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