Thai B-School creates “culturally agile” students

Chulalongkorn University Sasin School of Management. Courtesy pictures

Thailand may not be the first country that comes to mind when the subject is higher business education in Asia. Ian Fenwick thinks that should change.

Fenwick thinks Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is a great place to study. Not only does it have a sense of inclusiveness, says the director of the Sasin School of Management at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, but it also has the infrastructure to support businesses, especially digital ones. The city was recently ranked as the second best place for digital nomads next to Lisbon, Portugal.

In addition, Thailand – and Southeast Asia as a whole – is considered an “untapped market”, according to JP Morgan: By 2030, reports the multinational investment banking giant, Asia Southeast is expected to add approximately 140 million new consumers. Even earlier, by 2025, the region’s internet economy is expected to generate nearly $360 billion in gross manufactured value.

“Thailand is an extremely entrepreneurial country,” says Fenwick Poets&Quants. “It’s creative, dynamic, digital and a great place to start a business.”


Ian Fenwick: “I would not like to present Sasin as a religious school, but we have Buddhist monks who come to help us with certain courses.

Fenwick believes that if you want to do business in Asia, you have to immerse yourself in the culture. And with such rapid business growth on the continent, he believes students need to understand its implications in order to help take care of the planet.

“The future of business is totally uncertain,” says Fenwick. “We are going to see perpetual disruption, and the answers are not at the end of a book. People need to be able to understand – and operate within – different cultures, because culture matters to businesses everywhere.

This is why Sasin takes a different approach to business education. Focusing on equipping students with the skills to create a better world, the school integrates the teachings of Buddhism, international travel and sustainability into its curriculum – all with the aim of making students “culturally agile” and respectful of the environment.

“We are not trying to teach facts. We don’t even try to teach frameworks,” says Fenwick. “We try to teach people to be mindful, responsible and to carefully consider what’s on the table and the impact it will have.”


As Thailand’s first internationally accredited business school, Sasin School of Management is located in the heart of the county’s bustling capital.

Led by the promise to “inspire, connect, and transform for a better, smarter, and sustainable world,” Sasin is one of two business schools at Chulalongkorn University. As a private school within a public university, it was created to be an “agile alternative that teaches in English to global standards”. Founded in 1982 through a collaboration between Chulalongkorn University, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Fenwick says an international cultural element has been ingrained in the philosophy of management. school from the start.

Although Kellogg and Wharton played a larger role (for the first five years of the school’s design, all teachers at the school came from Wharton, Kellogg and international partners), they are still involved in some measure ; Each year, EMBA students travel to Kellogg or Wharton for a two-week residential stay. For the past few years, Sasin has sent EMBA students exclusively to Kellogg.

Today, the school has partnered with 43 institutions in 19 countries. In addition, 60% of the school’s courses are given by visiting professors.

Students at Sasin. “A key word for Buddhism is balance – we want students to make decisions they are proud of and can support,” said director Ian Fenwick. Courtesy pictures


According to Fenwick, Thai culture pervades the entire program; 90% of the school’s full-time MBA students are Thai, and the remaining 10% are international exchange students. For the EMBA student population, the demographics are slightly different; It is made up of people who work in Thailand. Before the pandemic, about a third of EMBA students were non-Thai. After the pandemic, Fenwick says that number dropped to around 15%, but he hopes that number will increase soon. “Every student here is completely immersed in a Thai environment,” he explains.

Part of this Thai immersion is the integration of Buddhism into some of the School B courses, such as the ‘Skills and Values’ module which is taught in the MBA and EMBA.

“I wouldn’t like to present Sasin as a religious school,” Fenwick continues, “but we have Buddhist monks who come to help us with some courses.”

“A key word for Buddhism is balance – we want students to make decisions they are proud of and can support,” he adds. “The idea is to go beyond simple values ​​and skills like math, finance and accounting, and incorporate values ​​that help students make decisions that aren’t just based on monetary value. .”


Ian Fenwick: Sasin is “not ruthless like some business schools; it is a useful collective, which moves forward together. This may be something companies should take inspiration from in the future. »

Besides integrating Thai culture and Buddhism into Sasin’s master’s programs, sustainability has also been integrated into MBA and EMBA programs over the past decade. In fact, the school has its own Sustainability and Entrepreneurship Center, which focuses on promoting sustainability through an entrepreneurial spirit.

“We believe that sustainability will only be achieved through an entrepreneurial spirit and by changing the way we approach business issues,” says Fenwick. “Sustainability doesn’t replace the regular business curriculum, but it’s a flavor that runs through it.”

“If we want to have a world for our children and our children’s children, then sustainability is imperative,” he adds.


While EMBA students spend two weeks in the United States during their course, MBA students have the opportunity to go on an international exchange with the school’s institutional partners. In addition, each year, the school welcomes students from nearly half of its partners. “When we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, we typically send about two-thirds of our MBA students on exchange somewhere,” he says.

For Thai students, Fenwick says their primary motivation for entering MBA or EMBA programs is to build their network and reorient themselves in Thailand; most of them were educated outside of Thailand, hold dual nationality and will join their family businesses upon graduation. For MBA or EMBA exchange students, the appeal of studying at Sasin is to enjoy and have an immersive cultural experience – and to learn how cultural and sustainability lenses impact business. “We have quite a few former exchange students who ended up making a career here,” says Fenwick.

“I’ve taught at many business schools around the world, and this is the only place I’ve been where students run tutorials for each other,” says Fenwick. “It’s not ruthless like some business schools; it is a useful collective, which moves forward together. This may be something companies should take inspiration from in the future. »


The article Sustainable development, Buddhism and travel: Thai B-School creates “culturally agile” students appeared first on Poets&Quants.

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