“I felt devastated, absolutely devastated and so guilty. My life collapsed really”.

Cynthia Tuck remembers the moment she realised she had been conned out of her life savings, and those of her late husband, George.

She’d become one of dozens of victims of a sophisticated, organised scam offering hugely over-valued coloured diamonds as “investments”.

But realising she’d been conned wasn’t the end of Cynthia’s misery. A three-year fight for justice – involving five different police forces and multiple investigations – would ultimately lead nowhere.

Cynthia and her family have been feeling nothing but anger, resentment and frustration towards the justice system because the people who were involved in the scam got off scot-free.

No charges. No trial. No justice.

The con

Elderly, often vulnerable, people were targeted, sometimes over the course of many years.

Victims were persuaded, through a variety of different tactics, to buy poor quality diamonds at hugely inflated prices.

In Cynthia’s case, she was cold-called by a man called Colin Moore and persuaded to pay around £5,000 for a diamond in 2013 as an “investment”.

Official-looking websites, glossy brochures, lunch meetings and, crucially, seemingly genuine certificates promising good returns all helped legitimise the con.

Then, over the course of three years, Colin Moore, while working for two different companies, ruthlessly exploited Cynthia’s vulnerabilities and persuaded her into handing over nearly £400,000 – every penny she and her husband had saved over a lifetime of work – for 21 diamonds.

The diamonds her family eventually managed to track down (they suspect some of them never even existed) were sold for less than 10% of the amount Cynthia paid for them.

The fraudsters

DC Paul Gilmour is a specialist fraud investigator with Sussex Police.

“Fraudsters are very good at what they do,” he says.

“They use tactics to socially engineer their victims, they know what to say, they know how to approach people.

“[They are] cunning. They may build that trust and abuse that trust over several weeks or months with someone.”

The family finds out

“It was a date etched in my memory forever: 1 February, 2016,” says Cynthia’s daughter Rachel.

“We knew that mum was buying some diamonds but we didn’t know that she had bought so many diamonds, at what cost, and who she was dealing with.”

But when Cynthia finally told her daughter about the scale of the fraud and what had happened to her, Rachel was stunned.

“I found out on the same day how much money mum had and how much had been stolen from her. And I experienced that like a sort of shock, like a physical shock really. I felt physically sick.”

Cynthia’s fight for justice

So began the family’s three-year struggle to see the people behind the scam held to account.

At one time or another five police forces were involved and multiple investigations were launched.

The Insolvency Service did shut down several of the companies involved in the scam, including the two Colin Moore worked for, as well as banning two people from being directors.

But, ultimately, no charges were ever brought and no-one ever faced trial.

Police ‘failing’ victims

Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld speaks for the Association of PCCs on fraud.

He says victims such as Cynthia are being “failed” by the police; “I think [Cynthia’s case] is typical of what’s going on throughout the country.

“Fraud is not being investigated. I doubt if 1% of fraud is ever brought to a conclusion in the courts.

“It is very difficult for the police to investigate. Very often police will say it’s a civil matter or pass it to Action Fraud – and so things simply do not get investigated.”

According to the crime survey for England and Wales, there were 3.9 million reports of fraud in the year to June 2019, a 15% increase from the previous year.

Mr Stansfeld says police are not being given enough resources to properly tackle the problem and suggests money from fines issued by the Financial Conduct Authority, sometimes hundreds of millions of pounds each year, should be spent doing just that.

“That money [from the fines] goes to the Treasury. It should not. At least half of it should be ring-fenced for fighting fraud and if we couldn’t bring down fraud by about 10% I would be amazed.”

The Home Office says the government is committed to “cracking down on scammers and fraudsters” and has just launched a review into the issue.

‘Hard to live with’

Having given up hope long ago of getting any of her mum’s money back, Rachel says her big worry now is that the people who conned her mum are still out on the streets.

“[The victims] were targeted. They were groomed. And then the authorities blame the victims.”

Naturally, File on 4 wanted to find Colin Moore. After weeks of calls, emails and letters, it becomes clear just how hard he is to track down. Like a ghost, he’s disappeared – we’re told possibly to the other side of the world.

“They just let them carry on,” Rachel says, “and my real fear and worry is that this is still happening. That the same people are… probably doing exactly the same thing to other old people. And that makes it very hard to live with. And it’s been one of the things that has made it hard to put behind us.”

You can hear more about Cynthia and Rachel’s story on “Anatomy of a Fraud” on Radio 4 at 8pm, Tuesday 12 November. Or you can listen again here.

The case study that Professor Shigeru Asaba uses to introduce its MBA programme is the governance failures at Toshiba, which almost brought down one of the most famous industrial names in Japan.

“It raises a whole series of questions from who is at fault and what the failure was to the fundamental issue of whom a company should be managed for,” says Prof Asaba, dean of Waseda Business School, Tokyo. 

Toshiba, once a poster child of Japan’s efforts to police corporate behaviour, suffered a $1.3bn accounting scandal in 2015 and later overhauled its board. 

In 2017 its governance came under scrutiny again as the company’s survival was threatened by a $6.3bn writedown of its nuclear business. The incident raised questions over whether Toshiba had adequate oversight of Westinghouse, its US subsidiary that had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and was ultimately sold.

The Toshiba debacle, along with corporate crises at Olympus, Nissan and Lixil, has catapulted governance to the top of the agenda for Japanese business schools, which are training a new generation of managers that will run companies with a global outlook. 

The traditional Japan Inc structures, a network of invisible allegiances that offer mutual support in times of trouble, are unravelling in the age of globalisation. This includes the breakdown of keiretsu — ties that bonded companies with their suppliers and customers through a network of cross-held share stakes.

The mutual support offered by these bonds underpinned Japan’s postwar economic growth. Companies, however, can no longer rely on a shrinking home market and are less inclined to spend precious capital saving domestic allies when growth is outside Japan.

The breakdown of traditional ties has been accelerated by prime minister Shinzo Abe’s push for better governance. This makes it harder for companies to win shareholder support for the financially inexplicable moves that once characterised domestic bailouts. 

In addition, cash-rich Japanese companies that have made outbound acquisitions face the task of running their new businesses efficiently and ensuring corporate governance is in place. 

At the heart of the Japanese debate is the question of whether leaders need to shift focus.

Traditionally, governance has supported the longer-term interests of employees, customers and suppliers. As Japanese businesses look overseas, though, some question if more emphasis should be placed on shareholder interests.

Critics of the trend to adopt US-style shareholder capitalism point to a change in stance even among American chief executives. In August, The Business Roundtable, one of the US’s largest business groups, abandoned its adherence to shareholder primacy and acknowledged the need to consider the environment and workers’ wellbeing alongside short-term pursuit of profits.

“What our programme focuses on is explaining the changes behind Japan’s push for governance,” says Yoshinori Fujikawa, MBA programme director at Hitotsubashi University Business School, Tokyo. “Understanding the context is important.” 

To illustrate the divide between the two approaches, Mr Fujikawa cites US activist Daniel Loeb’s campaign against Sony.

In 2013 Mr Loeb urged the Japanese group to spin off part of its entertainment business and unlock its value through an initial public offering. Sony rejected the demand but it did address some shareholder concerns: it improved the disclosure of its entertainment business to investors and overhauled its management team in Hollywood. In doing so it went further than other Japanese companies.

This year Sony came under fresh pressure from Third Point, Mr Loeb’s hedge fund, which demanded that the group sell its image sensor business to allow more focus on entertainment. The Japanese group again rebuffed his proposal, arguing that the business was vital to its long-term growth strategy 

At Hitotsubashi University’s Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, Tokyo, where 80 per cent of students are from overseas, the Sony case study can often lead to heated discussions on how the group should have responded to Mr Loeb. 

“The more Japanese companies are successful in becoming global, the more challenge they face from shareholder capitalism,” Mr Fujikawa says. “The clash in opinion is a good learning experience.” 

Business schools have tried to address students’ interest by incorporating governance more broadly in lectures. 

Waseda Business School reports that 15 of 33 courses cover corporate governance in some way. Other popular lectures are those that look at the environment, sustainability and social ethics.

Interest in corporate governance also reflects a change in the make-up of students at business schools. 

Professor Takuro Yoda, dean of Keio Business School, says that historically 80 to 90 per cent of its students were young managers sent by employers who were expected to return to their companies and stay until retirement.

“Now half our students are considering starting their own businesses,” Prof Yoda says. “For those who want to run their own companies, they feel strongly that governance is basic knowledge that needs to be acquired at an early phase.”

When Rachit Jain decided to study for an MBA, he talked to friends at US business schools about potentially joining them abroad. But instead he opted to enrol at the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad.

While going abroad remains tempting for those with the financial means and is seen by many Indian families as the most prestigious route to success, a significant cohort of younger Indians are choosing to study business at home. This allows them to take advantage of an affordable degree, stay close to family and build a network in an economy that is growing, albeit at a slower pace than previously.

“I come from a family business and want to be in India long-term, not in the US or Europe,” says Mr Jain, who was working as a consultant for Bain in Delhi before starting his MBA this year. “The question was how many people I could connect with. The brand of ISB means I can instantly call up and talk to five or 10 alumni in any Indian city.”

There is no shortage of talent, with Indian students performing strongly on the US-based GMAT business school entry test.

But while schools’ attempts to expand and innovate are attracting domestic students, studying in India has not been an easy sell to international students. Some 95 per cent of applications to Indian business schools this year were from domestic students, according to research by the entrance exam administrator, the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Business training has existed for more than half a century in India. Alongside private schools, led by ISB, there is also the Indian Institutes of Management, a network of 20 elite state-backed institutions that now operate with considerable autonomy. Many of these schools are well established, with the first set up in Kolkata and Ahmedabad in 1961.

The third to launch, the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB), opened in 1973 and initially focused on training public sector managers. But as the Indian economy has liberalised, the school has shifted to training private sector executives, says Abhoy Ojha, IIMB’s dean of programmes.

Some elements of the state’s hand remain: a significant proportion of places on the school’s flagship two-year MBA is reserved for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, those with disabilities, and from lower castes and tribal regions, for example.

But in other ways IIMB has changed radically, Prof Ojha adds, most notably since the removal of government funding in the early 1990s forced it to generate more income from tuition fees. With increased competition, it has hired more faculty members with research skills and diversified from its basic two-year, full-time, pre-experience course to offer executive education and shorter, part-time qualifications for senior managers. It is also exploring more online learning.

Despite this pivot, there are some distinctly Indian features in the curriculum, including a course on the management philosophy applications of Bhagavad Gita, the Sanskrit verses from the Hindu epic Mahabharata.

Some of these local-based courses also have international appeal. Rajeev Srinivasan, chair of executive education programmes at IIMB, teaches an elective on the strategic management of technology and innovation using a local case study, the expansion of Chai Point, a premium tea café chain that is branching out into office drinks machines. Many of his students this year are European, attending on short-term exchanges from their own business schools.

Other elite institutions are also expanding their offering. ISB, for example, runs a post-experience one-year MBA as its core qualification, but is also introducing a range of other courses to attract more students.

Rajendra Srivastava, the dean, also points to a series of research units that have been launched to generate funding and build expertise. This includes a centre for family business, which teaches about the ownership structure that remains dominant in India.

In the tiers below the ISB, the Indian Institutes of Management and other leading regional institutions, however, there has been consolidation among the country’s estimated 3,000 business schools, according to Shrinivas Acharya, director of the Vishwa Vishwani Institute of Systems and Management in Hyderabad. “Some were in remote places, could not find the right faculty and their students were going nowhere,” he says.

Even elite institutions face challenges. While ISB attracts promising Indian students — with women making up nearly 40 per cent of its most recent intake, it says — Prof Srivastava remains frustrated at the lack of students and academics from outside the country. The school reports that just 3 per cent of this year’s intake is non-Indian, which reduces valuable diversity in the classroom and limits its reputation as an international school.

“India demands a top 10 global school,” Prof Srivastava says. Just four Indian programmes featured in the FT’s top 100 global MBA ranking for 2019.

But, he adds, 30 per cent of the student intake at ISB has lived or worked abroad and, while the majority of students are domestic, the Indian subcontinent itself comprises many distinct cultures and languages.

Part of the problem is tough visa requirements. The Indian government does not grant work permits to foreign students after they graduate.

But the low numbers of international students also suggest a continued uncertainty about, and more limited appeal of, Indian business schools compared with institutions in other emerging markets. As Prof Ojha at IIMB puts it: “India has yet to capture the imagination like China.”

Asia’s emergence as a centre for business education echoes the rise of China, Singapore and India as global economic powers.

The reason is not just that there are more potential applicants with the money and ambition to take a business masters degree. There are now numerous multinational companies in the region, such as homegrown tech business Alibaba, looking to hire them.

Asian business schools might be younger than their American and European counterparts, but they are establishing themselves quickly and the market is proving resilient compared with other regions.

Growth in applications to study on MBA programmes at Asian business schools outpaced the rest of the world for the second consecutive year in 2019, according to research by the entrance exam administrator, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

This defies the global picture in which applications to business schools were down 3.1 per cent year-on-year in 2019. It is also particularly marked against the sharp declines in the US, the world’s largest market for MBAs.

This growth was driven in part by strong interest from students in the region. Nearly half (48 per cent) of Asian business schools reported growth in domestic applications this year.

Geopolitics could be encouraging Asian students to stay in the region. The divisive rhetoric of US president Donald Trump and hostility to people from overseas in the US is discouraging Asian students from applying to American MBA programmes, according to Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC’s president and chief executive.

He adds that creeping nationalism among governments in Asia, notably China, which has warned its citizens to be careful when considering studying in the US, could also be to blame.

This is a worrying trend, Mr Chowfla adds, as it makes business education in the US less diverse. Having a variety of students who bring different insights to classroom discussions is considered key to teaching subjects such as leadership and strategy.

“We are going back to the 18th century, where leaders only understood their own situation,” Mr Chowfla says.

Asian business schools, on the other hand, are attracting more interest from overseas students, says Lawrence Linker, founder of MBA Link in Singapore. The admissions consultancy was originally set up to help Asian students seeking to study in the US and Europe, but Mr Linker says he now receives a significant volume of inquiries from people looking to move in the other direction.

“A few decades ago, a western business professional might take an international assignment, often in Asia, as a way to gain more responsibility and level up quickly before returning home,” Mr Linker says.

“But we’re seeing more young western professionals applying to schools in Asia to place themselves in that environment rather than hope for an opportunity from their employer.”

Some Asian business schools are also more diverse than their counterparts in the US in terms of gender. While there is much variation between countries, in China for example, 73 per cent of GMAC respondents reported higher demand from women this year, and women accounted for 51 per cent of all applications to the country’s schools.

In the US, only 31 per cent of GMAC respondents reported higher demand from women this year and women accounted for 39 per cent of all applicants to the country’s schools.

Although the Asian schools are rising up the rankings, there were only 15 in the Financial Times global MBA list this year, including Insead’s Asian campus, plus a further three in Australia. This suggests that students who are considering only the top institutions are still more likely to choose courses in the US and Europe.

That may be down to how established these institutions are. Even the top Asian schools are relatively new compared with US and European business schools — Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, for instance, was established only in 1991. Insead, Europe’s premier business school, was founded in 1957.

That said, Asian institutions are maturing much faster than their American or European peers, according to Andrew Crisp, co-founder of Carrington Crisp, an education consultancy. “I suspect Harvard didn’t have [as] strong an international cohort as HKUST in its first 30 years,” he says.

But strong demand is a double-edged sword for Asian business schools as it makes them harder to get into. The average acceptance rate at Asian business schools covered by the GMAC research was 48 per cent this year, compared with 71 per cent for US schools.

The ultimate deciding factor for those considering any school, however, is future employment prospects, says Mr Crisp.

“Even though the Chinese economy has slowed, its growth is still more rapid than developed economies and hence the opportunities are growing more quickly,” he adds.

European and American MBA students are enthusiastic about these opportunities too, says Mr Crisp. He recalls a focus group Carrington Crisp conducted with European students about studying in Asia in 2004. A German student, asked why he studied in Singapore, said “because the future is Asia and Singapore is a safe place to study”.

Mr Crisp notes: “It feels to me that if this was true 15 years ago, the number of places it might apply to in Asia today has multiplied enormously.”

AustraliaAGSM at UNSW Business SchoolAGSM MBAMBA8831119,67182AustraliaMacquarie Graduate School of ManagementMaster of Business AdministrationMBA10036128,16681AustraliaMelbourne Business SchoolMaster of Business AdministrationMBA9036118,95951AustraliaMelbourne Business SchoolEMBAEMBA3825176,74287AustraliaUniversity of Sydney Business SchoolMaster of ManagementMiM855669,40259ChinaArizona State University: CareyCarey-SNAI EMBAEMBA034259,18686ChinaBI Norwegian Business School/Fudan University School of ManagementBI-Fudan MBAEMBA464224,006102ChinaCeibsCeibs full-time MBAMBA3140174,11575ChinaCeibsCeibs Global EMBAEMBA5141364,578183ChinaEMLyon Business SchoolEMBAEMBA2826133,68039ChinaEssca School of ManagementEssca Master in Management**MiM155558,07938ChinaFudan University School of ManagementFudan International MBAMBA1165110,06271ChinaFudan University School of ManagementFudan EMBAEMBA225295,793195ChinaHult International Business SchoolEMBAEMBA8737170,90867ChinaKedge Business SchoolGlobal EMBAEMBA1327197,48092ChinaOneMBAOneMBA: FGV/XMU/Egade/RSM/UNCEMBA2433204,30960ChinaShanghai Jiao Tong University: AntaiInternational MBAMBA3651112,817118ChinaShanghai Jiao Tong University: AntaiMaster in ManagementMiM115988,444193ChinaShanghai Jiao Tong University: AntaiSJTU Antai EMBAEMBA332344,193124ChinaSkema Business SchoolGlobal MSc in ManagementMiM546376,35057ChinaTongji University School of Economics and ManagementMaster in ManagementMiM217577,924100ChinaTongji University/Mannheim Business SchoolMannheim-Tongji EMBAEMBA1935197,45442ChinaTrium: HEC Paris/LSE/NYU: SternTrium Global EMBAEMBA8934342,97060ChinaUniversity of Chicago: BoothEMBAEMBA7529267,32760ChinaWashington University: OlinWashington-Fudan EMBAEMBA2041368,49863China & SingaporeTsinghua University/InseadTsinghua-Insead Dual Degree EMBAEMBA6627365,73654Hong KongCUHK Business SchoolFull-time MBAMBA4937115,68959Hong KongCUHK Business SchoolEMBAEMBA2538267,490110Hong KongEMBA-Global Asia: Columbia/HKU/LBSEMBA-Global AsiaEMBA8434307,84076Hong KongHKUST Business SchoolHKUST full-time MBAMBA6828156,202108Hong KongHKUST Business SchoolMSc in International ManagementMiM147663,75254Hong KongHong Kong Baptist University School of BusinessMSc in Business ManagementMiM57037,53660Hong KongKellogg/HKUST Business SchoolKellogg-HKUST EMBAEMBA6228507,49266Hong KongUniversity of Hong KongHKU full-time MBAMBA6946131,386104Hong Kong & ChinaUniversity of Hong KongHKU-Fudan MBA (International)EMBA160212,327116IndiaIndian Institute of Management AhmedabadFull-time one-year postgraduate Programme in Management for Executives (PGPX)MBA117186,170100IndiaIndian Institute of Management AhmedabadTwo-year postgraduate Programme in ManagementMiM026131,62745IndiaIndian Institute of Management BangaloreExecutive postgraduate Programme in ManagementMBA021178,774124IndiaIndian Institute of Management BangalorePost-Graduate Programme in ManagementMiM428123,61841IndiaIndian Institute of Management CalcuttaPostgraduate Programme for Executives (PGPEX)MBA09158,138139IndiaIndian Institute of Management CalcuttaPostgraduate Programme in ManagementMiM027134,34850IndiaIndian Institute of Management IndorePostgraduate Programme in ManagementMiM03896,83252IndiaIndian Institute of Management UdaipurPostgraduate Programme in ManagementMiM02588,28159IndiaIndian School of BusinessPostgraduate Programme in ManagementMBA334156,122187SingaporeEssec Business SchoolMaster in Management**MiM564999,96771SingaporeEssec/MannheimEssec-Mannheim EMBAEMBA5928161,34949SingaporeGrenoble Ecole de ManagementMaster in International BusinessMiM845161,60154SingaporeInseadGlobal EMBAEMBA8925279,10245SingaporeNanyang Business School, NTU SingaporeNanyang MBAMBA8941134,03651SingaporeNanyang Business School, NTU SingaporeNanyang EMBAEMBA8832271,154126SingaporeNational University of Singapore Business SchoolThe NUS MBAMBA8835153,21650SingaporeNational University of Singapore Business SchoolNUS EMBAEMBA8623290,842131SingaporeSingapore Management University: Lee Kong ChianMaster of Business AdministrationMBA9033118,41538SingaporeSingapore Management University: Lee Kong ChianMSc in ManagementMiM965757,901133SingaporeSingapore Management University: Lee Kong ChianEMBAEMBA6826363,01428SingaporeUCLA: Anderson/National University of SingaporeUCLA-NUS EMBAEMBA7222300,44047South KoreaKorea University Business SchoolEMBAEMBA016261,08087South KoreaSungkyunkwan University GSBFull-time MBAMBA5545131,166100South KoreaYonsei University School of BusinessEMBAEMBA015241,65174TaiwanNational Chengchi UniversityMSc in Management Information SystemsMiM83269,03348TaiwanNational Sun Yat-sen UniversityEMBAEMBA322187,34459

With more than a third of all overseas students in higher education in Australia last year coming from China, debate about the sector relying on the Chinese market has reached fever pitch.

However, Australian business schools say their MBA programmes are resistant to this over-reliance and instead are seeing an increase in interest from Indian students.

But business schools still face other threats to their competitiveness. More students are gaining qualifications at cheaper, privately run colleges; students from Asia are increasingly choosing to study close to home; and reversals on visa restrictions in the UK could reduce the relative attraction of Australia for prospective students.

Australia’s policymakers and universities are worried that Beijing could make changes to their immigration regulations, reducing the flow of students. The international education sector was Australia’s third biggest export industry in 2017.

There are also reports of discontent among both domestic and international students. Public commentary has highlighted complaints from Australian students about international students’ standard of English. Likewise, international students have complained about high concentrations of their peers from their same country on courses, which lowers the value of venturing overseas to study. Both these views are contested by the Australian government.

Universities generally have also been accused of failing to integrate and welcome international students properly, leading to isolation and racism. Concerns have also been raised about the Chinese government’s attempts to control students while they are studying in Australia.

While there is a lot of anecdotal noise about students from China, the situation is not supported by data for MBA students, says Julie Hare, a higher education expert and fellow at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne.

China was only the third biggest source of MBA students in 2018 with 1,139 enrolling in Australia, up from 958 in 2017, according to the government trade agency, Austrade.

India was the biggest source of international MBA students in 2018. Last year, 5,734 Indian MBA students came to Australia, compared with 4,800 in 2017.

Nepal was in second place in 2018 with 1,253 students, up from 844 in 2017. That said, this was the first year since 2013 that Nepal sent more MBA students to Australia than China.

“India’s the new China” when it comes to interest in MBA programmes from overseas students, says Stephen Brammer, executive dean of Macquarie Business School. “But we’re also doing very active recruitment across the whole of south and east Asia.”

Chinese students are also increasingly choosing to do MBAs in their home country, says Ian Harper, dean of Melbourne Business School.

“We have fewer Chinese applicants than we once did because [there’s] the option for them to study an MBA at home in China, taught by people who are US trained with schools that are very highly ranked,” he says.

Prof Brammer reports a similar trend at Macquarie. It is also receiving slightly fewer applications from Chinese international students, which he attributes to an increase in the quality of China’s domestic institutions.

Business schools face further challenges, however. According to research by Jonathan Chew, a director at management consultants Nous Group, the four largest providers of MBA degrees to international students in Australia were not universities but private providers. These institutions have seen huge growth in the past seven or so years, he says.

Further, both Ms Hare and Mr Chew say Australian business schools could be hit by the UK’s reversal of tight controls on immigration to offer international students a two-year work visa after graduating. “The removal [by the UK in 2012] of those study work rights closely correlated with a decline in enrolments in the UK and a big uptick in Australia,” Mr Chew says.

Prof Harper says this would not affect his programmes as the courses do not help students satisfy immigration criteria. Instead, he says, the flow of students is more affected by the exchange rate.

Either way, as Australian universities attempt to market themselves as a premium product independent of the migration benefits, there is still the question as to whether the country’s MBA will ever compete with the US and Europe.

Lawrence Linker of Singapore-based business school admissions consultancy MBA Link has a reality check for Australian institutions, even as their international student numbers rise.

“I honestly don’t know if I can think of a time when a client has requested help or admission to an Australian business school,” he says. “I don’t think that Australian schools have built up the kind of reputation that the top US or European programmes have.”

Hong Kong and Singapore have been rivals for decades in many sectors but until recently business education was not one of them, mainly because the schools’ geographical locations offer different advantages to students.

However, with the Hong Kong protests showing no sign of abating and as marketing starts in earnest for the September 2020 intake of MBA candidates, there is a risk that more students will compare the two and opt for Singapore.

“If the situation does not improve, I would not be surprised if it had a negative effect,” says Kalok Chan, former dean and professor of finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School.

Students may be put off applying to Hong Kong schools because of the protests but, so far, it is too early to tell, he says. Advertising and promotions begin in the autumn and applications are accepted until spring.

The problem, as business school recruitment services know, is that some students already look at schools across Asia early on in their decision-making — and they were making comparisons even before Hong Kong’s political crisis erupted.

“I visited Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore when evaluating schools in Asia for my MBA,” says William Akers, a US alumnus from the class of 2010-11 at Hong Kong university (HKU) business school.

Ling Kong, an MBA student from the UK, also considered some institutions in Singapore before settling on the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School.

Discounting the current risk of being in Hong Kong — where protesters have set fire to metro stations and police have responded with tear gas — few would dispute that the cities offer different opportunities.

“Hong Kong schools are a great springboard to [greater] China, whereas Singapore schools are probably the best gateway to Asia Pacific in general,” explains Professor Jochen Wirtz, vice dean of graduate studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School.

For David Grey, a British student on the MBA programme at HKU, there was no contest between the locations: he wanted exposure to mainland China.

“Hong Kong was the natural choice because of its proximity to the mainland, international outlook and well-respected business schools,” he says.

Nevertheless, Sia Siew Kien, associate dean of graduate studies at Nanyang Business School in Singapore, says the political situation in Hong Kong may affect the sentiment of prospective students in the short-term, particularly for those applying from mainland China.

The Hong Kong protesters have grown increasingly anti-Beijing in their demands for greater democracy and there have been isolated incidents of racism against people from mainland China. Many visitors and residents who speak Mandarin say they feel uncomfortable and fear a backlash from Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong locals.

Hong Kong’s elite schools are more exposed than those in Singapore to a possible downturn in the number of applicants from mainland China. About half the students on CUHK’s full-time MBA are from mainland China, says Prof Chan, who has just come to the end of his tenure at the helm of the business school. HKU reports that about 35 per cent of this year’s MBA intake declare their nationality as mainland Chinese, while the figure for HKUST is nearly 30 per cent for those on the full-time MBA course.

Singapore schools, in contrast, report much lower reliance on mainland Chinese students. Insead’s Asia campus says that about 8 per cent of those studying on the current MBA programme are from mainland China, although this figure fluctuates. Prof Wirtz says the proportion at NUS is slightly over 15 per cent.

Despite widespread international news coverage of the Hong Kong protests, current students and academics point out that the violence is easy to avoid and there has been little or no unrest on business school campuses.

“I would say the impact on day-to-day life is actually quite minimal, despite what it might look like in the international press. Generally, protest organisers distribute locations and timings in advance and it is relatively easy to avoid the areas where protests are happening,” says Mr Grey.

“Hong Kong in general is a very safe city and I have never felt endangered despite the tension in the past few months,” he adds.

“In terms of safety, there’s not much of a problem. The riots are very localised,” agrees CUHK’s Prof Chan.

He warns, however: “If the protests continue it will affect business and therefore job opportunities.”

Some multinationals are said to be drawing up plans to relocate to Singapore or other cities if the protests do not die down, prompted in part by concern over staff recruitment and retention.

Business schools will not be immune to such difficulties and, as Prof Wirtz points out, the real rivalry between business schools is for the best staff. “Competition is more intense for world-class faculty than for MBA candidates,” he says.

“Hopefully the situation will get better,” says Prof Chan. Business schools in Hong Kong, which will be acutely aware of the problem, will be thinking along the same lines.

Business schools in Asia might be younger than their American and European counterparts, but they are establishing themselves quickly. This report looks at the challenges and opportunities facing institutions in the region.

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British Steel is set to announce a rescue deal with China’s Jingye Group, which could safeguard up to 4,000 jobs in the UK.

Jingye Group has agreed in principle to buy British Steel for £70m.

It is understood that the government will help in the form of loan guarantees and other financial support.

British Steel has been kept running by the government since May when the company went into liquidation.

As well as employing 4,000 people at its Scunthorpe and Teeside sites, British Steel supports an additional 20,000 jobs in the supply chain.

It is believed that while Jingye Group has promised to increase production, it has also warned costs may need to be cut.

The Chinese group is reportedly aiming to increase production at Scunthorpe from 2.5 million tonnes per year to more than three million.

Since May, the company has been run at a loss by the Official Receiver – effectively a privately hired government agency.

British Steel’s previous owners, Greybull Capital, walked away saying Brexit concerns had decimated forward order books.

Turkish deal

British Steel had been in rescue talks with Ataer, which is a subsidiary of Turkey’s state military retirement scheme Oyak.

Ataer had signed a signed a preliminary agreement to buy the company in August.

However, hopes that the deal could be completed faded last month when the Official Receiver to British Steel said the parties had failed to agree terms.

The UK industry has been struggling for a number of years amid claims that China has been flooding the market with cheap steel.

It prompted US President Donald Trump to impose a 25% trade tariff on steel imports from China and the EU among others.

Jingye has 23,500 employees and as well as its main steel and iron making businesses, it is also involved in hotels, tourism and property.

The majority of British Steel’s workers are employed at its Scunthorpe plant.

Jingye’s chairman Li Ganpo recently visited British Steel’s sites and met with Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin and Andrew Percy, representative for the Brigg and Goole constituency.

Mr Percy told the Grimsby Telegraph he had been given assurances over the company’s future.

“They have assured us that if they do progress with this acquisition, they have every intention of investing to expand production to serve the UK and European market,” he said.