Graduation a first for Sydney

The University of Sydney this week hosted a graduation ceremony for a prestigious international degree. By educating students to become well-rounded, multilingual global citizens with a grasp of international business culture, a sophisticated masters degree course at the University of Sydney Business School is proving popular with ambitious entrants and employers.
University of Sydney Business School

This article first appeared in The Australian, Australia 29 Nov 2017, written by Sian Powell

The degree meets a standard set by CEMS, an alliance of business schools and multinational companies. Many of the students studying for Sydney’s CEMS master in international management are recruited by multinationals before they graduate, the school’s dean, Professor Greg Whitwell, says.

This week Sydney University hosted the CEMS graduation ceremony this year, held outside Europe for the first time. The university is the only one in Australia to offer the degree.

Most of the 30 business schools around the world offering the specialist, three-semester degree cap their numbers at 80 students because demand is high, even though the rigid requirements deter many students from even applying.

CEMS students must speak two languages fluently before they begin the course, and have a workable knowledge of a third language by the time they graduate. They also must spend at least one semester abroad studying at a partner institution.

Whitwell says the CEMS course is phenomenally popular, with 70 per cent of the applications coming from abroad. This year about 60 per cent of the CEMS students studying in Sydney are women.

“It is a generalist masters degree, with a rich variety of options within the program,” he says, adding that the CEMS course is “very hands on”and aimed at students who do not necessarily have any business experience before entering the program.

The course requires students to complete a major business project, and undertake an internship for a minimum of 10 weeks, often with a CEMS corporate partner.

Based in Europe, the CEMS alliance was conceived with some corporate partners, Whitwell says, and such partners continue to play a big role in the program. “Business projects are usually related to major issues or topics that are of concern to the corporate partners,” he says.

Whitwell says the CEMS course is practical and pragmatic. “We also, in many instances, have a form of co-design of course delivery with the corporate partners,” he says. “So for the students, there’s almost from day one a really strong sense of involvement with corporate partners.”

Founded 29 years ago, CEMS links the 30 business schools in an alliance across Europe as well as in China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Canada and India. Only one CEMS course can be offered in a country, and a prestigious US school is expected soon to join the group. Sydney University joined eight years ago, and Whitwell is now the deputy chair of the CEMS alliance.

Multinational corporations want to employ creative, flexible and intelligent citizens of the world and CEMS graduates, it seems, fit the bill. Nearly 100 per cent of CEMS alumni are either already employed or are continuing their studies, according to the University of Sydney Business School, with nearly 50 per cent living outside their homeland and 75 per cent work for multinational companies.

“Organisations talk increasingly these days about the importance of cultural diversity, of leading culturally diverse teams. They talk about the importance of inclusive leadership, trying to ensure everyone has a voice at the table, no matter their cultural background,” Whitwell says.

With linguistic skills, and time spent studying and working abroad, CEMS graduates are “future-oriented, global citizens”, he says, each with a broad perspective, and an understanding of context and of national and corporate norms.

Sydney University’s school has developed its own CEMS unit of study, connected with the jobs in the world of the future, with a focus on connectivity, machine learning, robotics and artificial intelligence generally.

CEMS corporate partners came to Sydney this week for the CEMS graduation and the events connected with it, and no doubt to scout talent.

Audrey Clegg, the global head of talent with ABB, a technology business that works in industrial equipment and systems, says she was in Sydney to meet CEMS students, graduates and alumni and ensure her firm was able to attract the best talent.

As a sponsor of the CEMS graduation event, ABB was “committed to supporting future leaders, and our business success reflects very much the quality and the skills of our people”, she says.

Also as a corporate partner, ABB has been closely involved in the degree’s development, she says. “I chair the corporate partners’ committee. We meet twice per year, we have the universities, the students and the corporate partners as well as the alumni of the program coming together to shape and influence both the curriculum, as well as content and changes required in the focus of the studies of the students.”

Clegg says the CEMS program offers the opportunity to engage with talent from around the world, and to work together with universities to set benchmarks to prepare future generations of international business leaders.

“I’m proud to say we’ve been involved with CEMS for over 10 years,” she says, “and we have a number of CEMS individuals in leadership positions and certainly coming into the program every year, which is why we continue to sponsor and be involved in not only the graduation events, but also the program itself.”

It is a“ generalist masters degree, with a rich variety of options. We also, in many instances, have a form of co-design of course delivery with the corporate partners. So for the students, there’s a really strong sense of involvement with the partners.