WIDER CONCERNS OVER THE VALUE OF THE MBA DEGREE IS ALSO CAUSING A DECLINE IN APPS FROM JAPAN
Ricci adds that many potential students are under the misperception that HBS requires a TOEFL score of 109 or that HBS only wants younger applicants. While it’s true that HBS expects high TOEFL / English skills–which Ricci says “plays on Japanese insecurities”–those scores don’t have to be as high as 109. As to the younger bias in MBA students at HBS, Ricci points out that the average age of Japanese admits to Harvard is closer to 30.
“Some of my non-sponsored clients also question the career payoff,” the consultant says. “Fewer 20 somethings see an HBS MBA as a ticket to career opportunities they want. Some of my clients say that Japanese CEOs, especially those at startups and even larger tech / IT related companies, are expected to have sufficient tech knowledge and skills to attract and retain top engineers and CTOs. This particular observation comes from a highly tech-oriented MBA candidate (HBS admit). Not sure his comments explain the decade-long decline in applicants. But it is certainly true that in Japan, as elsewhere, i-banking and other high-end finance jobs are no longer motivating people to quit their jobs and invest $200,000 in a top MBA.”
All of these issues, of course, are in the context of massive changes in Japan’s economy and culture. “The Japanese went from being one of the most important international student groups in the U.S. to one that Open Doors no longer separates out from the general pack,” says Markus. “I think the Dean is right about the overall longer-term trend as there is increasingly a smaller albeit more intense group of highly internationalized Japanese and a much larger group of highly domestic Japanese. McKinsey’s Reimagining Japan, http://www.mckinsey.com/features/reimagining_japan/reimagining_japan_book,
discusses this issue.”
ONE SOLUTION: ‘A LOT MORE BABIES OR MAKING ENGLISH THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE’
Demographic trends also don’t bode well for a major shift in the near term. “The aging population, an increasingly polarized economy like the U.S.’s have resulted in a younger generation with reduced global outlook and interest,” adds Markus. “At the same time those that are global here tend to have really significant international exposure (being raised overseas, attending junior year of college or high school abroad, extensive international travel for pleasure, extended periods of work abroad, and/or employment by a multinational or highly globalized Japanese company are all common for those who gain admission to HBS and Stanford).
“My perspective on Japanese applicants overall is that since admission to top Japanese universities has become easier over the last two decades as a result of a massive reduction in the number of applicants (less kids, post-baby boom here), the current generation is not used to the same level of competition that, for example, their American, Chinese, Indian, and South Korean peers would be,” explains Markus. “So the overall Japanese applicant pool is not nearly as impressive. Great Japanese applicants, like great applicants from any country, really stand out, but the overall applicant pool here is not necessarily all that strong, especially if you look at the test scores and academic performance. I seriously doubt that even if they wanted to, HBS could find 40 Japanese a year who would be up to the current level of ability and strength of background to really qualify for those seats.
“I think they could admit 20 a year assuming a 20% acceptance rate, which is higher than the actual overall rate of 12% at HBS. In a good year, HBS might get 100 applicants from Japan. Maybe this will go up significantly because they made a big push for 2015 entry, but I seriously doubt that HBS will get 200 applicants from Japan for this year or any future year until the Japanese start having a lot more babies or make English their official language of business, neither of which seems likely.”
DON’T MISS: WANTED BY HARVARD: MORE JAPANESE STUDENTS