Chulalongkorn University Sasin School of Management. Courtesy photo

Thailand may not be the first country that comes to mind when it comes to graduate business education in Asia. Ian Fenwick believes this needs to change.

Fenwick thinks that Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is an ideal place to study. Not only does it have a sense of inclusion, says the director of Bangkok-based Chulalongkorn University’s Sasin School of Management, but it also has the infrastructure to support business – especially digital business. The city was recently rated as the second best place for digital nomads next to Lisbon, Portugal.

What’s more, Thailand — and Southeast Asia as a whole — is considered an “untapped market,” according to JP Morgan: By 2030, the multinational investment banking giant reports, Southeast Asia is projected to add roughly 140 million new consumers. Even earlier, by 2025, the internet economy in the region is expected to generate around $360 billion in gross output value.

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


Ian Fenwick: “I wouldn’t like to present Sas as a religious school, but we have Buddhist monks who come and help us with some of the courses.”

Fenwick believes that if you want to do business in Asia, you have to immerse yourself in the culture. And with business growing so rapidly on the continent, he believes students need to understand its implications in order to help care for the planet.

“The future of the business is completely uncertain,” says Fenwick. “We will see permanent divisions 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 is important to business everywhere.”

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

“We are not trying to learn facts. We’re not even trying to teach frameworks,” says Fenwick. “We’re trying to teach people to be conscious, to be responsible and to consider carefully what’s on the table and the impact it’s going to have.”


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

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 a “nimble alternative teaching English to global standards”. Founded in 1982 through a collaboration between Chulalongkorn University, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Fenwick says an international, cultural element was ingrained in the school’s ethos from the start.

Although Kellogg and Wharton played a larger role (for the first five years of the school’s conception, all of the school’s faculty came from Wharton, Kellogg, and international partners), they are still involved to some degree; Each year, executive MBA students go to Kellogg or Wharton for a two-week residential stay. For the past several years, Sasin has sent EMBA students exclusively to Kellogg.

Now, the school has partnerships with 43 institutions in 19 countries. Plus, 60% of the school’s courses are taught by visiting faculty.

Students in Sasin. “A key word for Buddhism is balance – we want students to make decisions that they are proud of and can stand behind,” says principal Ian Fenwick. Courtesy photo


According to Fenwick, Thai culture infuses 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 consists of people working in Thailand. Before the pandemic, approximately one-third of EMBA students were non-Thai. After the pandemic, Fenwick says that number has dropped to about 15%, but he hopes that number will soon increase. “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 B-school courses, such as the ‘Skills and Values’ module taught in the MBA and EMBA.

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

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


Ian Fenwick: Sasin “isn’t rigid like some business schools; it’s a helpful collective, moving forward together. That’s probably something business should model in the future.”

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

“We believe that sustainability will only be achieved through an entrepreneurial mindset and by changing the way we look at business problems,” 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 a must,” he adds.


While EMBA students spend two weeks in the US during graduation, MBA students have the opportunity to go on an international exchange with the school’s institutional partners. Plus, every year, the school welcomes students from nearly half of its partners. “When we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, we usually send about two-thirds of our MBA students on exchange somewhere,” he says.

For Thai students, Fenwick says their main 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, have dual citizenship and will join their family businesses after graduation. For MBA or EMBA exchange students, the appeal of studying at Sasin is to enjoy and experience an immersive cultural experience – and learn how cultural and sustainable lenses impact business. “We have quite a few exchange graduates who actually 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 classes for each other,” says Fenwick. “It’s not vain like some business schools; it is a useful collective, moving forward together. This is probably something that business should model in the future.”


The post Sustainability, Buddhism and Travel: Thai B-School Creates ‘Culturally Agile’ Students appeared first on Poets&Quants.

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