China depth, global breadth
John A. Quelch, the new Dean of the China Europe International Business School
(CEIBS) in Shanghai, speaks about the MBA in China and Africa and new competition.
How do you see the development of the global market for management education?
In the past decade there has been an increase in the interest in gaining an interna-
tional education. So students from the US go to Insead, students from the UK go to
the US. In the last five years Asia has become more prominent. This was aided by the
financial crisis, as Asia was doing better than the US and Europe. Young students
have understood that Asia may play a big part in their life as a manager. They rea-
lize that in-depth experience in Asia is a very valuable credential in their educa-
tion. A mere three-week study trip to China is simply inadequate to absorb the local
and cultural aspects. They need to speak the language and to network with entrepre-
neurs. You need a deep immersion in the Chinese culture. We therefore have more ap-
plications from outside China at CEIBS than before, and since the beginning of 2010
our foreign MBA students also have to learn Chinese.
How does CEIBS differentiate itself from other business schools in China?
China depth, global breadth – that is what differentiates us from other Chinese schools and from other international schools operating in China. Students want to understand China in the context of a global economy. CEIBS also has a very substantial EMBA program with 800 participants. We have around 9,000 alumni and about 10 percent of them are already CEOs or presidents of their companies.
This is a very powerful network. The focus on EMBA is also important for students of the full-time MBA who can do projects in the companies of our EMBA alumni and of course also for recruiting
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For the first time this year there are three Indian business schools in the FT ranking. Will India be a new competitor of Chinese schools and CEIBS?
The group of students from outside Asia who apply to Indian schools doesn´t overlap with the applicants to China. China is increasingly seen as the driving force in economy in Asia. And people increasingly see China as the most important market. India has the advantage of the English language being widely spoken, but the challenge of coming to China is probably greater. The international experience is more demanding. We have a number of important Indian faculties, whereas India has no Chinese faculty. So we are a little bit ahead of cultural diversity. And Shanghai is rapidly becoming the business education capital of Asia.
How important is Europe for CEIBS?
The European Union has played a unique role in CEIBS history and development. The
European perspective is very interesting against the Chinese capitalism. We have ma-
ny European faculties. We have many VIP visitors and speakers. For example Romano
Prodi is a visiting professor. The European connection is still very strong. We have
a number of Europeans represented in the MBA student body. We are open for business
with European companies. They hire our graduates and book our executive education
programs. We want to take the message to Europe better. Therefore we are planning a
highly visible conference in Europe about research in China.
CEIBS has also started an EMBA in Ghana. Do you want to expand the school’s presence
In Ghana our principal focus is on deepening experience in Ghana, adding more execu-
tive education programs, courses for women entrepreneurs and for traditional leaders
like tribal chiefs. We want to raise our visibility in Africa. The EMBA also helps
us to recruit participants from West Africa. We have faculty in Ghana which is also
teaching in Shanghai. And the EMBA students come to Shanghai for one course. Ghana
is very well positioned in West Africa and the country is a magnet for high quality
students. There is certainly a lot of potential in Africa, but it is challenging to
find the high quality students we want. We try to expand the program, but it is ex-
tremely difficult to find the right candidates. There is a need for business educa-
tion, but it is maybe more basic business education. Africans are great entrepre-
neurs and they manage to cope with the rigors of the environment, where a traditio-
nal MBA graduate would certainly fail.
Since you are coming from Harvard business school, are you planning more programs
together with Harvard?
We have two high level executive education programs with Harvard. These joint ven-
tures are extremely helpful for the faculty and the participants benefitting from
each other. Harvard faculty benefits from the experience in China and the symmetry
of relationship is very good. But we have to be careful not to spread faculty too
thin and put them in oversea adventures with partnership schools, instead of tea-
ching and doing research in Shanghai. The scarcest is the time of our full-time fa-
How do you see the MBA market developing in the future?
Our principle competition will be of the students who don’t apply for an MBA pro-
gram, because they were retained by major financial or consultant companies on the
fast career track with some internal programs. MBA programs are a very resilient
product, but one has to constantly reshape and redesign them. We have never sacri-
ficed the desires of the market and created courses that correspond to appeal current
fashion. Sure leadership and sustainability are extremely important, but an MBA who
doesn´t understand the fundamentals will not be successful. Of course we are enthu-
siastic about the inclusion of topics like CSR or sustainability in the curriculum.
But we need a balance between cutting edge and fundamental knowledge.
Interview: Bärbel Schwertfeger