CEIBS calls for more MBA programs

By Gao Changxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-04-11 16:38
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CEIBS calls for more MBA programs

John Quelch,vice-president of the China Europe International Business School, Shanghai 

CEIBS academic also wants better classroom teaching

SHANGHAI - China's management and business administration (MBA) education has a way to go in terms of quantity and quality to meet the rising demand triggered by the country's rapid economic growth, said John Quelch, the newly appointed vice-president of the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai.

Quelch was associate dean at Harvard Business School, one of the top in its sector worldwide, for about a decade before his move to CEIBS this year.

He believes that compared with the United States and other developed countries, China has a shortage of MBA programs and good teachers to train the number of managers needed for a country of its economic scale.

"Typically, when you have very rapid economic growth, the key shortage is of management talents and China's business education is not capable of training the amount of management talents needed," he said.

He estimates that China's economy can absorb 600,000 MBA recipients every year. That translates into a requirement of 2,000 universities and colleges to offer all types of MBA programs, he added.

However, although the number is increasing rapidly, China has only 236 MBA programs nationwide as of this year, up from just six in 1991. Meanwhile, just 36,000 students were enrolled in MBA programs in 2010, according to figures from the Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council.

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In addition to the shortage in quantity, China also has a lack of good teachers to ensure the quality of education in all of the current 236 programs. Local media has reported several cases of students going on strike in some EMBA programs.

"Because of the rapid increase in the economy and the high demand for business education, there is pressure on the supply of good, talented and experienced teachers," he said.

"So it's not surprising that there is some sort of a mismatch between the quality of the class being taught and the demands of the students in the class."

Quelch agreed that there are some irresponsible business schools in China but, over time, he said, consumers' choices will sort out the bad business schools and force them into bankruptcy.

"Chinese consumers are very savvy. They will quickly sort out which are providing value and which are ripping them off. Once that process is under way, the bad apples will go bankrupt and the good, serious schools will survive."

As good teaching staff and programs cannot be built overnight, Quelch suggests electronic learning as an effective way to crank up China's MBA education in the short term, although he is opposed to introducing the practice into elite business schools, such as CEIBS, where interaction between teachers and students is paramount.

CEIBS is one of the top business schools in the world. It ranks 17th in the Financial Times' latest global ranking of full-time MBA programs published in January this year.

"At the lower end of the market, there is going to be a tremendous opportunity for electronic learning," he said.

"Digital education, which is scalable through video links on the Internet, is the solution for China's growing demand for MBA education."

Quelch also noticed some differences between students in China and developed countries.

He feels that Chinese students like to learn concrete skills that will help them conduct business, while students in developed countries tend to be looking more for the "standard formulas" that will help them succeed across their entire career paths.

Chinese students' needs are in line with the fact that China is still a production economy where people have to find jobs or entrepreneurial opportunities in the "real world" as opposed to finding them in consulting or finance.

Commenting on the situation in which some students apply for MBA courses solely to expand their social networks, Quelch said if networking is what the students signed up for, they are missing "tremendous opportunities".

"There is no doubt that if you enter an excellent full-time program, you will develop camaraderie with your fellow students that can result in business relationships and friendships that can be very productive," Quelch said.

"But if you learned nothing during the process, you may have more friends but that won't equip you to make a lot of money. You have to learn how to conduct management and leadership better."