The celebratory mood at City University of Seattle's (CTU) graduation ceremony last June was almost infectious. When a student's name was announced, a burst of applause would erupt from their little pocket of family and friends in the audience.
But the crowd fell strangely silent as some students proudly strode across the stage to pick up their diplomas. Chinese graduates received a noticeably more muted response simply because their loved ones were far away on the other side of the Pacific.
Zhang Jing and his Chinese classmates were still just as proud as the American students in attendance, however. Zhang had worked too hard over the past three years to not share some of the excitement in the air.
He was one of 30 students who came to Seattle for the ceremony and one of 80 who had graduated from an MBA programme jointly initiated and administered by CTU, Beijing University of Technology (BUT), and the Canadian Institute of Business and Technology (CIBT). Initiated in 1996 and approved by the Ministry of Education in 1998, this programme was one of the earliest joint education projects between foreign universities and mainland institutions of higher learning.
The National Education Commission (formerly the Ministry of Education) initially estimated demand for MBA graduates at 300,000 people, at a time when only 5,000 students were actually graduating per year, says Shuai Yang, acting deputy president of CIBT.
Dr Fernando Leon Garcia, co-acting president of CTU, says there was an increasing need for further education, training and career advancement programmes, but most universities were not prepared to meet those needs. These kind of demands are particularly significant in emerging economies, he adds.
The joint MBA programme met these needs at the time. Graduates who were already working were finding that access to programmes was limited. They needed programmes that would allow them to study around their jobs.
CTU fit the bill, and has since been involved in a number of professional training programmes in several emerging economies. Of the approximately 12,500 students enrolled per quarter, 30 per cent came from abroad and earnd their CTU degrees by studying in their own countries.
Beijing University of Technology in the capital city's east end, the programme primarily recruited students from joint ventures or foreign firms with local operations. The curriculum is specially designed for the needs of these students. Chinese professors and experienced executives from multinational companies were invited from the United States to lecture.
Programme combined a global perspective with local responsiveness, Garcia says.
Classrooms were also monitored and analyzed to help design policies related to specific situations, says Shuai Yang. Students needed to be able to use what they learned in the classroom and apply it to their work. Zhang adds that this practical emphasis was what impressed him the most.
"I asked my students to analyze the Super Girl programme (an amateur singing competition on Chinese TV). They were required to explain the programme's success," says Xi Ninghua, a professor from University of International Business and Economics who teaches for the programme part-time.
Dr Mariella C Remund, an Italian professor of management, says most of her case studies were taken from China Daily, because her students liked Chinese-related cases. Remund previously taught an MBA programme for CTU in Germany, but she asked to be transferred to China when she found out the university had a programme in Beijing.
"Chinese students are very analytical, very intelligent and work very hard. They are quite open to whatever they think is useful," she says.
Night and weekend classes make it possible for working students to study.
But it is tough work staying on top of all 14 classes while working full-time, says Li Jia, a 2005 graduate, adding that she had to stay up late to do homework every night.
"But I learned a lot from these courses. I've learned to approach problems from different perspectives," she says.
Since 1996, more than 800 graduates have earned MBA degrees through the programme. A course was launched in December 2003 to train staff from China's major airlines. The first class had 37 students in Beijing, but another class of 35 was added in 2004.
A class of 45 was launched in Shanghai this year, along with a class of 32 students in Guangzhou. Boeing helped fund the programme, which is locally run with Shanghai Normal University and Guangdong University of Business Studies.
Quality, convenience, accessibility and affordability are the key principles behind these programmes, Fernando says. Quality is guaranteed through strict examinations and classes taught by experienced teachers from both the Chinese mainland and the United States.
The 20,000 yuan (US$2,400) tuition is quite affordable for local employees of joint ventures or foreign firms. Students in the Boeing groups also do not have to pay tuition.
More than 800 students have already graduated from the programme, Shui says. The total number of graduates should surpass 1,000 by the summer.
(China Daily 03/13/2006 page4)
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