Magazine article Management Today

MT MBA & Business Education Guide: Autumn 2011 - China Calling

Magazine article Management Today

MT MBA & Business Education Guide: Autumn 2011 - China Calling

Article excerpt

A stint in China is becoming a CV must-have for the corporate titans of tomorrow, and with more than 120 MBA programmes to choose from and double-digit economic growth, it's an attractive place to study and work for other reasons, too, says Andrew Saunders.

Back in the days of the pioneering American settlers, ambitious young high achievers were exhorted to 'go west' in search of fame and fortune A century and a half or so later, their corporate equivalents are increasingly turning that advice on its head, shunning the now-safe choice of a cosy berth in Europe or the US and heading east for the excitement and opportunity afforded by China.

It's not hard to see why - with the west bogged down by intractable financial woes, China's remarkable growth rate of over 10% is buying it an increasingly large say in global economic affairs. Employers now prize the value that having experience in the world's most populous nation on their CVs can bring to the next generation of senior managers - so if you're thinking about riding out the market gloom at home by doing an MBA, you too could do a lot worse than head east.

'The best people are now being made country managers in China. It will become the new pathway to the top of the corporate ladder,' says Professor John Quelch, dean of Shanghai's China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), citing the likes of Tesco's Philip Clarke and McKinsey's Dominic Barton as examples of this new breed. Both are newly minted chief execs with spells in the Asia-Pacific region under their belts.

'That's a reflection of what applicants to CEIBS are thinking, that Chinese experience will give them a leg up in their careers,' says Quelch. He adds: 'Our students are real internationalists with an adventurous streak, they are taking a bet on the future.'

It's a gamble that is set to pay off, he believes, as China continues to climb up the global commercial pecking order. 'Within 10 years I predict as many as 20 Fortune 500 companies will have Chinese CEOs.' And he should know - his long and distinguished career, including stints as dean of London Business School and many years as associate dean and professor of business administration at Harvard, means the 70-year-old Quelch has more knowledge of what's going on in the world of business education than most.

And as the boss of China's largest business school (which has a new branch in Beijing as well as its main campus, plus an outpost in Ghana), Quelch is determined to make the most of the opportunity this presents. As befits a man with dozens of marketing textbooks to his name, he has come up with a catchy phrase to sum up what the school has to offer - China depth, global breadth. 'In business education - as in consulting - it's very hard to come up with a USP, but no international school can match us on China depth, and no Chinese school can match us on global breadth,' he says. 'It's a sustainable sweet spot.'

CEIBS awards 800 executive MBAs annually, making it by far the largest provider of these part-time qualifications. 'Columbia is next at 300,' says Quelch. Of CEIBS's students, 85% are taught in Chinese, which adds the complexity of simultaneous translation for those lecturers who do not speak the language. Its exec MBA graduates are also older, averaging 40 rather than 30, which Quelch says makes them more demanding and raises the standard of teaching across the board.

The traditional full-time MBA course is the one which attracts most non-Chinese students, a 50/50 mix, and they are very serious about China. 'Our students realise that to understand the country, you have to immerse yourself in it. You can't 'do' China on a two-week tourist visa. Singapore is Asia lite, Hong Kong is China lite, for the real experience you have to go into the belly of the beast,' he says. The price of this full immersion? Around dollars 50,000.

Quelch joined CEIBS (which was set up as a remarkably far-sighted JV between the EU and Shanghai's municipal government in 1994) as dean in 2008 and he is busily engaged raising the profile of the school around the globe. …

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