A Chinese B-School’s Quest for Global Fame

When renowned marketing and branding expert John Quelch took over as dean of the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), he created his own theory of brand building for the Shanghai-based business school. In line with marketing guru Philip Kotler’s Four Ps, Quelch calls his theory for CEIBS the ‘Four Fs’.

“These days, I spend my time on “faculty” — faculty recruitment, faculty nurturing and faculty retention; fame, which is about building the brand and making the school more famous worldwide; fortune, or converting alumni enthusiasm into investment in the institution; and fun — we are unlikely to have the creativity you need for thought leadership unless people feel that they are having fun when they come to work,” says Quelch.

In many ways, Quelch, who took over as vice-president and dean of CEIBS in February 2011, inherited a school that was already on the upswing, especially for an Asia-based school that is just 17 years old. CEIBS already figured in major global rankings by Forbes, Financial Times and The Economist. It has a campus in Shanghai and operations in Beijing and Shenzhen (and Quelch is thinking of doing something in Western China as well). Recently, the school started offering an executive MBA in Ghana (Quelch feels that business education in Africa could be a huge opportunity).

Quelch, who aspires to make CEIBS a top 10-ranked, research-focused business school, is no stranger to administration. He was dean of London Business School from 1998 to 2001 and later served as senior associate dean at Harvard Business School (HBS).

As dean of London Business School, Quelch was instrumental in increasing corporate sponsorships and revenues dramatically and ramping up both student and faculty numbers, which helped to catapult London Business School to the top 10 of the Financial Times ranking. While he learned the administrator’s ropes at London Business School, his stint at HBS taught him the power of the Harvard brand.

“We are trying to do the same thing at CEIBS where it’s important to … make sure that internationally minded prospective MBA students understand the quality of education that’s on offer in China,” he says.

Building a research institution from the ground up

To transform CEIBS into a research-driven institution requires fundamental change, but Quelch has a lot going for him. Unlike many other institutions in China, CEIBS, which is a joint venture between the Chinese government and the European Union, has a unique advantage — it is not part of China’s mainstream higher education system and thus has a lot of freedom. “In some respects, as a free-standing institution, CEIBS is like the INSEAD of China,” says Quelch. “It has tremendous scope and freedom when it comes to curriculum design and delivery.”

The school will need to create an ideal research climate to attract top faculty. And the experience of most young business schools, especially those in Asia, shows that this is no easy task. Quelch is aware of that and he is investing a lot of time and energy to ensure that professors have the time and incentives to engage in important research.

But here’s the problem: even though CEIBS has 65 full-time professors, they are stretched pretty thin, as CEIBS graduates 1,000 or so students per year with degrees (MBA and executive MBA) and another 9,000 to10,000 who come for short-term executive programs. That leaves little time for research, so Quelch is on a major drive to recruit 30 additional full-time faculty members. The school is even using a search consultant in London to identify European or U.S. B-school faculty who are interested in making a move to Asia. “I don’t think you can underestimate the number of full-time faculty who are now interested in spending a portion of their career in China,” says Quelch.