LEARNING TO STUDY AND WORK WITH NATIVE CHINESE
About 70% of Twitchell’s BiMBA classmates are native Chinese as are about 60% of McMahon’s at CEIBS. But the percentage of locals can vary significantly. “More than 90% of our students come from outside of Hong Kong and quite a lot of them have never been to Asia before,” says Chris Tsang, executive director of MBA/MSc Programs at HKUST Business School. “We typically have students from 28 different nationalities in any one class so they are able to work in a very global and culturally diverse environment.”
HKUST took in 92 international students in its entering class last year, including 21 from North America, 20 from European, and two from Latin America. CEIBS, meantime, drew 78 international students in 2011, including 16 from North America and 17 from Europe. So the rising prestige of some of these schools is beginning to attract a critical mass of students from outside China.
Professors also tend to come from other countries, another plus because it gives the schools a larger talent pool from which to draw. “We have a lot of choice of faculty because most people are hired as adjunct visiting professors,” says Bruce Stening, international dean at BiMBA. “They come in and teach their class in four weeks and then go, so we can search around for someone else if they’re not good.”
So how do Western students gain an understanding of the Chinese financial system, consumer behavior, and business style if their professors come from outside China? “In all of the courses we’re trying to make the content relevant to the Chinese economy,” Stening says. “If a professor teaches marketing, it has to have a context that’s relevant to China. And of course, there are courses given by local professors who take people on field trips to old battle sites in China.”
LOCAL SCHOOLS ARE CREATING AN INVENTORY OF CASE STUDIES ON CHINA-BASED BUSINESSES
Dave Wilson, president and CEO of the Graduate Management Admission Council, the organization that administers the GMAT, notes, “B-schools are also building up case studies about scenarios at China-based businesses instead of importing cases from elsewhere in the world.”
These schools also are receiving help winning over professors who can offer the best of both worlds: “The government is working very hard on getting faculty who are Chinese natives educated overseas to come back to China,” says Wilson. In the past ten years, for example, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing has hired over two dozen full-time professors who have earned PhDs at elite U.S. universities and previously taught at Wharton, Stanford, University of California (Berkeley), INSEAD, Cornell and Yale.
Another advantage for students: the relatively low cost of living in China. The database Numbeo.com reports that U.S. consumer prices, including rent, are about 61% higher than China’s. Chicago rents are 50% higher than those in Shanghai; New York City’s are 231% more than Beijing’s.
COST OF LIVING IS MUCH CHEAPER IN CHINA THAN IT IS IN MAJOR U.S. CITIES
Allen Fang, 28, a CEIBS student originally from Saratoga, California, rents a two-bedroom apartment within walking distance of the campus in Shanghai for $1,200 a month. McMahon pays $700 a month for his share of a five-bedroom with four roommates. Both said housing was easy to find. McMahon used the website smartshanghai.com and Fang went through a local real estate agent.
At BiMBA, Garrett Twitchell pays $425 a month for an apartment he estimates would easily go for $1,500 to $2,000 in Manhattan. His Beijing neighborhood, about a 20-minute commute from campus by subway, is not so upscale and he’s the only non-native who lives here, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “My day-to-day Chinese survival skills are good,” he explains. “I can order food and ask directions and converse with my neighbors in Mandarin.”
Even those who arrive with minimal Chinese language skills will likely find the Shanghai transportation easy to navigate. “The subway has signs in English and when you buy a ticket there’s a button you can press for English,” McMahon says. “An average cab ride is around $5. You can pretty much get to anywhere within Shanghai’s commercial center for less than $10.”