Some 233 business and management schools now offer the MBA degree in China and nearly 200,000 Chinese citizens have obtained the degree, according to a new report by China Daily. Yet, no more than a dozen of the schools are accredited by either of the two major accreditation agencies for business schools.
Concludes the newspaper today (July 17): “In China, few things are regarded as being both so practical and useless, so admirable and contemptible, and as being both the key to success and the beginning of a boring life, as a master’s degree in business administration.”
It was only about 20 years ago when the first class of MBAs graduated from a mainland school: some 94 MBAs in 1991, according to the China Daily. Yet, the demand for the degree has clearly led to an explosion in schools that offer the MBA—along with a spate of mediocre programs of dubious quality and increasing doubts about the degree’s worth in China.
Last year, for example, a series of critiques in one newspaper, Guangming Daily, charged business schools with poor recruitment standards and being not much more than social clubs for the rich. “Once we were for the chosen few,” one unidentified B-school official told the newspaper. “Now we are offering our program like a discount item in the mass market.”
The concerns have led Chinese officials at the country’s Ministry of Education to propose an accreditation group for the schools in China that would be unable to meet the highest standards of The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the B-school gold standard which has granted accreditation to nearly 650 schools worldwide. Only 12 Chinese schools have AASCB accreditation and seven of them are in Hong Kong.
The most well known of the 12 is Shanghai-based China-Europe International Business School (CEIBS) which opened in 1994 and whose current dean is a former Harvard Business School professor. Several other schools have gained significant attention including the AACSB-accredited Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business.
The highest ranked Chinese school in this year’s Financial Times’ global MBA ranking is not on the mainland: it’s Hong Kong UST Business School, ranked tenth by the FT among all MBA granting institutions in the world. CEIBS is next on the FT list and is ranked 24th. The only other mainland China school to gain recognition from the Financial Times is Peking University’s Guanghua, ranked 54th this year.
Many U.S. and European schools, of course, have forged partnerships with Chinese institutions to offer MBA degrees, and Duke University is setting up a campus in Kunshan, near Shanghai, and its Fuqua School of Business is slated to be the first to offer programs there.
Nine Chinese schools have joined in the effort so far to develop the standards, including some of the nation’s most prominent universities. They include Tsinghua University, Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Nankai University, Tengji University, the East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Sichuan University, and Inner Mongolian University.
Tong Yunhuan, secretary-general of the China National MBA Education Supervisory Committee, told China Daily the goal of accreditation is to improve the quality of MBA education in the country. “To start with, we are planning to work with the first group of nine universities and to proceed from there to establish a Chinese MBA accreditation system,” he said. “There is still a considerable difference” between the schools that have already obtained world-class accreditation and the other schools.