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More Chinese Students Getting MBAs In China

More Chinese Students Choosing An MBA In China

For Queenie Ren, a college education in the US meant more prestige. Ren went from high school in Nanjing, China to undergrad at Brown University, where she studied economics. After Brown, Ren returned to China and worked for consultancies and investment banks.

Now, she is applying to business school. But there is only one business school Ren is considering and its Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) in Beijing. Like many Chinese students, Ren says she wants to pursue an MBA in China because the opportunity to build a Chinese network is more important than the prestige of a western MBA.

“Networking gets more and more important for your career,” Ren tells Financial Times. “It is important to be local to do that.”

Jonathan Moules, Business Education Correspondent at Financial Times, recently authored a piece that discusses the shift in Chinese students seeking domestic institutions for an MBA over western schools.

Historically, western business schools have been highly sought after by Chinese students. China “accounts for the greatest number of international applications in the US and Canada, and is second only to India as a provider of foreign students in Europe,” Moules says. According to data by the Graduate Management Admission Council, China is a top source of international MBA candidates.

At the same time, Chinese institutions are gaining prominence amongst Chinese students. The number one advantage domestic MBA programs provide for Chinese students is a professional network.

What does this mean for Chinese institutions? They’re getting better. The Shanghai-based China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) ranked 11th best in the world this year, according to Financial Times rankings. Last year, it was ranked 17th. CEIBS was also the first Chinese institution to receive accreditation in 2004 from the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), which includes over 600 member academic institutions in 83 countries. 19 other Chinese institutions have joined CEIBS in reaching the same standard.

“The qualitative difference between local and overseas schools is narrowing for Chinese students, as increasing numbers of domestic institutions have gained international accreditation that qualifies them for global rankings,” Moules says.

David Asch is EFMD’s director of quality services. Asch tells Financial Times that networking is becoming more important to Chinese students.

“The west has had a good run with Chinese students for the last 15 to 20 years, but it’s going to come to an end,” Asch says. “The jobs network is key.”

The rise of Chinese business schools has several implications. For one, Moules says, it means greater competition for Chinese students returning to China for employment. Greater competition in China highlights the growing importance of professional networks.

“The professional networks MBA students build during their time at Chinese business school can give them a considerable advantage over those who have spent up to two years studying overseas,” Moules says.

Due to China’s large population, there is a capacity limit in terms of how many domestic MBA programs it can hold. Moules says this means “the numbers of Chinese students studying in western business schools continues to climb even as demand at home grows.”

For Ren, an acceptance to Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) could open several doors for her professional network. Amongst CKGSB’s 10,000 alumni, more than 50% are company chairs or chief executives. Li Haitao, the associate dean at the university, says about 40% of the 50 to 60 students CKGSB accepts each year are returning Chinese nationals.

“All these students get a good education overseas but they come back to China for their career development,” he says.

Sources: Financial Times, Graduate Management Admission Council, European Foundation for Management Development