CEIBS MBA Director: ‘China Is Hot’

Juan Fernandez, MBA program director at China Europe International Business School. CEIBS photo

China Europe International Business School is in a prime spot to figure prominently in the major economic and cultural metamorphosis underway in China. Its location in Shanghai puts it at the nexus of rapid change, economic and otherwise, and its status as one of the top (and rising) B-schools in the country gives it the prestige to effect change by example. One key way it’s doing that: gender equality. The percentage of female students at CEIBS has risen from 37.1% in the Class of 2017 to a high of 44.5% in the just-graduated Class of 2018 — tantalizingly close to parity, which no elite school has achieved — before dropping to 40.2% in the Class of 2019. Greater than 40% enrollment of women has become a hallmark of elite schools — all of the top 10 schools and half of the top 25 in the Poets&Quants 2017 ranking have achieved it.

Women on equal footing with men in the classroom reflects the philosophy, if not necessarily the practice, in the Chinese boardroom. According to Catalyst.org, 63% of women in the country are in the labor force, including 72% of mothers between the ages of 25 and 34 — but in management positions, the picture is murkier, data being harder to come by. One CEIBS professor points out that while equality of the sexes is built into the DNA of the Communist Party of China, the reality is, the country has a ways to go before achieving gender parity in business. He estimates that women in senior management probably mirror the numbers in the CEIBS executive MBA: low to mid-20s, and much less at the highest levels. According to another source, about 6% of company C-suite officers in China are women — which actually compares favorably to the U.S., where the figure has been estimated at roughly 2%. The example CEIBS sets for China is driven home by the fact that 82% of the women in its Class of 2019 cohort are Chinese.

Juan Fernandez, CEIBS associate dean and MBA program director, knows all about Chinese businesswomen: He married one. The native of Spain came to China in 2000 and met his future wife, Hanning, an entrepreneur and — as fate would have it — eventual CEIBS EMBA. He’s not sure why exactly CEIBS has been so successful in attracting women to its MBA ranks, but he suspects it’s a cultural thing.

“We don’t do anything special to attract women,” Fernandez tells Poets&Quants. “There is no scholarship or anything like that. It just happens. A big part of it is China. Sometime you are surprised, but China is more equal in society. You see these Chinese women that are really strong. I’m not saying that in the West you don’t find the same type of women — of course you do. But I think that in Chinese society they are more welcome, it’s easier for them — I’m not sure how to explain it, but it’s more acceptable for women to work and even to own companies, and you see the big percentage of women in our MBA as a reflection of that.”


CEIBS does not disclose its acceptance rate of either men or women, but it has been estimated at between 33% and 25%. The school attracts roughly 680 applicants per year, so, if we assume the higher acceptance rate and considering the latest cohort numbers 179, we can peg CEIBS’ yield at about 80%. 

The 67-credit program includes compulsory courses totaling 49 credits and 18 credits of electives. There are four concentrations to choose from: Finance, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and the brand-new Digital Business. The program, which has an August intake, offers five overseas electives to the U.S., Germany, Japan, Malaysia, and Israel. There are also overseas exchange opportunities to 36 top B-schools in 13 countries around the world including Wharton, INSEAD, London Business School, Chicago Booth, and Northwestern Kellogg. 

The curriculum is currently undergoing a bit of upheaval, Fernandez says. A new concentration, Digital Business, was added last year; some 70% of the all-important consulting project had a digital component. In fact, the school is doubling down on experiential learning, with capstone-like courses spread around the curriculum as both core courses and electives. “It’s a matter of demand from the students and from companies,” Fernandez says. “They want graduates that can apply their knowledge.”


CEIBS boasts a 94.5% job offer received rate, an 81.2% career switch rate, and a 108.7% average salary increase for its 2017 grads (new data on the just-graduated 2018 class is expected to be available in about a month). But it is in academic background that CEIBS’ student body has undergone the most interesting evolution. In the current cohort that will graduate in spring 2019, students with a science academic background comprised 41%, only slightly more than those with a business or general management background (37%); two cohorts ago, it was 51%-32% science-business, then in the recently graduated cohort business leapfrogged science, 43.5%-42.9%.

And what about the rankings? Here, too, there have been mixed signals, though you wouldn’t know it to hear Fernandez or any other CEIBS official talk: All the focus at CEIBS in recent weeks has been on the good news of The Financial Times ranking, which put the school at No. 8 globally (and No. 1 in Asia). That’s a nine-point jump in two years to make CEIBS the only Asian school to crack the top 10, enough to make any program director giddy.

“The ranking is a combination of things. It is not just one criterium, it’s complicated,” Fernandez says. “China is playing a role there because it’s a growing economy and a big part of the ranking is salary increase, and if it’s a good economy you have more possibilities of having a good salary afterwards.

“But on second thought, that cannot be the only reason, because if that were the only reason, you would have only Chinese business schools atop the rankings! And there is only one (in the top 10). So there are a lot of things that are important, yes? I think that our career services are top the world — they are doing a great job, finding good jobs, interesting jobs for our students, and we invest a lot in that. And that is also part of the ranking.

“But also the education you get here at CEIBS: Our curriculum is very well-respected.”

CEIBS also was named the No. 3 program overall in Forbes’ 2017 Foreign 2-Year B-Schools ranking, behind only London Business School and IESE. Elsewhere, however, CEIBS has been less dominant, landing only third in Asia and 26th overall (down two spots) in the latest Bloomberg Businessweek ranking, and 16th overall (down one spot) and second in Asia (behind No. 13 Singapore) in the 2017 Poets&Quants ranking of international business schools.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.