Meet The CEIBS MBA Class Of 2021

The Financial Times currently ranks CEIBS as the #5 MBA program in the world


As a whole, Karan Sharma describes the Class of 2021 as “complementary” – a “right-angled” group where everyone “completes, embraces, and enhances each other.” Max Hinchman, for example, has already started a cryptocurrency valuation blog with a classmate to examine projects that escape mainstream attention. He finds himself fascinated by his classmates, a group consisting of 23 nationalities and possessing deep international experience.

“Everyone has their own unique interests and talents, so we all have a lot to offer,” he observes. “The class size at CEIBS is smaller compared to other business schools, so we have an opportunity to get to know everyone in the class. This is what makes the experience here at CEIBS so rich. It is just a lot of fun being around people every day that come from all different walks of life. The discussions during class are always engaging because everyone brings a unique take on the topic. Our experiences definitely shape our perspectives and I personally have already changed for the better as a result of getting to know my classmates.”

While diverse, the Class of 2021 possesses one common virtue. They are “challenge-seekers,” notes Jérôme Poitou, a class looking to reinvent their careers or redefine their purpose. That instills a sense of passion and dedication over their time at CEIBS. “Very rarely do you see people sitting idle, even during breaks, and you constantly see people working on cases, projects, or organizing workshops and events,” writes Charatsri Tanaphuwanont. “There is a sense of purpose and hunger not often seen in individuals who’ve already achieved so much in such a short period.”


Overall, the Class of 2021 boasts 172 members who hail from 23 countries. 62.6% of the class grew up in mainland China, with another 4.1% representing Taiwan and Hong Kong. Asia Pacific and Oceania (i.e. Australia and New Zealand) account for another 19.2% of the class. North American and European students combine to make up 12.3% of the class, with the remainder coming from Latin America and Africa.

This year, women hold 40.1% of the class seats, equivalent to their 40.2% share two years ago. In fact, the school has flirted with gender parity in the past, reaching 44.5% women in the 2017 Class. That higher number fits a larger pattern in China. In 2019, the World Bank found that 61% of women who are 15 or older are part of the Chinese labor force.

CEIBS’ student-led Female Leadership Forum

“We don’t do anything special to attract women,” admits Dr. Juan Antonio Fernandez, the associate dean and director of the MBA programme at CEIBS, in a 2018 interview with Poets&Quants. “There is no scholarship or anything like that. It just happens. A big part of it is China. Sometimes 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.”

While CEIBS doesn’t disclose acceptance rates – which reportedly range from 25%-33% – the incoming class produced a 690 median GMAT. That’s equal to the incoming classes at Georgetown McDonough and Emory Goizueta (and higher than international rivals like HEC Paris and IESE Business School). The class boasts 5.5 years of work experience on average, though 40% bring six or more years to bear. Over a quarter of the class – 26.2% to be exact – worked in Financial Services. Another 12.8% come from Technology, with Manufacturing (11.6%), Consulting (10.5%), and Healthcare (7.0%) also composing large segments of the class. This profile deviates sharply from past cohorts like the Class of 2017, where Technology and Financial Services held a 21.1% and 14.4% class share respectively. The same could be said for academic backgrounds. Four years ago, for example, Science and Engineering majors made up 51% of the class against a 32% share for Business and Management majors. Today, it is nearly reversed: Business majors represent 50% of the class followed by Science and Engineering at 32.6%.


Despite its international pedigree, CEIBS operates like an American program in some ways. The biggest similarity is the length, with the MBA program running 18 months instead of the standard 12. While one of CEIBS’ biggest selling points is the ability to live in China, the program offers exchange programs with 30 schools, including Wharton, Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, INSEAD, and the London Business School. Like most MBA programs, the program core opens with foundational skills training over five months, followed by deep dives into both academic concentrations and Chinese business practices and culture. Courses are mostly taught in English, though proficiency in Mandarin is expected.

Digital is another differentiating feature of the CEIBS MBA according to Dr. Juan Antonio Fernandez. In 2017, the program launched a Digital Business concentration, with Fernandez noting in a 2019 interview with P&Q that a third of the school’s electives are now related to the innovation and digital space. Fernandez adds that CEIBS’ curriculum has increasingly grown experiential in nature. In 2018, for example, the school launched what it calls “real-situation learning.” Instead of poring over cases in a classroom, CEIBS faculty take students to meet companies and protagonists featured in cases so they can truly experience the intricacies involved in decision-making. In addition, the school runs an annual pre-MBA summer bootcamp. Think of it as a ‘try-before-you-buy’ option where prospective students live in Shanghai and experience MBA programming – along with immersing them in Chinese language and culture.

What else can prospective applicants expect from CEIBS? In November, P&Q reached out to Dr. Juan Antonio Fernandez, MBA programme director, to discuss key topics at the school. Along with sharing new developments at the school, Fernandez outlined how CEIBS differs from traditional MBA programs and connects students to alumni.

MBA students during Leadership In Action Gobi module


P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments in your programme?

Fernandez: “In the fast-moving world of business, it is imperative that the academic perspective keeps pace. Here at CEIBS, our efforts are dedicated to keeping our programme up to date with global business practices and, at the same time, being a trendsetter in the field of management education. In recent years, we have added more features to the programme, especially to strengthen our mission of educating responsible leaders versed in “China Depth, Global Breadth”.

China Depth: We have added two more electives to our existing roster of China modules. In the ancient and tranquil village of Jinhua, for example, we focus on exploring what success means to each of our MBA students. On the other hand, in the Gobi Desert, we teach leadership in action as our MBAs trek across 88kms of challenging terrain. We are also starting a CEIBS-MIT China Lab where MBA students from CEIBS and MIT Sloan will collaborate to solve real problems that companies face in China. Furthermore, our very own global platform of China cases,, now has 1,300+ China-focused cases that have been widely adopted by business schools at home and abroad.

Global Breadth: This December will see the very first group of CEIBS MBA students visiting our campus in Accra for an overseas elective on Doing Business in Africa. We are extremely excited to bring our students to Ghana, which is a nice addition to our existing offering of electives in Malaysia, Japan, Israel, the US, Germany, and Switzerland.

Real Situation Learning Method (RSLM): CEIBS’ trademarked RSLM™ is an upgraded version of the case-based teaching method. Although the RSLM™ is also based on cases, it brings students into the cases and into the companies involved, instead of adding cases into classes. This enables an entirely new level of student engagement by allowing students to visit these companies and interact with top executives there. We have already incorporated RSLM™ in our domestic electives in Shenzhen, Nanjing and Ningbo.

Flexibility: We have reorganized our credit requirements recently. Keeping the total required credits the same, we have reduced core courses credit requirement by 25% and added on more than 21 new electives for the students to choose from. This will give the students a greater degree of flexibility to design their own MBA.”

P&Q: How is CEIBS different than a traditional American or European MBA program? How are those strengths different in terms of preparing students for a successful business career?

Fernandez: “Compared to traditional schools in the US and Europe, CEIBS was born different and has continued to walk its own path ever since. At the time of China’s opening up in the 1990’s, the Chinese Government and European Commission came together to form the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), to educate responsible business leaders that would help both Chinese companies to go global, and to help multinationals develop deeper roots in China. We have two presidents here at the school, one representing China and one for Europe, which means even at the top leadership level, each decision is made to strengthen the school’s commitment to ‘China Depth, Global Breadth’. In other words, this is more than a motto for us here on campus.

At a macro level, our students, and later alumni, benefit from this approach because it helps to prepare them for a career at the intersection between China and the world. At a micro level, this has pushed the school to develop specific resources to help studnts to strive for this level of success. From the global perspective, you can take our campus in Accra as a good example. Few schools have had this vision to invest in Africa, and for us, the campus leads to knowledge creation, exchange between our students and ultimately business opportunities. From the Chinese perspective, the economy is developing so quickly that business models are quickly disrupted. To keep up and give students a deep understanding beyond what’s going on at the household names, such as Alibaba and Huawei, we have a case development center that has written over 1300 cases.”

P&Q: One of CEIBS’ strengths is a deeply influential and engaged alumni base. How has that been helpful to past MBA students? What does CEIBS do to connect MBA students with alumni?

Fernandez: “We are extremely proud of our 22,000+ strong alumni base spread across the world. Our alumni constantly seek opportunities to give back to the school and we welcome it with equal enthusiasm.

Our flagship mentoring programme pairs current MBA students (mentees) with CEIBS alumni (mentors), who, having gone through the same journey as their mentees, have a thorough understanding about the nuances involved and are thus perfectly suited to impart valuable knowledge, offer guidance, share experiences, and suggest ways students can develop. In our current MBA 2021 batch, 100 alumni are serving as mentors to 172 students.

On campus, we regularly host alumni panels and sharing sessions wherein our alumni can give insights to the students about current business scenarios. Our alumni have also been very supportive with career treks. Additionally, we have many alumni companies that sponsor various scholarships to our MBA students.”

To access 12 in-depth profiles of CEIBS MBA students, go to page 3. 

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