Coronavirus Tangles Plans At China’s Premier B-School

CEIBS’ Shanghai campus will have about a quarter fewer MBA students to start the new term, thanks to strict national regulations enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic. File photo

Much has been written — and will continue to be written — about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on business schools in the United States. But nearly a year after the first cases were reported in China and seven months after the pandemic closed B-school campuses worldwide, the effects of Covid-19 are still being felt globally, too.

China Europe International Business School, whose main campus is in Shanghai, has anticipated the educational repercussions of Covid-19 for some time, according to information first obtained by Poets&Quants. Because the Chinese border has been closed to foreigners (with very few exceptions) since the start of the outbreak last year, CEIBS has had ample time to prepare for this fall’s start to a new MBA cohort; consequently, for the first time in its 26-year history, CEIBS plans to host those still outside the country at its much smaller campus in Zurich, Switzerland when classes begin October 12, a decision affecting about a quarter of the school’s new MBA students.

CEIBS Vice President and Dean Yuan Ding says that the school’s “twin city” model will see around 41 of the MBA Class of 2022 undertake classes on the shores of Lake Zurich in mountainous central Europe, with the remainder undertaking their course in cosmopolitan Shanghai.

“We firmly believe that in-person classroom discussions with diverse peers and world-class faculty represent one of the true cornerstones of a leading MBA experience,” Ding says. “It is our students’ enthusiasm for this that has inspired us to develop the twin city model.”


Yuan Ding, dean of CEIBS

CEIBS has not officially released profile data for its Class of 2022, but P&Q has learned that the incoming cohort will be 158 strong, hailing from 25 countries, of whom 117 will start the year in Shanghai. One-third are international, and 40.9% are women. The school’s Class of 2021 contained 172 students, nearly two-thirds (62.6%) of whom hail from mainland China and another 4.1% from Hong Kong and Taiwan. More than 19% of CEIBS MBA students in that class come from elsewhere in Asia or Oceania; combined, around 12% are natives of North America and Europe.

In the last two Financial Times rankings of global MBA programs, CEIBS’ 18-month program was ranked fifth, behind only Harvard Business School, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and INSEAD of France — and ahead of legendary incumbents like Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, and London Business School. CEIBS’ primary strength? Pay increases. CEIBS MBAs enjoy an 187% jump in compensation over their pre-MBA compensation — sixth-best in the world (with Chinese schools holding six of the eight biggest increases in the 2020 FT ranking). In addition, CEIBS grads snapped up weighted pay of $185,103 starting out — 10th-best in the world. To put it another way, CEIBS grads earn more than grads from storied American programs like NYU Stern, Yale SOM, Dartmouth Tuck, and Michigan Ross. Their checks also outpace international juggernauts like INSEAD, London Business School, and HEC Paris. In fact, there is only one non-American MBA program — Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad — whose graduates make more than CEIBS alum starting out, according to the FT.

Besides Shanghai and Zurich, CEIBS has campuses in Beijing and Shenzen, China, as well as Accra, Ghana. How much has CEIBS’ central European campus meant to its growth in prestige in recent years? Not a great deal. Opened in 2015, the Zurich campus is normally used for short-term programs, acting as a bridge between Europe and China by hosting visiting participants from the MBA, EMBA, Global EMBA, and Hospitality EMBA programs, as well as those from Executive Education.


That changes this fall. Zurich will now host term one of the full-time MBA program as students kick off their journey with core modules in Financial Accounting, Data Analytics, Organizational Behavior, Microeconomics, Marketing Management, Business Ethics, Case Method Introduction, and Effective Business Communication, as well as the Leadership Journey and Career Development Program, according to a school statement.

Under the twin city format, both Shanghai and Zurich sections of the new MBA intake will kick off their studies simultaneously, says MBA Administration Director Michelle Zhu.

“Students with Chinese nationality and those internationals already based in China will begin term one at our Shanghai campus,” Zhu says. “Those temporarily unable to enter the country, due to the travel ban, will join our Zurich campus to begin term one. It is our hope that both sections will be reunited in term two back in Shanghai with the continued easing of travel restrictions.”

Robert Straw, CEO of CEIBS’ Zurich campus, says despite the “VUCA” world we live in — a world filled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity — he and his colleagues are eager to welcome students and start the term.

“The VUCA world that we are so clearly in calls for modern professionals to be flexible and adaptive to global developments,” Straw says. “I am proud of our faculty, staff, and incoming students for demonstrating the right attitude to embrace this shift in direction as we look forward to taking our legacy of China Depth, Global Breadth to a new level.”

Adds Dean Ding: “With many peer schools pushing back start dates or moving programs online in the face of Covid-19, we are proud to take the innovative path.”


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