China Red Hot for Executive MBAs

Once upon a time, people in China could only dream of obtaining a proper education in business management. Fast forward to 2017, and you will find that people from all over the world actually go to China in order to complete an Executive MBA (EMBA) degree. When the Financial Times determined its ranking of the Top 100 EMBAs in 2012, five Chinese programs were found in the top 11. Not just that, a lot of programs now incorporate an internship abroad in their MBA and EMBA programs, and these internships are often held in China.

Statistics about EMBAs in China

With China now being an interesting place to finish an EMBA, a lot of research has been done into the profile of students and programs. We now know that:

• 90% of students are part time students. This means that people do not have to take a career break in order to complete their degree.
• At least five years of working experience is required for admission.
• China has placed a huge emphasis on getting a degree to further career prospects. This is a massive shift from 20 years ago, where very few people completed any form of education beyond high school.
• Some of China’s business schools are the biggest in the world, including Ceibs, where some 700 students enroll in the programs.
• Most students at Chinese EMBA programs are over 40 years old. The average age is 36, and this is currently on the rise.
• 75% of students, domestic and international, reflect positively on finishing their degree in China.

The Popularity of Executive MBAs in China

China is now making a significant contribution to business education across the world. The Tsinghua School of Economics and Management is one of the most prestigious schools in the country, and they have developed a truly world class EMBA program. They believe that China now dominates the world of EMBAs because it comes from a background in which corporate leaders did not have any form of business education. Rather, they learned on their feet and on the job, and they have now supplied their knowledge to create EMBA programs that focus, therefore, on real world experiences.

Some Concerns

This popularity has given rise to some concerns as well. Shanghai’s Fudan University School of Management, for instance, has noticed that the degree programs are incredibly exclusive. Students are usually in their 40s, and they have a lot of work experience. They do not have the opportunity to take a career break to further their education. In response to this, most programs are now available as part time programs. Indeed, the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business is the first private business school in the country, and they have welcomed some of the top executives of China into their programs, all of whom are over 40, and all of whom have continued to work during completion of their degree.

Partnerships with Business Schools in Other Countries

What makes Chinese programs so interesting, is that the majority of them have been set up in a form of partnership with other business schools around the world. One example is the Fudan School, which offers a number of programs in different countries. Another example is the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which offers the OneMBA program. They feel that the particular challenges of working in collaboration is one of the elements that makes the program so strong. The OneMBA is created in partnership with universities in Brazil, Mexico, the Netherlands, Chine, and the US. This means that there had to be an integration of important cultural differences, yet they had make it work. That, in turn, produces graduates with the skills they require to effectively manage the global business of today.

Schools in this country are starting to model their course offerings on similar principles. For instance, Purdue University‘s Krannert School of Management, in Lafayette, IN, is in the process of expanding its Krannert multi-school EMBA program. They will start partnerships in Germany, the Netherlands, and Hungary, as well as delivering their program in China and in other locations.

Rise in Educational Tourism

There has been a significant rise in educational tourism as well. In the past, this usually meant that students would take a short term immersion program in a country of their choice. Unfortunately, these programs were often so short that students would not learn enough about international relations and management from them. Instead, programs are now rethinking this and including specific projects that are delivered and completed in full abroad, including in China. This is a global phenomenon, perhaps best highlighted by the Senior EMBA program offered by Australia’s Melbourne Business School. They have partnered with Illinois’s Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and German’s Vallendar’s WHU Beisheim to create a four week intensive module in the US, Germany, or China, depending on the student’s original location.

Some people were worried about these developments, fearing that schools would start to compete with each other. However, what actually happened, was that these resulted in improved collaboration. Additionally, each international partnership program seems to appeal to different demographics of students, so much so, in fact, that some schools have started to offer the same MBA programs in different formats, to appeal to wider demographics.

Rise in Online Education

There has also been a significant rise in online education. It is believed that, soon, the vast majority of EMBA programs will be delivered almost fully online. This creates a culture of further collaboration, making it easier for students to gain experiences from an international perspective. Another reason why courses are now delivered online is due to the cost. It is increasingly rare for students to receive employee sponsorship for their education, which means that they must find cheaper alternatives to pursue an EMBA degree.

This is, in actual fact, a huge shift in perspective. In the past, those who took part in EMBA programs did so because their employers saw a certain potential in them and wanted to give them opportunity for growth. In fact, around 75% of students would be employee sponsored. Today, that percentage is closer to zero. This is because the EMBA is now a degree of choice, something that those who have an interest in furthering their own career, potentially outside of their current employer, are most interested in.

Is the Growth of EMBA Programs in China Sustainable?

There has been a tremendous growth in EMBA programs in China, and some believe that this is unsustainable. Completing a degree is fashionable in China right now, but trends tend to end up disappearing after awhile. Hence, while there is a big growth in program offerings at present, the next five to ten years will be the real test of its sustainability. As these programs will become more mature, it will become clear whether their current format (online education, collaboration with other countries, part time studies) will continue to be relevant. Some signs of programs maturing have already appeared, as there are a number of schools in China that have started to set up schools in countries abroad. For instance, Ceibs recently launched an EMBA program in Ghana, and Cheung Kong University is considering an EMBA program in New York and in London. Meanwhile, fewer schools in this country are developing programs in China itself.


Financial Times – EMBA Ranking 2012
Tsinghua School of Economics and Management