Leaning back in his chair, Rolf Cremer runs through his lists of professional priorities: how to attract the best business school faculty, how to maintain the quality of teaching on his programmes and how to buiild a strong research ethos in his school. The worries of most business school deans, you might think. But Prof Cremer does not head a business school in the US, the UK or even his native Germany, but in Shanghai, in China.
All of which goes to prove Prof Cremer’s assertion that the China Europe International Business School (Ceibs) is a business school much like any other: it is the market in which it operates that is so distinct.
Appointed dean of Ceibs in September 2004, 10 years after its official inauguration as a joint venture between the European Union and the Chinese government, Prof Cremer has taken over the school at a time of unprecedented growth. The school has one of the most expansive and impressive business school campuses in the world on its site in Pudan, Shanghai, but it is planning to open a second campus in Beijing in 2007.
Tall and businesslike, Prof Cremer is also intent on building up the number of permanent faculty, and launched a campaign this year to fill six new positions – the school already has a permanent faculty of 33. “Faculty is the most important constraint for anything we want to do,” says Prof Cremer. The school received more than 250 applications for the six positions and eventually interviewed 20 people. This year Prof Cremer said he would be delighted if five of those to whom he made offers accepted the jobs. Today five of the new faculty have already joined the school; the sixth will join in January.
Like many new business schools, Ceibs spent its first years dependent on visiting faculty, many from Europe. But increasingly it is the permanent faculty that are picking up the teaching loads. Between 50 and 60 per cent of all the teaching is carried out by permanent faculty, he says. In the MBA programme the percentage of permanent faculty is even higher.
“Permanent faculty build the style and the culture of the school, visitors don’t,” says Prof Cremer. He also believes Chinese managers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in what they demand from professors.
“The market has changed. Chinese students are quickly becoming more demanding. They expect faculty to know China. If you want to survive in the classroom they [the students] expect you to know about China’s position in the world.” This, he believes, can only happen if faculty live and breathe China.
An economist by training, Prof Cremer points out that permanent faculty are more expensive than visiting teachers, but Ceibs is in the happy position that more than 97 per cent of its running costs of 250m renminbi a year are covered by student fees. One third of those fees come from executive short courses, 17 per cent from the full-time MBA programme, but 50 per per cent or more of revenues come from the executive MBA.
Indeed, with 550 managers enrolled on its EMBA programme every year, Ceibs runs the biggest EMBA operation in the world. In total the school runs nine EMBA classes a year, five in Shanghai, three in Beijing and one in Shenzen, just north of Hong Kong. A further class will be added in Shenzen in 2006.
But demand for EMBAs in China is enormous. Even with the extra class, says Prof Cremer, Ceibs will not be able to meet the demands of the market.
This is perhaps not surprising. Within a two-hour drive of the Ceibs campus in Shanghai live 200m people.
As with most EMBA programmes, the demand is from local managers: seven of the nine classes are taught in Chinese, the remaining two in English, though all students are required to learn a second language by the end of the programme.
Like all the internationally-minded Chinese business schools, Ceibs has a growing list of American and European business schools who want to work with the school – Harvard, Wharton, Michigan, Insead and Iese Business School to name but a few. Prof Cremer believes this is because these schools are hungry for knowledge of China. “It has become more and more important for them to have Chinese content and context. If we want to play on Harvard’s own ground we will always come out second best. But we can beat Harvard in China.”
While Ceibs professors jointly teach executive programmes in China with peers from the top international schools, Prof Cremer believes the school needs to promote itself outside China, by working with these business schools on their home turf. “One of the things I really want to push is joint programmes in Germany, Spain and so on. We lend them [the non-Chinese schools] our credibility. In some areas, when it comes to China I don’t think anyone can match us.”
Ceibs is already producing numerous case studies on China, but like most young schools it is towards towards the more rigorous academic research that Prof Cremer believes Ceibs needs to turn its attention. To persuade professors to publish in the top journals he is looking at introducing incentives. “We have to have a culture where if we have an article in a top journal, we celebrate it.”
As well as being accredited by the Chinese government, Ceibs is the only school in China to be accredited by Equis, the European accreditation body run by the European Foundation for Management Development. It has also started the process of accreditation with the AACSB in the US, which Prof Cremer says is an extremely positive experience.
“This is unbelievably cheap first-hand benchmarking on best practice.”
All in all the school is proving it is an international business school with concerns similar to any other.