When Lucy Wang enrolled on her global executive MBA programme at Ceibs (the China European International Business School )in Beijing in 2007, her company iSoftstone had just 4,000 staff. Today, the software services company employs some 13,000.
This has presented a complex set of challenges for the senior vice-president and chief human resources officer, but one she believes Ceibs has helped her to manage. “Ceibs taught me how to build systems,” she says. “I have to think about innovation in managing people every day.”
Although Ceibs is known as a Shanghai school, its predecessor started life in Beijing in 1984 and the school runs four of its 12 executive MBA cohorts in the capital every year. The school opened a new campus in Beijing in 2010, with scope to double its size when needed; there are also plans to double the size of the Shanghai campus.
With the Beijing campus the school will hope to draw students from many of the country’s state-owned enterprises that have their headquarters in the capital, as well as central government. Indeed, 20 senior government officials will study for the executive MBA in Beijing every year.
In Beijing, the biggest brake on growth will be the number of professors, says Dingbo Xu, associate dean and professor of accounting at Ceibs. “We have 10 faculty in Beijing. This is really a constraint for us.”
A decade ago most Ceibs classes were taught by visiting faculty, but these days 80 per cent are taught by resident professors. Dean John Quelch has aggressive plans to increase the number of long-term resident faculty.
“A lot more people who would not have considered Ceibs [a few years ago] are now signing up,” he says. “There is no doubt the economy is a big play, particularly in Europe. European professors have seen their research budgets squeezed.” Professors with families also want their children to grow up speaking Mandarin, he says.
This year Ceibs recruited six faculty members from top European business schools such as IMD in Switzerland, Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands and Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. Ceibs also attracts top visiting professors, such as Krishna Palepu, the globalisation guru from Harvard Business School.
Ceibs has always placed emphasis on teaching – all faculty who want to join the school must teach classes as part of the recruitment process – but there is a growing emphasis on research, says Quelch.
The research budget has been doubled, says the dean. “Everyone agrees we have to do more research. China is moving from being an imitation to an innovation economy. Every MBA should be able to start his or her own business when they graduate.”
For Wang, Ceibs was more than an academic experience. Sharing ideas first with classmates and later with alumni has been valuable, she says.