Bimba is currently managed by Peking University’s China Center for Economic Research and a consortium of US schools. But from September, Vlerick will take over the responsibilities of the US arm.
Bimba is a one-year, full-time and two-year, part-time English language MBA.
The partnership will run initially for five years but both sides emphasise that they see this as a long-term commitment.
Justin Yifu Lin, dean of CCER and the instigator of Bimba, says Vlerick in Belgium was selected because of its strong brand and reputation for quality, international programmes, as well as its proximity to Brussels.
A further factor, he adds, is Vlerick’s experience in building relationships with institutions in different locations. (In 1999, the University of Ghent’s Vlerick School of Management merged its MBA programme with its counterpart at the University of Leuven to become the MBA programme of the Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School.)
“We think Vlerick suits our purpose best,” says Prof Lin.
Louis-Henri Verbeke, the chairman of Vlerick, says: “We are going to make the programme the best in China, so that we can compete with any international programme in the world.”
Bimba was established in 1998 as the first joint international MBA programme in Beijing approved by the Chinese government. It has been managed for the past 10 years by CCER and a consortium of American Jesuit US schools, with the degree issued by Fordham University in New York.
Prof Lin says the new partnership will allow greater insight into Europe and help Bimba to reach a bigger and more diverse student body.
The collaboration is a feather in Vlerick’s cap. “We see this an incredible opportunity to try to create a new synthesis,” says Prof Verbeke. “We think this is a practical way of getting there [China] as partners, rather than as exporters [of education].”
Vlerick is no stranger to international alliances. It collaborates in educational ventures with, among others, Cranfield School of Management in the UK and Esade in Spain. But the Bimba alliance could certainly be considered its most ambitious partnership.