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Manchester Business School eyes greater role in global market

FOUNDED in 1965, Manchester Business School (MBS) was one of the first two business schools in the UK.

After decades of international expansion, MBS now runs a 2.5-year Global (Part-time) MBA Program in six international centers in Singapore, Dubai, Shanghai, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, and its main campus in the University of Manchester.

The program is ranked the 7th in UK and 38th globally in the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings 2016, and is among the world’s 1 percent business schools that have been all three international accreditations — AACSB, EQUIS, and AMBA.

Manchester Business School China Center has more than 1,000 Global MBA students since its establishment in Shanghai in 2008 of which about 30 percent are international students.

Shanghai Daily sat down with Prof. Elaine Ferneley, Global & MBA Director of MBS, to discuss the globalization of the MBA program and future development.

Q: MBS China center mainly runs the Manchester Global MBA Program – what does this “global” mean?

A: It means that what we concentrate on our Global MBA is educating global business leaders. We have an international pool of students, and so we bring students into the class from every part of the world. We have 135 nationalities on our Global MBA program. Even if the students don’t travel from Shanghai, we bring international students to Shanghai, so that you do truly get an international experience as a global MBA student.

Global also means we teach a very international curriculum. The course is about doing global business. If you are in an international company then of course that is important. If you are a national company or even a small and medium-sized enterprise, or if you are on some small entrepreneurial business, what’s happening in the global environment will still affect you. The change of oil prices, the change of exchange rates, and the global economy affects everybody. The Global MBA teaches you what’s happening in a globalized world.

Q: With the ever-changing global business environment, how has the Global MBA program evolved over the years?

A: The program was actually started 50 years ago, and we are among the oldest business schools in the world. But it has changed a lot over the 50 years. The main way it has evolved is that we have dedicated ourselves to trans-national education. We bring our professors to other parts of the world, for example in Shanghai as well. The students can also move from one location to another if they want. If a student is taking the program in Shanghai, if they want, they can move to Dubai, Singapore, Brazil, or Manchester to take some of the program in those locations.

Another way we’ve evolved is our teaching style. Our teaching style has always been small groups, but what we’ve particularly focused on is what we called the “Manchester Method”. We teach students in small groups of about 30 people, and then we divide the class into even smaller groups of five to six people who work together to solve problems. They not only learn about how to solve the problem, but also to really take advantage of each group member’s expertise.

Q: Since MBS’s entrance into China, what kind of progress have you witnessed on the students in the course of education?

A: Our students are mature individuals, and I suppose the most significant change is we see students who are increasingly curious and questioning. It’s been quite interesting to see that over time the students have been much more willing to engage in tough debate, which is exactly what we want. We want the students to disagree with the professors and argue with us. We believe you learn more by discussion and criticism. We make it clear to the students in the program here that we want the students to question and debate with us.

In terms of the student body, we see more entrepreneurs. We see a lot more people during the course of the program set up their own businesses, and a lot more people after they leave the program move into entrepreneurial positions as well.

Q: What’s the most outstanding characteristics of MBS students compared to other domestic MBA programs?

A: By the time our students reach the end of the program, they are very good at working with other people. We constantly put students in situations where they have to work with people from different industrial sectors, different roles, and different countries. By the time they finish the program they are far more prepared to coming into a room of strangers and within a few hours, work collaboratively with those individuals.

Also, they are exposed to the latest thinking. We use practitioners on our program to teach so the students are exposed to people who work in industry as well as in academics. They acquire the latest knowledge, and we make sure that they know how to apply that.

Q: Nowadays, the US business schools are increasingly popular among Chinese students, what is the key difference between MBA programs in the US and the UK? Are there any plans for MBS to fulfill the needs for working professionals in China?

A: It is important that when people make a choice, they make an informed choice. When people choose an MBA program, they think about the reputation and credentials of a business school. We are a triple accredited business school, one of a little over 60 in the world. You make sure that the education you get is current and from good professors.

The UK and European perspective on business is quite different from the US. We’ve recently launched a dual MBA program with Kelley School of Business in the US. We’ve done it deliberately. Kelley is recognized that they teach the American view of the world, and we have a more British and European view. Students going through that program could earn the degrees from both a US and a UK school.

For China, we have a program with Tongji University in Shanghai and one with Renmin University in Beijing. We’ve run the Tongji program for some six years now and we are already full for the July intake. It particularly specializes in projects, in the field of construction, law, and IT. The Renmin program was newly launched this year. With that particular program, we will bring the strength of a European business school together with a Chinese business school. That program will start in July 2017.


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