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MBA schools plan reforms

MBA education reform is imperative with the expected increase in enrollment by 2015, according to the Steering Committee of National MBA Education.

"The increase in students will put great pressure on maintaining the quality of MBA education," Zhao Chunjun, deputy chairman of the committee, said at a local forum about MBA innovation earlier this month.

Nearly 200 MBA educators from 130-plus MBA schools and institutes participated in the symposium held at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and discussed the future trend of domestic MBA education.

Student numbers have increased significantly since MBA education programs kicked off in the country nearly two decades ago.

Nine schools admitted 94 students in 1991, while 182 schools admitted more than 30,000 students this year.

Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance (SAIF), a government-backed school, is a typical example of this growing interest since it received an unexpected number of applicants after it opened last year.

More than 500 applied for the 120 posts in the first open admission this year and the school decided to increase enrollment to 150 spots next year.

"More MBA students are expected under a national education plan that calls for an increase in the number of people with professional degrees," Zhao said.

Academic degree studies account for 84 percent of postgraduate studies in the country, while professional degree studies make up 16 percent.

The Ministry of Education plans to promote more professional degrees by making the proportion 50-50 by 2015.

Meanwhile, the number of postgraduate students will increase from the current 450,000 to between 600,000 and 800,000 within five years, Zhao added.

"We must think about how to improve our quality as the number keeps growing," he said.

The financial crisis has spurred many foreign schools including US-based Stanford University and Yale University to reform their MBA education programs.

Domestic MBA schools are also preparing to reform so that students can meet the global challenge. Many schools have reduced the influence of the national written examination and put more emphasis on one's interview performance and work experience.

More change is needed as experts have said that a domestic MBA education program should not be a simple replication of overseas business schools. Instead, domestic MBA education should include more Chinese elements.

"Overseas students have told us that they are disappointed that our MBA courses don't provide many Chinese case studies, but use examples created by Harvard Business School," said Qian Yingyi, dean of Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management.

Tsinghua has since added a lesson introducing Chinese government organizations and business laws and systems.

Yu Li, a member of the Steering Committee of National MBA Education, suggested schools here inject a Chinese philosophy into programs to inspire students about the sustainable development of firms.

Moreover, reform is needed now that people born in the 1980s account for many places in domestic business schools. The average age of students admitted by SAIF this year is about 29 and that of Tsinghua program is 27 to 28.

"They have their advantages," Qian said. "They grasp much knowledge and information.

"But they also have their defects. Born under the one-child policy, they lack many abilities, morals and social experience compared to their predecessors."

Qian believes that MBA education should change in accordance with the student structure by putting more emphasis on social responsibility and leadership.

Experts also believe that reform should also help students adapt to globalization and international challenges.

Qian is critical of traditional MBA programs that emphasize research but pay little attention to practical abilities. Schools usually hire overseas PhD graduates who have little work experience in firms.

He has advised schools to strengthen cooperation with enterprises by inviting company directors and human resources managers to lecture students and finding internships for students. Qian has also suggested schools introduce more scholarship exchange programs.


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