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MBA at Chinese Business School: ”China is an enigma in many ways”

Von Barbara Bierach, Editor in Chief, MBA-Channel.com

Barbara Bierach

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School’s MBA program came in at 28th in the Financial Times 2012 ranking of the global top 100 full-time MBA programs. CUHK’s MBA program was also cited as number two in the Greater China Region for ‘salary percentage increase’. CUHK is now another Chinese school out there amongst the international top suppliers of business education. But how does a Chinese business school train leaders who will have to follow the mainstream official policies issued in Beijing – while success in business and life is often defined by people who break the rules? MBA Channel discussed this question and others with Prof. Michael Ferguson, Associate Professor of Accounting at CUHK and currently serving as the Associate Dean and Director for the MBA Programs.

 

 

The Chinese University of Hong Kong ranked 28th in the world according to the FT’s latest survey. What in your view are the reasons for that success?

Professor Michael J. Ferguson

We would have to thank the emergence of China as a global economic power for that, in a large part. The Chinese University of Hong Kong has a long-standing mis-sion to bring together China and the West. Our MBA curriculum and program is global in nature with a strong China focus which is particularly well-suited for both, developing international business leaders with China insight and Chinese business leaders with global insight. Given our focus, over the past 40 some years we have also developed an exceptional network in the region. Together, this has provided a rich, unique platform for a successful pool of graduates who have rapidly advanced their careers across a range of industries and locations.

CUHK’s MBA program was also cited as the top ranked for career placement in Hong Kong and second in Greater China. Why is that?
We have developed a unique Career Advancement and Management Program called “CAMP”. This career program is designed to help students identify their career interests and abilities and to develop the required skills, knowledge and competencies to fulfill their career aspirations. Our alumni and faculty also play an important role in providing real-life experience sharing and mentoring. Externally we work hard to connect students to the market, increase their exposure and develop their net-work. Our strong reputation in the market and proven track record of successful alumni is effective in attracting more employers to come in to recruit.

Would you recommend international students to acquire their MBA in China? And if so, why?
It depends on the student’s career objectives. Most multinational firms today place significant value on candidates’ international exposure, global mindset and their ability to thrive in diverse work settings. An MBA from CUHK can certainly help achieve these objectives, as can any number of international MBA programs. The key is here to find a program rich in diversity and, at the same time, one that takes you outside of your comfort zone. For those interested in a career path that may take them to or through Hong Kong or the Greater China region, the CUHK may be the best choice.

Your MBA program focuses on the far-reaching role played by corporate social responsibility. Why is that? In the west, China is neither regarded as a very democratic place nor as a society that places any value on sustainability. Why do you emphasis CSR that much?

Since being founded in 1963, CUHK has been committed to not only advancing academic research but also to developing the moral character of our students. Our MBA programs follow this tradition by emphasizing our students’ responsibilities to the people they lead, to the organizations they serve, and to the greater community in which they do business and live. Our leadership model is largely based on service and contribution. In addition to coverage in the classroom, we also ask our students to get actively engaged in CSR projects. As one example, our MBA students organized the first student-run CSR Conference in the region in 2007, widely attended by business, NGOs and government.

One of the mandatory pre-term activities at your MBA program is an outdoors excursion course. What is the purpose of that activity?

By design, we recruit a highly-diverse and multinational class while at the same time our program is focused on collaborative learning. Thus an early challenge for us is to find ways to get everybody on the same page quickly. One of the more effective tools for doing so is our Outward Bound Experiential program. It has been designed for our MBA classes to provide opportunities to explore team-building and leadership capabilities, and to practice planning, decision making and problem solving in a set-ting that takes everyone outside of their individual comfort zones. Students complete the program in assigned groups of twelve, selected to maximize diversity.

Do the results actually count for the MBA program?

To enhance the learning experience, students as a team are required to reflect on their experiences in a graded essay.

In the West, more and more MBA students dream of being entrepreneurs and many schools adjust their curricula to cater for those entrepreneurial types. What do you have to offer to future entrepreneurs?

CUHK has the first, and I believe only MBA program in the Greater China region of-fering students a focus in entrepreneurship. We also have the region’s only univer-sity-funded Centre for Entrepreneurship. Our efforts are also supported through two business-plan competitions: the Vice Chancellor’s Cup of Student Entrepreneurship, and the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge. Our entrepreneurship curriculum begins with the required “New Business Ventures” course in which students work in teams to develop real business plans, and then proceeds to a range of elective op-tions, covering topics such as Management of Innovation, Management of Technol-ogy in China, Managing Family Business Growth, New Media Entrepreneurship, and Venture Capital & Private Equity.

Many people see China as a place where business is allowed – but less so the free flow of ideas and philosophies – particularly when it comes to democracy. But from the western point of view the whole point in being a leader is the ability to develop your own ideas and then to stand up for them and turn them into reality. As a Chinese business school how do you deal with these issues? How do you train leaders who will have to follow mainstream official policies – while success in business and life is often defined by people who break the rules?

Great question. China is in many ways an enigma. For example, a large body of re-search indicates a positive relationship between economic growth and various measures of economic freedom. Yet China continues to make impressive gains de-spite its relatively underdeveloped legal and financial systems. In fact, one could argue that growth of this magnitude is only made possible by business leaders who are able to turn their ideas into reality. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that China’s institutional landscape strongly influences how business is done, as it does in any economy. At CUHK we deal with these issues by putting them on the table for open and reasoned discussion in the classroom. To succeed in business anywhere requires a thorough understanding of the local playing field and its cultural and political antecedents. We have a long history of providing students with China insight and in nurturing leaders who not only succeed but also play a role in changing how business is done.

 

Facts and Figures Chinese Univerity of Hong Kong
Duration: Completion of the full-time curriculum normally takes 16 months of full-time study. Alternatively, students who opt out of the summer internship or world-wide exchange can complete the pro-gramme in 12 months.
Program: consists of core and elective courses. To graduate, full-time candidates are required to complete 54 units.
Focus: China Business, Entrepreneurship, Finance or Marketing.
Dual Degree Programs: with HEC, Paris, RSM at Rotterdam or University of Texas at Austin, MBA degrees from both institutions awarded.
International students: 93 per cent from outside of Hong Kong. 34 per cent are from the people’s republic of China, 15 per cent from the US and Canada, 18 per cent from Europe, and 26 per cent from the Asia-Pacific region including Japan, Malaysia, India, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan.
Employment statistics: 53 per cent of students remain in Hong Kong, 18 per cent go to Greater China, 17 per cent aim for other Asian countries including Taiwan, India, Singapore, Japan and Korea, 9 per cent go to Europe, 3 per cent to the U.S. 46 per cent of the alumni work in banking and finance, 13 per cent in consumer products, in consulting and manufacturing work 10 per cent respectively.

 

Biography Michael J. Ferguson
Michael J. Ferguson is Associate Professor of Accounting at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and currently serves as the Associate Dean (Graduate Studies) and Director, MBA Programmes. He received his BBS and Ph.D. in Accounting from the University of Minnesota. Since joining CUHK in 1997, Dr. Ferguson has taught management and financial accounting for the undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA programs. He has received numerous teaching awards, including the BA Faculty Outstanding Teacher Award, and the Vice-Chancellor’s Exemplary Teaching Award. He has pub-lished articles in Contemporary Accounting Research, Journal of Business Ethics, and The Journal of International Financial Management and Accounting, and has served as consultant to a number of US and Hong Kong firms in the areas of cost management and performance evaluation.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK-MBA)

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