China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) is a young school (established in 1994), but it has already created waves both in Asia and around the world. Currently ranked number 11 on the Financial Times ranking of top MBA programs, CEIBS has garnered a lot of attention and interest from top MBA applicants. GyanOne interviews Yvonne Li, MBA Director of Admissions, Marketing and Career Services at CEIBS, to get her perspective on studies, life, and growth for students in the full-time MBA program at CEIBS. This interview will provide perspective applicants with excellent insight into what the program offers. It will also help dispel some common myths around studying in China and the jobs and opportunities available there.
GyanOne: A global top ranking, extremely strong appeal in Asia Pacific, rising global influence and visibility, and an economy that is the second-fastest growing in the world. Where next does this outstanding school go? What are the new initiatives planned at CEIBS?
Yvonne Li, CEIBS MBA Admissions: The MBA program, along with the school, has risen incredibly quickly considering its short history of 22 years. The school’s vision remains the same, to educate future global business leaders versed in ‘China Depth, Global Breadth’. An example of a recent initiative is the launch of our local China career trek for international students. In response to the increasing demand for international talents at globalizing Chinese enterprises, we launched the Trek specifically for our international students to explore and access China-based career opportunities.
GyanOne: How does CEIBS differentiate itself from other top schools by way of the learning experience?
Yvonne Li, CEIBS MBA Admissions: The key differentiator in the learning experience is our ‘China Depth’ approach. Many of our faculty, two thirds of which are from overseas, conduct their research here and consult for companies in China, ensuring that the learning experience gives students a leading-edge understanding of the challenges and opportunities of doing business in this part of the world, as well as how this fits into the global picture.
GyanOne: The CEIBS MBA program is delivered in English. However, a lot of international applicants feel that learning Mandarin is critical to be able to leverage job opportunities post the program. How important is it to be able to learn Mandarin while at CEIBS, especially for international students, when it comes to internships and jobs?
Yvonne Li, CEIBS MBA Admissions: For job and internship placements, the importance of Mandarin really depends on the type of company. Mandarin will, for example, be less important at a China-based MNC if your role is within its APAC team, where business communication is likely to be conducted in English. Likewise for globalizing Chinese enterprises, they understand that part of the process of going global is to open up English communication channels internally. We do also provide international students with Mandarin lessons, both as part of our MBA pre-course and throughout their first year of study.
GyanOne: A lot of applicants looking at CEIBS come from technology / IT backgrounds. However, CEIBS does not offer an explicit elective focus on IT. How can students from this background hope to leverage their CEIBS education best? How are placements for post-MBA roles in technology at CEIBS?
Yvonne Li, CEIBS MBA Admissions: China is a very exciting place for innovation right now, both at the start-up and corporate levels. More than 20% of our MBA class of 2016 went on to work at tech enterprises. To support these placements, students can leverage our company visits, IT & Innovation club activities and overseas electives in Germany, Japan and the US. This year, my colleagues on the Career Services team along with MBA club presidents have helped to bring students closer to the heart of the action at companies such as Huawei, Tencent, Daimler, The Pokémon Company, and KUKA Robotics to name a few.
GyanOne: The CEIBS eLAB seems like a very interesting incubator and entrepreneurial ecosystem. What are the most exciting startups to have been incubated at eLAB?
Yvonne Li, CEIBS MBA Admissions: Launched in 2015, the eLab is a fantastic platform for students who will either launch their enterprise during their studies, or consider entrepreneurship at a later date in their careers. One E-Lab venture has been valued at $40 million and another has received an initial $5 million investment from US-based VC group, Softbank Capital. An example of an exciting venture that was incubated at the CEIBS eLab is Berlin-based Movoya, which offers high-end travel packages to Chinese tourists in Europe. The startup was born after a Chinese MBA student who was keen to avoid tourist hotspots and experience Europe in a more authentic way approached a German classmate for suggestions.
GyanOne: Tell us more about the one-year option. Is it feasible for international students to build a great career in China while also pursuing this accelerated study option? How has the response to this new alternative been?
Yvonne Li, CEIBS MBA Admissions: It really depends on the individual, but the Chinese concept of guanxi is still extremely important for conducting business in China. If international students already have a strong network of business contacts in China when they enroll, then the fast-tracked 12 month option is viable. However this track sacrifices career development support and the international exchange, so I would encourage all applicants to seek advice from our admissions team to see if the one-year option is going to be right for them.
GyanOne: Tell us about life at CEIBS. What are the most popular on-campus avenues through which students can learn and grow with their peers outside a formal classroom setting?
Yvonne Li, CEIBS MBA Admissions: We have a very strong community of student and alumni clubs at CEIBS, focusing on both leisure and professional development. Club presidents can use the CEIBS brand name to reach out to global leaders to invite them to campus for sharing sessions. A personal favorite was TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie, who was invited by the CSR club to talk about social enterprises. We also host many student-led events to promote both diversity and our fantastic city, the most eagerly anticipated of which is our river cruise along the Huangpu for Shanghai Night.
GyanOne: The academic elective options at the CEIBS MBA are functionally focused. How do students gain industry focus during the later part of their MBA program? What are the hands-on opportunities to gain deeper insight and experience in consulting or niche areas such as healthcare?
Yvonne Li, CEIBS MBA Admissions: As part of our core curriculum, MBAs are required to work on the Integrated China Strategy Project (ICSP) in small consulting teams. This real-world project experience sees students working on strategic challenges at globalizing Chinese enterprises or MNCs. It gives them a chance to put the skills they have developed during their MBA studies into practice, and it provides hands-on work experience in China. Many students have successfully utilized the ICSP as a spring board into a new industry, and the project is frequently highlighted by students during job interviews after they have completed their MBA. This year, ICSP projects have been organized around the theme ‘The Digital Economy and Other Market Disruptions’. The projects currently underway explore topics such as Internet of Things, sustainability, smart logistics and virtual reality.
GyanOne: What is the one thing that you wish applicants would do better on their applications?
Yvonne Li, CEIBS MBA Admissions: I would recommend that applicants reach out to our alumni or current students to really get a feel for the school, especially if they have never had the chance to visit Shanghai before. For applicants who are curious about China, but aren’t sure if it is the right market for them, we run an annual five-day summer boot camp program, designed to give applicants a feel for the MBA in Shanghai, both inside and outside of the classroom. Highlighting some of the conversations and key takeaways that you have experienced from these interactions really helps to communicate to the admissions team your motivations for pursuing an MBA at CEIBS.
GyanOne: CEIBS has very significantly climbed 6 places on the FT ranking for this year. What have been the key reasons behind the rise?
Yvonne Li, CEIBS MBA Admissions: CEIBS continually strives to innovate and improve on all its offerings across all programs. In the MBA Program we have recently implemented some initiatives aimed at enhancing the student experience and career development. One example is the eLab which was established in response to the growing interest in launching start-ups, with a goal of cultivating excellent entrepreneurs. Meanwhile our popular Overseas Electives Programme saw students travel to the US, Israel, Japan, Germany and Malaysia in December 2016, showcasing the global footprint of the CEIBS MBA.
These initiatives are complemented by strong support from the CEIBS Career Development Centre (CDC), which regularly organizes activities that facilitate employment opportunities for MBA students. For example, the CEIBS CDC has initiated a reciprocity programme with a number of prominent business schools (Harvard, INSEAD, LBS, IESE and IE) around the world and provides platforms for CEIBS MBA students to explore overseas opportunities through career treks and on-site company visits.