EMBA course takes it to next level

Senior executives head back to school to learn the basic tools and find new inspiration

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 June, 2013, 3:39am

Chen Haifeng is the archetypal self-made Chinese entrepreneur. He founded his own company in 1998 to make automatic control systems used in coal mines and built it into a leading industry player with an annual revenue of 800 million yuan (HK$1 trillion).

But two years ago, the chief executive of Shanghai Ousheng Technology decided to go back to school at the age of 40. He joined the executive MBA (EMBA) programme run by Shanghai Fudan University and the National Taiwan University to learn how to do business.

The reason: "Some trivial things," he said.

"For example, in the past, I could easily tell how the company was doing by looking at the financial figures. But as the company grows bigger, I am not that sure anymore," said Chen.

He was one of 60 students in his class. They paid 418,000 yuan for the two-year course, attending lessons given by mainland and Taiwanese professors.

Yin Zhiwen, associate dean of the management school of Shanghai Fundan University, said more and more senior executives are returning to school to learn the basic tools and find inspiration from systematic management knowledge and theories taught in other countries.

"Since China's economy opened up 30 years ago, a large number of entrepreneurs have made it big with their hard work, capability and sometimes with just smart ideas.

"However, today many find they are no longer able to take their companies to a new level after their businesses reach a certain scale," said Yin, pointing to why Chinese businesspeople are increasingly turning to formal management education.

The EMBA courses in mainland China, which was formally started in 2002 when the Ministry of Education approved the first batch of local universities to hold such programmes, has been expanding fast across the nation.

In addition to the demand from private business owners, there is huge demand for EMBA education from the government.

HEC, one of the world's top business schools based in Paris, was approached by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council to bring their EMBA programme to mainland China.

HEC started its classes in Beijing in August 2006 and most of its students were the heads of large state-owned companies. In 2008, the school started to work with Zhejiang University to run a separate EMBA programme in Shanghai.

To present "original" teaching content to Chinese students, all teachers are from HEC's headquarters and fly from Europe to Beijing to give lessons.

Elodie Xu Ying, director of HEC's executive education on the mainland, said the student profile has changed dramatically in the past few years, reflecting the changes in the profile of the nation's top business leaders.

"In the early years, the majority of our students were in their 50s and 60s. Most of them were involved in manufacturing industry and few knew English well. Now our students are younger. Some have had years of overseas work experience and can speak fluent English," she said.

Another trend Xu notices is the increasing interest among Chinese entrepreneurs for overseas markets and globalisation. "Our students are showing a stronger interest in issues like how to build overseas headquarters and how to manage foreign employees in overseas markets."

Xu said the school aims to do more case studies on Chinese companies and establish a China business research centre.