Growing numbers of international students are signing up for MBA programmes at elite mainland universities following dramatic changes to their business schools under a partnership with the MIT Sloan School of Management of the United States. Tsinghua University in Beijing, Fudan University in Shanghai and Sun Yat-sen University's Lingnan (University) College in Guangzhou have all set up International MBA programmes with support from the MIT-China Management Education Project. For more than a decade, the project has been helping the universities switch their business schools from traditional chalk and talk to a more empirical approach involving case studies, a key element of most MBA programmes in the US. The programmes are all taught in English. More than 200 professors from Tsinghua, Fudan and Lingnan have trained at MIT Sloan since the partnership was formed in 1996. MIT professors also give lectures and seminars on the mainland. David Schmittlein, professor of marketing at MIT Sloan, said that five years ago the three institutions along with the business schools of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Peking University could attract only a handful of international students. But now all five are becoming forces to be reckoned with and together have enrolled about 1,000 students from around the world. 'Over the last 10 years, in fits and starts, business schools at traditional universities in China have been making great strides in terms of faculty, the kinds of programmes they run, and teaching methodology,' Schmittlein said. 'They are no longer distant ivory towers. They have become closer to business. They use case discussions, and they use projects.' A spokesman for MIT Sloan said the changes at the business schools had helped them attract more students from abroad. About 45 per cent of students on Tsinghua's IMBA are international students. Mainland academics visiting the Boston business school were given the opportunity to observe the curriculum as well as teaching approaches and learning styles. They consulted faculty advisers at MIT Sloan on how course materials could be modified to suit the mainland's unique cultural and academic environment. Many also studied Western research methodologies, identifying research topics to work on when they returned to China. Schmittlein said the changes had helped the elite universities mount a significant challenge to the mainland's leading stand-alone business schools, the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing. Now the universities' business schools were not only the institutions of choice for mainland students but also for those from abroad, who saw them as a short cut to a career in the world's fastest-growing economy. 'The business schools attached to China's traditional universities are no longer sleeping giants,' Schmittlein said. 'For future access to China, the place for a launch pad would be one of these institutions.'