Separating wheat from the chaff
Updated: 2012-03-23 08:43
By Todd Balazovic (China Daily)
Rising student numbers offers good prospects for business programs
While China has so far successfully developed a handful of elite MBA programs that have garnered top global rankings and managed to attract students from all corners of the globe, access to advanced degrees for Chinese students is on the rise as well.
It was just over 20 years ago that China began to offer MBA programs. When the first MBA programs were licensed in 1991, only nine schools initially offered business degrees and only 90 students enrolled.
In the past 15 years, with the backing of the Chinese government and a desperate need to fill managerial slots with quality employees who understand both China and the West, China has successfully begun to form an MBA foundation beyond just a few elite schools.
With more than 1,082 schools offering business degrees, China houses about 8 percent of the world's 13,116 business degree programs, according to the 2011 statistics put out by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the United States' largest business school accreditation organization.
"There has certainly been a lot more interest from China in schools looking to gain accreditation," Jerry Trapnell, executive vice-president and chief accreditation 0fficer of AACSB International, says.
The US and India top the list for most number of business schools, accredited or not, with about 1,600 each. China ranks No 3 - not bad considering that 20 years ago, there were no schools offering business degrees.
With an increased number of business schools available, the numbers of Chinese students applying for business degrees is skyrocketing.
Over the last five years, applications for MBA programs by Chinese students have risen at an average rate of 20 percent year-on-year. Even as the US is witnessing a drop in the number of MBA students, the numbers are growing in China - with 90,000 MBA applicants expected this year, a 25 percent increase from last year, according to Xinhua News Agency.
But, quantity certainly does not equal quality, Trapnell warns.
"While schools accredited by AACBS are guaranteed to adhere to a certain standard, China has seen a rise in the number of business schools that simply don't make the cut," he says.
Of China's roughly 1,000 schools offering business degrees, only 26 are accredited by AACBS. That is not saying those without it are of low caliber, but it means that only 26 have met the international standards set out by AACBS.
Similarly, just 33 Chinese business schools are accredited by European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS), the top European accreditation organization.
But as increased resources go to improve the nation's education system, an increased amount of schools are expected to gain international recognition, Trapnell says.
"In the case of China, this is a new arena for higher education and that takes some time to develop, understand and deploy."
And as the world increasingly relies on accreditation institutions and rankings systems as a way to define what makes a good business education, China seems to be on the right track.
While six years ago there were no Chinese schools in the Forbe's Top 20 global rankings, it now has two, the China Europe International Business School and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School.
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