A "Perfect Blend" of East and West

Cheung Kong offers a new and rigorous MBA program with a heavy concentration in Chinese studies, says Associate Dean Jean Lee

The brainchild of Hong Kong business tycoon Li Ka-shing, Cheung Kong's MBA program opened its doors in Shanghai in 2003. Yet, in terms of academic rigor, few programs are more challenging, with an average student GMAT score approaching 700. One thing that sets Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) apart from other MBA programs is its unique curriculum, which emphasizes Chinese case studies, Chinese law, and Chinese business practices. Professor Jean Lee, who joined the school in its inaugural year as associate dean after teaching at the National University of Singapore for 14 years, spoke with BusinessWeek in Shanghai about the program's benefits.

Your program only began in 2003. How does CKGSB distinguish itself from more established schools in Shanghai?

We give our students the perfect blend of international and Chinese business knowledge. All 16 of our faculty members come from some of the best business schools in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. We teach only in English. Our students can do international exchanges at Wharton or the University of North Carolina. We offer all the same core courses students will find at American programs.

But we're in China, and this country's fast-growing market can't be ignored. All of our faculty members concentrate their research on China and, so far, all are ethnic Chinese. We've developed a China Case Center and a China Business Research Center. Our core courses include lots of Chinese content, but we also offer specific China electives, such as "Business Law-China Perspective" or "Asian Wisdom in Business." Our graduates are prepared to work in any setting here in China, whether it's a foreign or local company.

Your students boast an average GMAT score of 695, possibly the highest in Asia, and they've attended some of the best universities in China. Do you look for any other qualities in applicants besides these academic achievements?

Applicants' past leadership and values are as important, if not more so. Our founder, Li Ka-shing, has always stressed social responsibility in his business, and it's an important part of the culture of our school. Once they are here, our students are required to be in a community project, so in their admissions interview, we definitely want to hear about their past dedication to the community. They must show integrity and a solid character, so we put [applicants] into group discussions [about] difficult ethical issues. We also administer personality and psychological assessment tests. We're looking for courage, loyalty, leadership. We want graduates who can change the world.

Cheung Kong's first class recently graduated. What feedback have you received from these new alums?

Our students -- alumni and current ones alike -- see themselves as the biggest stakeholders to the school's success. We're a startup, and we encourage an entrepreneurial spirit, so it's not surprising that they want to help build the school. They are constantly in and out of our administrative offices, saying we should do this or that. We call it "participative management."

What kind of advice have the students offered so far?

For example, we kept hearing from students that they'd like to know more about cultural ways of doing business outside of China. We started a business communications course this year to teach both business writing and speaking skills. There's also an optional business etiquette course that teaches everything from how to greet new acquaintances to wine tasting.

Ninety percent of that class had jobs when they graduated from CKGSB in March. What kind of career counseling do you offer?

Career counseling is not something that happens in the last three months of school here. It's not just about writing résumés and sending them out. From the beginning of the program, our career-services office works closely with students to assess their long-term career and personal goals. We help students to understand themselves, allowing them to better know what kind of job they're looking for.

At $31,000 (250,000 yuan), Cheung Kong's tuition is one of Asia's highest. How do you avoid turning away talented students who cannot afford to take on this financial burden?

CKGSB is certainly not cheap, but we'll make every effort to get the highest-quality students we can. This includes providing 16 full scholarships, funded by the Li Ka Shing Foundation, to eight international students and eight Chinese students. We also offer smaller scholarships to enhance the diversity of our class and what we call "making a difference." For example, the former [category] includes a scholarship specifically for female students and another for students with a background in international business development. The latter [type of scholarship could] go to the student with the highest GMAT score or to a student who has shown impressive social responsibility.

Students who don't qualify for our scholarships and still have need can pay their tuition through our interest-free installment plan. They only begin paying tuition once they've graduated, and we give them 36 months to pay back the full amount.

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