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East Meets West: CUHK B-School Celebrates MBA's 50th Anniversary

Asia's longest-established MBA has made great strides over past five decades

The Chinese University of Hong Kong broke the mould in 1966 when it became the first university to introduce an American-style MBA into Asia. Its aim: to develop Asian business leaders able to succeed in a Western business environment.

A pioneer from the outset, CUHK looked firmly to the future while others were stuck in the past. Lawrence Chan, director of admissions at CUHK, describes “an uphill start”: “For our first intake we only had four students!”

Since then, CUHK has blossomed and thrived in an increasingly integrated professional world. The business school sits comfortably in 30th position in the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings, boasting more than 30,000 alumni — 6,000 of them MBAs.

“Of course, we have had a lot of changes in curriculum, focus and teaching process over these five decades”, says Lawrence.

Responding to demand, CUHK launched its part-time MBA program in 1977 and EMBA in 1993. It welcomed its first foreign MBA student in 1978. Under the Open Door Policy — which opened China up to foreign investment — and with the rise of the Chinese economy, it received its first mainland Chinese students in 1990.

CUHK prides itself on offering an international business education to a diverse student community. Today’s MBA students typically come from around 20 different countries. On the full-time program, 90% come from outside of Hong Kong and 20% from outside of Asia.

“The mission all along has been East meets West”, Lawrence explains. CUHK’s MBA program combines a comprehensive western business education with Chinese elements, helping students to understand Chinese management culture, markets, organizations and people.

“The beauty of it”, Lawrence stresses, “is that local people can explore and learn from somebody from India, somebody from Italy, somebody from Russia, and the foreign students can learn from locals.”

Complementing this inclusive campus culture is a Global Exchange Program, which connects CUHK students with 47 top business schools, including LBS, ESADE, HEC Paris, ESSEC and the UBC Sauder School of Business.

In recognition of its half-century milestone, the school has launched the 50th Anniversary Merit Scholarship, open to outstanding applicants with a minimum GMAT score of 700. Two will receive HKD 500,000 (around $64,500), and four will be granted 50% of the tuition fee.

Through its scholarships, CUHK aims to attract more female applicants and people from developing countries. There are challenges in enticing international students to study in Hong Kong. Living costs, the average graduate wage and the language barrier are the main issues.

However, the outlook is unquestionably positive. CUHK MBA graduates work in major companies around the world. An increasing number, profiting from the MBA’s entrepreneurship concentration, have established their own. Lawrence is pleased that CUHK graduates “have the guts to do it”.

Through its history, CUHK has been all about gutsy ambition. For those professionals who are prepared to challenge themselves and take the next step in their career development, the next fifty years of CUHK’s MBA program promise more exciting progression.

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