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Here’s Why Professors From Harvard And Yale Are Flocking To China’s First Independent B-School

Over half the full-time professors at China’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business have taught at top-ranked business schools in the US and UK

Professor Ou-Yang Hui first went to the US as China opened its doors to the West in the late 1980s.

He soon landed two PhDs, one in chemical physics and one in finance from UC Berkeley, before taking on professorships at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University, where he taught on Duke Fuqua’s Global Executive MBA program. For 20-odd years, Hui blazed a trail, going from one top-tier US institution to another.

Hui was doing well at Duke—he was voted best teacher by Duke’s EMBA class of 2004—but he lacked real industry experience, so he picked up sticks, moved to Tokyo, and took up a management job at Lehman Brothers.

The day after Lehman Brothers went bust in September 2008, he got a phone call offering him a job at China’s first independent business school—Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, or CKGSB.

That time, he didn’t take it. His company had gone under; he wanted to prove himself again in the industry. Eventually, jobs at Nomura Securities and UBS crowned a ten-year stint in investment banking.

Then, CKGSB came calling again.

“At that point, I knew I wanted to come back into academia and I knew China was the place to go,” Hui recalls. “China has the fastest-growing economy in the world. Back then, it’s financial industry was still relatively undeveloped—so my skills were much more use in China.

“Looking at CKGSB,” he continues, “I saw that the faculty members all had teaching experience at leading US institutions. And they got to interact with senior executives; big figures like Jack Ma.”

After meeting the school’s founding dean Xiang Bing, Hui chose CKGSB over a top-ranked school in Hong Kong. He now serves as the dean’s distinguished chair professor of finance, academic director for EMBA programs, and has just been appointed associate dean for the school’s full-time MBA.

Hui’s story is emblematic of the majority of professors at CKGSB, a large percentage of whom are natives of China with previous experience at top-ranked US business schools.

Like Mei Jianping, a finance professor who’s taught at the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and New York University in the US, and served as a consultant and financial advisor to some of the largest financial institutions in the world.

Or Li Haitao, the dean’s distinguished chair professor of finance, previously at Michigan Ross and Johnson at Cornell. Or Cao Huining, finance professor and chair of the finance department, previously at Yale and UC Berkeley. Or Sun Baohong, the dean's distinguished chair professor of marketing, who worked at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business before joining CKGSB.

At Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, the list goes on and on. Out of the school’s 40-plus full-time professors, 23 have previously taught at top-ranked business schools in the US or UK. Together, CKGSB professors have won over 70 global academic awards.

Xu Chenggang, professor of economics and winner of the 2016 China Economics Prize—interviewed by BusinessBecause in April this year—taught at LSE and Harvard before joining the school.

Why the move to CKGSB? “CKGSB is unique in China because it’s managed by professors,” Xu explains. “At almost every other university in China, professors have no rights; no power to manage their own universities.”

Some CKGSB professors have gone the other way into business too. Former professors include Jon Liao, JD Group’s chief strategy officer; Zeng Ming, Alibaba Group’s chief strategy officer; and Chen Long, chief strategy officer of Alibaba's new financial services unit Ant Financial.

“There’s also an important additional value that CKGSB brings—more than the curriculum—and that’s the ‘club’; the network,” says Xu.

CKGSB’s alumni network is famed for its assortment of top-level Chinese business leaders like Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma. In fact, more than half of CKGSB’s alumni are at CEO or chairman level. Collectively, they lead one‐fifth of China’s most valuable brands.

“In the US, most EMBA students are upper-middle level managers,” Xu continues. “Here at CKGSB, they are presidents and CEOs; bosses and founders.”