China's severe shortage of trained business managers has led to great demand for home-grown MBA courses but, in the rush to meet demand, poor quality assurance is causing problems for graduates and their employers.
MBAs have been offered only recently in China. The Ministry of Education approved the first certificates for MBA programmes to four universities in 1991 and there are now 87 mainland institutions offering courses. Although the growth in uptake is expected to slow slightly in the near future, experts predict that the numbers will continue to rise as companies take advantage of the economic situation to obtain more advanced training for managers.
The Government wants MBA programmes to develop their own characteristics, rather than apeing the MBAs offered in Western institutions.
While acknowledging that China cannot compete internationally in terms of the quality of MBA provision, the Government is encouraging the idea of regional specialisation, providing business training specific to Chinese concerns.
Cao Guoxing, director of the international cooperation and exchange department at the Ministry of Education, said that Chinese business schools needed to focus on creating curricula that addressed Chinese businesses and how to help foreign enterprises in China.
According to official sources, overseas students made up 20 per cent of the intake at Shanghai's business schools last year. The Government would like to see numbers rise.
Its hope is that, with the lure of a strong Chinese economy, foreign students may be attracted to the idea of working for a foreign company in China. The possibility of instruction specific to China might then outweigh concerns over the comparatively low standard of teaching.
Encouraged by the popularity of MBAs, many colleges have rushed to take advantage despite lacking a real understanding of the purpose of a programme or how to run one. At the end of these courses, graduates are left having paid high tuition fees for a qualification that fails to equip them for the workplace.
Hu Dayuan, domestic president of Beijing International MBA at Beijing University, said: "In terms of demand, the MBA situation may not be so good as before, but the situation remains stable on the whole. Now the problem is that the supply is growing too rapidly."