Tsinghua breaks from university norms

By Wang Chao (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-28 18:10
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Recently Tsinghua University reformed its master's degree of business administration program, grabbing the attention of thousands of applicants.

First, it will arrange interviews for applicants before the exams and offer conditional admissions to those who show superb overall qualities. Second, it threw away several traditional MBA courses and presented a brand new curriculum.

"Nobody ordered us to change, but we reformed to keep up with today's business," said Gao Jian, assistant to the dean of the School of Economics and Management and who is in charge of the MBA program.

Q: Why did you change the admission requirements?

A: Doing business is not about getting high exam scores; it is more closely related to insight and decision-making abilities. Therefore, we want to offer opportunities to those who possess these two qualities but might not be very good at taking exams. By scheduling interviews ahead of the exams, we can find talent with the potential to be a great business leader.

But we are not completely throwing away the traditional admissions system. Currently we are admitting students by both the traditional and reformed system. The former is applied to fulltime students, while the reformed is for international students or students who are currently working.

Q: In several private business schools, students don't need to pass an exam to be admitted, they just need to pay the tuition fees. Does Tsinghua University allow this for its MBA program?

A: Definitely not. We will not admit a student just because he has money. Even if a very successful entrepreneur wants to study in our school, he has to pass the minimum requirement of the national exam.

Q: Why did the school update its courses?

A: Previously we focused on academic knowledge, which depended more on the personal interest of professors, but these courses didn't help to solve problems. We reformed the courses and use the mantra of "being, knowing, and doing" - meaning ethics, knowledge, and skills - as the three new teaching tenets.

We used to spend a lot of effort on case studies, but we found out the cases were already old, so we invented "experimental learning" by sending students to various companies to solve practical problems. Our goal is to give them a global vision and a managerial mindset. To graduate, students have to do projects instead of writing papers.

Q: Why is the MBA program so expensive? Is the program earning revenue for your school?

A: No, we are not earning a profit from this program. The MBA education is much more expensive than you think. We need to pay professors on a global level who spend a lot of money touring and giving speeches. That's not to mention the expensive facilities we need to fund. We also need to do case studies with companies at home and abroad. The tuition fee we charge is based on our costs. If we really want to earn money, we can list the university publicly.

Q: What's the advantage of Tsinghua's MBA program over private business schools?

A: It's hard to say because every school has their own distinct managing ideas. But an MBA is a degree that requires integrative knowledge and world vision, and Tsinghua University offers courses in all disciplines and professors from all over the world. All of these provide a strong academic support for our students. I guess this is an unparalleled advantage compared with some private business schools.

Q: Many MBA programs said their mission is "to maximize the interest of stakeholders". What's the mission of Tsinghua's MBA program?

A: We don't cater to the interest of stakeholders. Instead, we are combining three missions: to convey knowledge, to cultivate business leaders and to achieve the revival of our country. These three missions are complementary, and we can serve the students, the employees and the society all at once.

Q: How much independence do you have from the School of Economics and Management?

A: We don't need to be independent like many private business schools claim since our missions are not contradictory to the school's. We have clear-cut divisions in our school: MBA, EMBA and other programs. Since our jobs are not overlapping, we are carrying out our jobs quite independently under the principals of our school.

Q: In today's society in China, Chinese people are enamored with the power of an MBA degree, so much so that some professional managers are even buying fake diplomas. What's your take on this?

A: I can only say it will never happen within our program since students have to go though stringent requirements to graduate. In other words, you can get admitted, but we don't guarantee you can graduate.

Q: How do you view the annual ranking of business schools from the Financial Times? Do you think your school deserves a high ranking?

A: If we participate in this ranking, I believe our school will have quite a decent ranking. But as a business school operating within a university, we may have a different system from many other private business schools. I would say we are the No 1 business school in China.

China Daily