The China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), founded in 1994 and a collaboration between the European Foundation for Management Development and Jiaotong University in Shanghai, seeks to set itself apart in a country undergoing tremendous economic development. President and Chair Professor Dr. Pedro Nueno explains the purpose of advanced business education in driving entrepreneurship and innovation

By Blessing Waung

It would seem that everyone doing business in Asia is getting an MBA these days, with all major US business schools clamoring to get a foothold in the world’s fastest growing education market. Satellite campuses and joint ventures are popping up in cities throughout Asia, but the China Europe International Business School seeks to set itself apart from the pack with the motto “China Depth, Global Breadth.”

Founded in 1994, CEIBS is a joint venture between the European Union and the Shanghai Municipal Government, and a collaboration between the European Foundation for Management Development and Jiaotong University. As of last year, the school has graduated more than 15,000 students altogether spread across its three programs, and additionally provided management training for 100,000 business executives.

Dr Pedro Nueno, President and Chengwei Ventures Chair Professor of Entrepreneurship at CEIBS, has been a part of the school since before its genesis.

“I launched an MBA called CEMI in Beijing in 1984 as an alliance of several European business schools like INSEAD, London Business School and IESE,” says Nueno. “This worked well but moved slowly.

“Towards the end of the 1980s, the Ambassador of the European Union in China facilitated my contacts with the Shanghai Municipal Government and in 1994, we moved the leadership of the project to Shanghai, launching CEIBS,” he points out.

The school opened its first campus in the Pudong district of Shanghai, with a glass pyramid surrounding its indoor lake that is reminiscent of I.M. Pei’s famous structure at the Louvre Museum in Paris (the designer is of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners).

An Award-Winning Program

Since its inception, the school itself has racked up many coveted rankings, such as landing in the top 25 schools in the Financial Times’ prestigious annual business school survey. The Executive MBA program was touted by the FT as #10 in the world. In 2014, Bloomberg Businessweek listed the full-time MBA program as #17 in their global rankings, making it the highest ranked school in Asia on the list.

“CEIBS is a very international school, with top level faculty who are excellent both in the classroom and in publishing academic work,” Nueno says. “We have global reach and impact with more than 15,000 alumni across the globe, with campuses in Shanghai and Beijing, as well as major facilities in Shenzhen and Accra (Ghana).”

Nueno received his doctorate in business administration from the world-famous Harvard Business School. Both his research and teaching interests include entrepreneurship and “intrapreneurship,” meaning working with the mindset of an entrepreneur within a large organization. For his work in furthering business education in China, he has been awarded the “China Friendship

Award” by the PRC State Council and “Golden Magnolia Award” by the Shanghai Municipal Government.

The curriculum for a full-time MBA program is 18 months long, and includes a practicum project as well as an international exchange program in various European nations as well as more than a dozen institutions in the US.

“We focus on educating responsible business leaders who have a solid understanding of China, its role within the wider world, and how it is shaped by events outside its borders,” Nueno notes. “This is why our graduates are sought after by local Chinese firms as well as multinational companies.”

“Innovation and entrepreneurship have been topics of great interest for CEIBS since the early days,” he says. “CEIBS itself is an entrepreneurial venture and we rely on innovation to remain relevant to those that look to us for business management education.”

“So we have research centers on these topics, we’ve published numerous cases, stimulated the creation of many companies and even facilitate startups through venture capital funds specifically available for our students and graduates,” he adds.



China is an entrepreneurial country, Nueno believes. “All across the country there are formal and informal initiatives, at the government and non-governmental levels, which foster innovation,” he says. “You can see this paying off in Beijing, in areas frequented by the technology crowd, where those hungry to have their ideas become viable ventures sit at tables with signs outlining their business plans.”

“Other people browse the tables, shopping around for the best ventures and this is where business is being done,” he notes. “Today’s generation of Chinese is more open to striking out on their own, to creating something that’s theirs. We just provide the tools they need to do that.”

“Over the years, we’ve seen Chinese companies innovating in ways that are suitable for their market,” Nueno says. “So while there are many that argue that there’s been no real radical innovation, no great breakthrough by Chinese firms, we should not discount the incremental innovations made. That’s where they take an existing product or service and change it just enough to create something new, something that meets a need.”

Members of CEIBS’ advisory board include Robin Li, Founder of Baidu, and Xu Lejiang, Chairman of Baosteel Group. Throughout Mainland China, CEIBS’ networking is near-legendary in terms of the caliber of students it attracts, with powerful guanxi that serve alumni in their future business endeavors.

In fact, its alumni list reads like somewhat of a “who’s who” list in China, including the CEO of Alibaba Group, the CFO of Haier, the co-founder of BYD Company, and even the daughter of former President Hu Jintao.

“Chinese companies must go global,” Nueno says. “They know that, and we have seen excellent examples of this being done: Huawei, Haier, Geely-Volvo, Lenovo, ZTE, J.D. com, Mindray and many more. And, we are going to see a huge international deployment of Chinese companies throughout the world in the coming years. The global footprint of Chinese companies in 2020 will be impressive.”

“At the same time, many multinational companies have been very successful at innovating in China,” he also points out. “One factor that drives this innovation is the large number of R&D centers MNCs set up in the country. The innovations that flow from these facilities are often applied not just in the China market, but in these MNCs’ global operations.”

Human Capital

And where else does CEIBS fit into the picture?

“Currently there is a need to do things very well, and there is a big demand for well-prepared, competent executives (MBAs) who are able to handle management responsibilities,” Nueno notes. “But at the same time, many graduates decide to start their own companies and – in general – the rate of success is very good.”

The CEIBS Centre for Entrepreneurship and Investment (CCEI) has been particularly important in this process, he points out. “It supports (via training as well as in terms of identifying and acquiring resources) our MBA, EMBA and EDP program participants who wish to launch their own business or take an existing project to the next level. It also supports our faculty in entrepreneurship-related research.”

Alumni are already making such contributions, such as EMBA graduate Zhao Huizhou, who was noted for his design of dresses for APEC leaders’ wives during the event gala at the end of last year. The Chinese designer behind EACHWAY, based in Shenzhen, was selected from more than 400 entrants who vied for the enviable attention on the world stage.

“We have always selected our best applicants; we’re quite rigorous in the application and selection process,” Nueno says. “This is because we take very seriously our responsibility to provide the world-class education needed to ensure that our graduates can make a meaningful contribution to the Chinese and global economy.”

“In our MBA program, about 35 percent of the students are foreigners. We have a Global Executive MBA with about 34 percent of foreign participants,” he notes. “We also offer a number of programs in alliance with leading business schools such as Harvard, Wharton, IESE and others.”

“Through these alliances and our wide range of programs, we have played a significant role in educating‘high-caliber human capital’ with about 1,500 graduates now being added each year.”

These include CEIBS home-grown research centers. For example, the CEIBS-Jing’an International Fashion Industry Research Centre conducts research specific to the district and holds conventions to facilitate communication for fashion brands, while the CEIBS-World Bank China Centre for Inclusive Finance provides financial services to underserved sectors of Chinese society.

Pedro Nuendo, President and Chair Professor of CEIBS

Global Collaboration 

Beginning in January, Harvard Business School launched its Executive Education portfolio in China, offering six courses such as “Marketing Strategies for Profitable Growth” and “Global CEO Program,” all tailor-made to advance and help executives seeking expansion for their business in Asia. CEIBS is one of the partnership institutions.

Additionally, the school announced a dual-degree MBA and Master of Management in Hospitality (MMH) with Cornell University’s esteemed School of Hotel Administration, commencing this fall.

“We are China Europe International Business School,” Nueno says. “We want to be excellent in China, in Europe, at the international level, in business knowledge, and as a school that can deliver the best possible training within an ethical and value oriented environment.”

And, “Shanghai is the economic center of China, the fastest growing economy in the world,” he adds. “It’s just one of the most exciting places to be right now. It all happens here. The city has an undeniable energy that makes it almost impossible not to be creative and innovative. Our students thrive in this atmosphere.”