China's success in maintaining rapid and sustainable economic growth despite the global financial crisis has attracted many foreigners. They are interested in China's business model and they often choose Shanghai, China's financial center, to do their MBA.
Meanwhile, Chinese students are also entering MBA programs to equip themselves with better skills as many multinational companies have moved their regional headquarters to Shanghai, creating a large number of managerial positions.
Overall the MBA market in Shanghai is good with universities offering various MBA programs catering to different needs - from being a leader, an entrepreneur or simply a successful person - of Chinese and foreign students.
Kristina Vujisic, 22, from Montenegro, is enrolled in a full-time MBA program at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). Vujisic said when she decided to do an MBA, she chose the country first and then the city.
"Shanghai is an international metropolis," she said. "While doing an MBA, I want to get experience and keep in line with international relations. Shanghai is a good place for networking."
Vujisic had two years of experience as a manager in Montenegro and was enrolled last September. She picked a full-time program as she said she came here to focus on her studies.
Shanghai International Studies University is known for its language programs. It is also a rising star among Shanghai's MBA schools after its first group of MBA students enrolled in 2009.
Pan Cong, director of the SISU MBA Center, said the school aims to develop its language strengths and cultivate talents without boundaries.
"We hope our graduates are talents who have no language barriers, no cultural barriers and no major barriers," Pan said.
The program also features a cross-cultural communication course that helps MBA students learn about different characteristics of companies in various countries. For example, a professor specializing in French literature will be invited to give a speech on French people's characters while a manager from Carrefour, a French supermarket chain, will also be invited to introduce the retailer's business culture.
About half of the MBA students are foreigners from Asia, Europe and America. Instructors in the program hail from nine different countries.
"I think the program is well-organized. It's really international with students from all over the world sharing experiences," Vujisic said. "I want to learn to become a manager. They will help me a lot with my future career."
Every year, there are about 5,000 students who graduate with an MBA in Shanghai, accounting for 10 percent of the country's total. Compared to the soaring number of MBA programs throughout China, universities in Shanghai focus more on quality.
In 1991, when China first allowed nine universities to develop MBA programs, Shanghai-based Fudan University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University were among the pioneers.
Twelve universities now offer MBA programs in Shanghai and nationally, 236 universities offered MBA programs as of 2010.
Sun Long, director of Fudan University's MBA Center, said Shanghai's MBA market is relatively stable compared to some western regions where the number of MBA students grows about 20 percent every year.
Fudan University has five MBA programs including three part-time ones. For more than 20 years it has cultivated general management leaders without requiring students to choose a major field.
"We believe our students already have skills in a professional field and the courses are merely to help them expand management thoughts with a focus on leadership and entrepreneurship," Sun said.
'I-lab' for real cases
One special course is called "I-lab," which is designed for students to practice real cases and offer consulting services to companies. The university is also well-known for its alumni network, which can help students get closer to the commercial world and receive help from predecessors.
Sun said Fudan University has had an increase in the number of foreign students, who now account for 18 percent of its MBA students.
"Overseas students are becoming much more interested in China. They want to figure out why China develops so fast these days," Sun said.
"Shanghai is a popular choice for them to learn about business in the Yangtze River Delta region, which is one of the most proactive regions in foreign trade in China," Sun added.
One thing most Chinese universities agree on today is that they don't want to copy the Western model for MBA education and prefer to seek their own path to satisfy the needs of Chinese companies, especially private firms.
Overall, MBA graduates have seen their incomes rise significantly. Students who graduated from Fudan University's MBA programs in 2007 had an average annual income of US$80,000 three years after graduation, up 150 percent from their previous salary, Sun said.
"Shanghai offers plenty of job opportunities for capable Chinese and foreign MBA graduates," Sun said.
"The city has huge potential and needs business leaders with a good understanding of the Chinese market."