HEC Paris is consistently rated as one of the best business schools in the world. It has entered the Chinese market through cooperation with domestic schools, including Tsinghua and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. More recently, HEC has become involved in creating custom programs for Chinese government agencies, namely the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW spoke with Josh Kobb, HEC’s director for international development and strategic partnerships, about the strategy behind the relationships.
Q: Why did you make the decision to partner with Chinese state commissions?
A: The decision to work with SASAC was the result of their initial interest. When the Chinese government comes to you and offers a partnership opportunity, you’re definitely going to do it. We created the partnership with the NDRC to expand into Shanghai, where there is also a need for international management training.
Q: How do you manage all these joint ventures?
A: They’re not joint ventures. If we ran a joint venture, there would be requirements for Chinese faculty participation, the JV partner would be involved on the academic side, and it would not be the same program. This is a partnership, which is different. The program that the participants get is 100% HEC. The executive MBA in Beijing and Shanghai is the same internationally accredited program that they deliver in France and St Petersburg. Partnerships don’t have to be exclusive, but they can’t be contradictory and cannibalize each other. But from our standpoint, it’s logical to have several different partners in the market.
Q: Are partnerships easier or harder from a management perspective?
A: There are different challenges involved in running offsite programs from logistical, legal, cultural and pedagogical standpoints. Cultural and logistics gaps are the most difficult to overcome. How do you deliver programs 9,000 kilometers away? It required us to think a lot about the way we do things and put in place new processes.
Q: How do the NDRC and SASAC programs differ from each other?
A: The SASAC program is not for their own employees, it’s for the companies that are within the system. SASAC now has about 150 state-owned companies under its supervision. Of participants in the SASAC program in Beijing, the majority will come through public sector companies within the SASAC system, not from SASAC itself. There have been and can be government officials, people coming from municipalities, why not? That can happen, but most of them are from the corporate environment. For the NDRC it is the same. We’re not training NDRC staff; we’re training private sector people. The NDRC is a bit less of an implementation body than SASAC, but their policy-making touches all business in China, private and public.
Q: Is this a significant part of the EMBA market in China, these partnerships with state institutions?
A: Absolutely. Being able to respond to the needs of partnerships with government commissions is very important for us. It allows us to get into the market. At the same time, we also create partnerships directly with Chinese companies. We will continue to run our EMBA program, but a significant amount of our activity is being dedicated toward designing custom in-house programs with Chinese firms. This gives us proximity to the business community, and allows us to put faculty resources toward solving specific problems within a company. The approach for in-house training is very different from a general management program. You visit a company and they say, "Here’s the problem we’ve got." It can be internationalization, post-merger training, anything. Whatever their problem is, they come to HEC and say, how can a training program or a professional development program help our senior executives find solutions?