With many MBA graduates complaining of difficulty finding jobs and accepting lower salaries than they expected, the number of applicants to post-graduate business programs across the country is on the decline.
Of the 945,000 people who have applied to enter a post-graduate course in China so far this year, only 27,721 sat the MBA entrance exam held last month, a 20 percent drop from the same period in 2003.
This is the second consecutive year the number of applicants has declined, according to the Ministry of Education.
"Similar with any other place, a drop in the number of applicants is a natural phenomenon during the evolution of China's MBA programs," said Lu Xiongwen, associate dean of Fudan University's School of Management.
The number of applicants to Fudan's MBA program is down 18 percent from last year, according to university officials.
Business professors say students are becoming more skeptical of the value of an MBA.
"Unlike the MBA rush in previous years, students now will take careful consideration before applying for an MBA program," Lu said.
Many potential students have turned to other post-graduate programs launched over the last few years, he said. For instance, many government officials are taking a Masters of Public Administration course while financial managers are studying to become Certified Public Accountants.
Despite the drop in applications, the number of MBA programs offered on China's mainland is on the rise. There are now 89 MBA courses on the mainland, up from just nine in 1991.
"Competition has emerged here as more choices are available," said Gerald Fryxell, MBA director at the Shanghai-based China Europe International Business School. "The market is due to experience a segmentation process and shake out dubious programs."
Ceibs' MBA program was named the best in Asia by the Financial Times last year.
"Seeing many of my friends rashly took up an MBA program and learned almost nothing, I will wait and see," said Yuan Chunfeng, general manager of a local trade company.
Yuan says many of his friends had trouble finding a good job after graduation and those who found work didn't get the high salaries they were expecting.
A survey by Chinahr.com, one of the largest headhunters in China, indicated that the annual income of an MBA graduate has dropped from 82,760 yuan in 2001 to 78,839 in 2002.
The survey noted that graduates of less-prestigious MBA programs earn 3,000 to 5,000 yuan a month, about the same as regular university graduates.
(Shanghai Daily February 10, 2004)