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New alliance between business school powerhouses

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A new partnership agreement between BI Norwegian Business School and Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University has established a joint programme to help educate China’s next generation of managers and entrepreneurs.

Classes began in early March, and with most participants expected to have a background in tech subjects and engineering, the aim is to offer a custom-made course by creating synergies and using the students’ practical experience to explore research-based business subjects.

“We are proud of this co-operation with our new partner, which will help Chinese business leaders and technology entrepreneurs in developing innovative models for the global market,” says Inge Jan Henjesand, president of BI Norwegian Business School. “Chinese exports are still expanding rapidly, so the programme is designed to support the rate of development and strengthen businesses that have outgrown the start-up phase. It is also a chance for us to further raise the profile of Norwegian education in China.”

He notes that BI is one of Europe’s largest business schools, with close to 20,000 students and around 400 permanent faculty members. Its particular strengths are research-based education in the key areas of finance, administration and management, and having close ties with leading players in the broader business community.

The joint programme runs for 18 months and is for two to five senior executives from around 10 different companies. They will acquire knowledge and skills needed to reduce the incubation time for new businesses or initiatives. They will also be given practical support in the development and commercialisation of relevant business models. And the instruction offered by BI and Tsinghua will be supplemented by the advice and ideas of experienced mentors ready to talk about overcoming challenges, breaking into untried markets, and steps towards achieving sustained profitability.

“We have 20 years of extensive experience in the Chinese market, which will be a core value for the programme and reflected in the classes,” Henjesand says. “Planning and growing innovative business models requires a hands-on approach, so an important objective has been to develop a curriculum with a practical mindset. It is important to show managers how and where to improve their companies. BI’s focus is to facilitate this process by contributing our skills and expertise.”

The research-based topics range from investment strategies and effective teams to business analysis, change management, branding, and international growth. In the periods between class sessions, students will have the chance to put theory into practice, working with mentors and coaches to implement specific business plans.

As much as anything, the intention is to empower the students by inspiring productive interaction and emphasising the importance of innovation for both short- and long-term results. 

“We want them to create business models for the future that can benefit China, Norway, and reach the broader international market,” Henjesand says. “Our Chinese partners are fundamentally interested in the Nordic economy and appreciate discussions on topics like organisational structures plus the focus we put on openness, equality, empowerment and leadership.”

In his view, there is little doubt that China is now the world’s most important economy. What happens there is going to have an impact on businesses around the world, whether as suppliers, customers, co-investors or competitors.

Therefore, for BI, it is essential to have close ties with scholars and professionals in the mainland in order to remain not just relevant in terms of business education and research, but if possible ahead of the curve.

“This collaboration is vital for both Norway and for BI as a business school,” Henjesand says. “In our international business programmes, we focus on the large global economies such as China. That is already a key part of our general education at BI.”

Assuming all goes well with the Tsinghua partnership, there are already some thoughts of how to take it to the next level.

“Looking ahead, we would like to expand the programme and, in the near future, set up more classes in Norway,” Henjesand says. “The goal is to have a good mix of international and Chinese students, though the latter will be in the majority.”

Since 1996, BI has offered an EMBA programme in partnership with the School of Management at Fudan University in Shanghai. Over the past 20 years, more than 2,000 business people have completed the course, with most of them now helping to run Fortune 500 companies in China or overseas. 

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