Dean Tawhid CHTIOUI:Business Education Needs Self-denial

Source:emlyon business schoolDate:2019-07-29

Recently, Professor Tawhid CHTIOUI, dean of emlyon business school, and Professor Wang Hua, associate dean of emlyon business school and dean of emlyon business school Asia, gave an exclusive interview to, a well-known financial media in China. During the interview, the two deans responded to questions about the challenges and opportunities faced by the business schools, the educational reform of business schools, the strategic layout of emlyon business school and emlyon's future strategic development in Asia. The “Dialogue with Deans” series, which consists of two parts, shares with you the insights of the two deans.

By Jiang Min,

The favorite major of Chinese students overseas is Business, where American and British universities are not only the major receivers of inbound students but also the dominators of the global business education landscape. Comparatively speaking, French business schools are in a seemingly weaker position as only one of them is among the top ten in the latest QS business school ranking, with the rest being all American or British.

The French business schools are the predecessors of business education as their history can be traced back to the 19th century but have been overtaken in terms of both capital investment and staffing when American and British business schools have benefited greatly from the shifts of global business centers.

This has aroused the attention of French authorities. In 2016, Stratégie, a think-tank, published a report saying that the higher education in France needs new ways to change the status quo if it is to catch up with the US, the UK and Australia. Business schools, which have always been active in higher education circles, should take the lead.

Professor Tawhid CHTIOUI, Dean of emlyon business school, argues that not only French business schools are facing challenges, but the business education in France is also in urgent need of reform. Business trends are more elusive and whimsical with the emergence of new technologies, and business education needs to be completely opened up rather than just studying existing theories and cases in the ivory tower. Globalization is a survival strategy that must be adhered to.

"True globalization is not centered in France, but a genuine integration of global experience," said Professor Wang Hua, Associate Dean of emlyon business school and Dean of emlyon business school Asia. According to Professor Wang Hua, true "integration" is not easy, and the emlyon business school has gone through two major changes. The first is to introduce the project into East China Normal University through partnership, but not many Chinese subjects were integrated in the classroom then. After 2015, the integration was enhanced thanks to the establishment of an independent campus. "Students from all over the world not only attend classes in China, but also provide micro-consulting to local companies, do research and solve problems from China," Professor Wang Hua said.

Currently, emlyon business school has set up six campuses around the world, and according to Professor Tawhid, the initial idea was not just to recruit more students. Emerging economies will become the growth points of global business no matter whether it is China or Africa, but to expand the influence map means to go deeper locally.

Back in 2007, emlyon business school worked with Chinese universities to offer courses that allowed French students to study and work in China. Since then, the school has shifted its focus to emerging economies, setting up separate campuses in Africa and China in 2015. Recent days witnessed the signing of strategic cooperative agreements by emlyon business school with six enterprises including Yicai Foundation, Neobay, Wyndham Hotel Group, Zhejiang Chint Electric Co. Ltd and Sigfox SA etc. to cooperate in talent training, senior management training and industry-university-academia cooperation. On one side, the businesses can get consulting help from emlyon’s research team. On the other side, the graduates of emlyon can also accumulate experience in Chinese market.

In Professor Tawhid's view, seniority sometimes fails to provide fuel and the new path lies in self-innovation, even for an old business school established in 1872.

Jiemian Education: What is the difference between the cooperation with Chinese enterprises this time and those in the past? What does emlyon business school want most?


There is no future for business schools to do academic research in the ivory tower. Schools must be geared to businesses, professional institutions, and communities etc., even to be more open than before. Only when there is dialogue between enterprises and schools can there be mutual benefit and reciprocity. In fact, this is the idea that underpins this cooperation. Unlike in the past, the cooperation this time has a larger size. Some of them are of tripartite cooperation modes, with a higher degree of integration.

On the one hand, students can get career opportunities, be it internship or work. On the other hand, we also hope to know what kind of talents they need and how to make our talents recognized in Chinese business community.

Jiemian Education: Recently, business schools seem to be quite keen on AI technology. Some business schools even offer AI courses and set up AI colleges. How do you see the impact of new technologies on business education?


There are two trends that I firmly believe will happen in the next decade. One of them is the widespread use of AI. If we look back, business development has different themes in different times, such as the marketing in the 1970s, the corporate finance in the 1980s, the supply chain in the 1990s, the Internet in the 2000s, the digital collaboration in the 2010s, and big data and artificial intelligence in the 2020-2030s. It will integrate mathematics, economics, neurology, psychology and computer science, and profoundly change human lifestyle and business practices.

Under the influence of AI, technology becomes autonomous, tools are liberated, and people and machines become collaborators. Human consumption, self-care and learning styles will all become different, especially in terms of learning and education. Although emlyon business school has been established for nearly 150 years and we have accumulated enough experience in human learning, we have not had much experience in machine learning. Other business schools have the same confusion.

We have created AI learning courses in management schools with two main directions: one is based on the impact of AI on education, as we are trying to predict its requirements for future learning skills; the other is how to apply AI to business management without neglecting "humanity".

Jiemian Education: The business schools worldwide are facing some challenges. For one thing, the research capacity in businesses can sustain themselves while that of business schools is backward. What opportunities are there for business education and talents when most entrepreneurs now are technical talents?


There are indeed. For example, AI just mentioned will directly affect the notion of “profession”. According to Dell's Institute for the Future (IFTF), 85% of professions in 2030 are now nonexistent, posing a challenge to the talent-training model of business schools. I think the business schools should pay less attention to diplomas but more attention to students' employability in the future.

The application of new technologies often creates many gaps that cannot be filled in by existing human experience, but a manager has to have experience as well as knowledge. The opportunity for business schools lies in how to anticipate future business trends and to adjust teaching methods and directions in a short time. The position of emlyon business school is that we, every member of the school, see ourselves as factories or shops that produce, process and sell educational products and services. Only by participating in every link can we move forward the organization.

The business talents also have the opportunities. The business leaders in the future may not all be technocrats, but they must be those recognized by their peers and can create real value for their companies. They are doers who are able to condense one team together, and create value. The focus is not their mastery level of technologies or positions. Such people are called “Early Makers” in emlyon business school. Hence our future campus is also named Early Makers' Hub, expecting to train a group of people who have the courage to take the team to study quickly and make creation through trial and error.

Jiemian Education: What will you choose to do if you have the opportunity to do China-related research?


I am very interested in China's strategy in Africa because I have been dean of emlyon business school Africa. Its economic development is quite attractive. After the " Belt and Road" and the "Silk Road" initiatives proposed by China, many investments are flowing to various fields in Africa, such as roads, railways, ports and energy, bringing Africa closer connections with the rest of the world. Tens of thousands of Chinese entrepreneurs are also trying to cash in here.

According to the statistics I know, from 2000 to 2017, China's investment in Africa increased more than 100 times. Its trade volume rose by 17 times, and it is continuing to expand. Now many Chinese enterprises are trying to "go global," but they are facing not only geographical restrictions, but also cultural differences. We endeavor to make some changes in Casablanca, Africa. Among them, the BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) on this campus has to learn Chinese. The B&R initiative, a special program, adopts an educational system that includes a two-year study in China, a one-year study in France and then another year in China. We have also developed a MOOC school for "doing business in Africa" and organized learning trip to China for different executive managers from Africa.

Jiemian Education: Some critics say that the French business school system attaches greater importance to practice, but does not emphasize the basic theories in the curriculum. Are these evaluations justified in your opinion?


Compared with the business schools in the USA and the UK putting more emphasis on theory and case study, our ideas are different as we focus on employability. We stand firm on this point. Recently, we have changed the mission of the school, highlighting the idea that employment is more important than knowledge. Business education has to strike a balance between theory and practice. Theory is needed because of the need to understand technologies that change rapidly, but theories can obtain feedback and efficiency only when applied in the specific context.

Jiemian Education: Is there anything that you used to believe in firmly but now have doubts about in your career?


Before going to Africa, I was convinced that higher education needed to be consistent on some key indicators in order to maintain its excellence, a thinking which was broken when I developed the campus in Casablanca. I concluded that both the course content and the teaching method needed to be greatly adjusted. We should master skills when communicating with, enrolling and managing the local people, otherwise it is difficult to have efficient communication. It is no use merely replicating the past successful experience if universities or colleges want to exert widespread influence around the world. In a new environment, you need to adapt quickly and make a new start.