Future-proofing the MBA

From immersive experiences in Māori business culture to plans for performance metrics to ensure community impact, hopes are high for the revamped MBA at the University of Canterbury (UC) Business School in Christchurch, New Zealand – the South Island’s largest city. AMBA & BGA’s Tim Banerjee Dhoul caught up with MBA Director and Associate Professor, Chris Vas, to learn more.

Can you tell us a bit about UC’s current MBA programme? 

The UC MBA programme has served the Canterbury, New Zealand and global business communities since 1983. Today, a typical MBA student at UC is 35 years old with more than 10 years of professional experience, studying part time. The cohort is well balanced when it comes to gender diversity, but more can be done to improve the programme’s 15% international footprint.  

What are the principal motivations behind the School’s plans to launch a revamped MBA in 2020?

One of the principal motivations was AMBA’s reaccreditation panel visit in 2017. The School also recognised the changing needs of business in the region, particularly in relation to the impact of ‘digital’ on organisations and leadership practices over the next decade; the need to drive intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship;  connectivity across geographies and, most importantly, instilling a sense of purpose and impact – beyond economic drivers – in organisations, and in those who lead them.  

Which single feature of the revamped MBA are you most excited about?

To be honest, the radical changes that we are putting in place across the programme are exciting as a whole. The MBA will be delivered in the same way that a story unfolds: as a narrative and an experience. The programme will commence with a focus on purpose and impact, while honing in on attributes that support innovative thinking. A focus on agile and innovative leadership, meanwhile, will be woven across the entire programme so that leadership is not just a course or subject delivered at a single point in time. 

Having said that, let me give you a glimpse into one aspect of what we’re all excited about. At the start of the programme, MBA participants will be immersed in experiences with New Zealand’s indigenous people – the Māori community – where the importance of ‘place-based knowledge’ intertwined with Māori business culture will be experienced. As the wider University of Canterbury strategy outlines, this experience is important for our students to ensure they ‘are aware of their own identity and its influence in engaging with any other person or community’.

Its incorporation is one way in which our MBA participants in New Zealand can learn to value difference by recognising place-based knowledge. In today’s world, in which we see the rise of protectionist attitudes to trade, migration and citizenship, it is vital that we place importance on issues of identity, especially as these can help bind communities together. 

Beyond this initial immersion, the programme will incorporate learning experiences in Māori economies, to understand the aspirations of Māori communities better and emphasise the Māori proverb that people are the most important thing in the world (‘he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata’). Such focus also ties into the programme’s commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 around the building of sustainable communities and cities. 

This commitment is backed up by a new course on ‘societies in smart cities’, which will analyse how organisations strategise and connect their purpose to deliver impact in societies through the lens of smart cities. 

MBA participants will be assessed in these courses through their responses to real-life challenges or mini purpose-driven projects that are tied to organisations. In this instance, we are looking to integrate with Christchurch City’s agenda and Ngāi Tahu, a principal iwi [the largest social unit in Māori society which can be translated as ‘nation’] of New Zealand’s southern region, to reimagine growth through sustainable and smart-city initiatives that will create a positive impact on the local community. 

Can the new programme help its students pursue purpose-driven and impactful careers? 

As a central engine of research, development and innovation in Christchurch, we believe it is imperative to sync with the city’s growth plans and drive a consistent effort in that direction. Consequently, we see the importance of driving entrepreneurial activities in the areas of food, health, tech services and transport. Social entrepreneurship is equally important, and the programme will support MBA participants who are looking to tackle issues of mental health, waste management, education and beyond. 

In consultation with the city and members of our advisory board, we will look to set up performance metrics for the MBA programme to ensure our participation as a Business School is active and has an impact. So, hypothetically speaking, during the next three to five years, I would like to see 25% of our MBA cohort start new, scalable ventures in the US, Europe or Australasia. 

To this end, the MBA programme will work in tandem with the university’s Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) which offers access
to a network of industry advisors and mentors. Given the dominance of working professionals in our programme already, I would also like to see 30-40% of the cohort drive transformative change within their organisations, especially around digital transformation, business model changes, products or services.  

It’s no longer acceptable for us as a faculty and industry practitioner team to simply ‘talk the talk’, so we’re setting ourselves a challenge of enabling purpose and driving meaningful impact. For instance, thanks to one of our student projects, we are now in discussions with a major health service provider to operationalise sustainable work practices in the organisation. We will aim to have many such impact stories in the years to come. It’s an interesting experience in which student activity has catalysed opportunity for faculty.

How will the MBA help students identify solutions to emerging technological issues? 

As part of the MBA review and redesign process, we recognised that our MBA was likely to be redundant in about five to seven years. 

A key reason for this is the pace of technological developments, the impact it has on organisations in terms of strategy, leadership, customer experiences and the whole gamut. 

This being the case, in the revamped MBA programme, we’ve chosen to emphasise aspects around digital transformation, technology preparedness and data-driven strategies. Given their profile (mid- to senior-level managers) our students need to be aware and engaged with technological developments rather than become experts in them. They need adequate levels of preparation and knowledge so that they can ask the right questions, understand the limitations of technology, and at the same time be proficient enough to lead teams to deliver on outcomes. 

Consequently, courses will have a focus on emerging technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT), big data, AI and blockchain. A deep dive will be in the area of data analytics, working on livebprojects under the guidance of industry experts to demonstrate the value of technology platforms, such as Python and Tableau, in data analysis, visualisation and optimisation – all of which should inform organisational strategy.

How has the programme’s development sought to incorporate employer demands as well as those of students?

As part of the MBA review process, our current students identified issues that were of high importance to their organisation and in which they sought further development. The top three were: innovation (to create new products and services); sustainability (incorporating social and environmental aspects); 3) digital transformation of business models, people and processes. 

An added element of need that found its way into responses was the challenge of tackling international markets. Similar issues emerged in my conversations with employers and organisations, though they also voiced the need for further preparation in methodologies such as agile, technological proficiency in addition to development in harnessing an innovative mindset, communication, presentation skills and the ability to problem solve in teams. 

The revamped MBA programme will aim to incorporate these aspects in its courses but will also provide several ‘wrap-around services’ outside the programme; for example, workshops on interpersonal skills and media training that help develop well-rounded MBA graduates. 

Students will also have the opportunity to be coached formally by industry experts to tackle developmental challenges. Finally, the programme has introduced a ‘creative challenge’ course in which students will focus on themselves as the creative project, pushing their limits (and where failure is an option).

What does your ideal MBA candidate look like, and what makes a cohort ‘right’ for UC’s MBA programme?

One of the key programme changes will be the blended nature of delivery, wherein there will be an almost equal split of real-time online interaction and in-person intensive block weekends. This will enable participation from across Australasia. With the industry links we activate and the end outcomes we are looking to deliver in three to five years, UC’s ideal MBA candidate will embrace risk, enjoy a challenge, and be keen on making a difference as well as willing to lead and drive change. 

Our ideal cohort will be gender balanced, diverse – with at least 30% representation from both the international and Māori communities – highly experienced, and representing a cross-section of sectors.  

In your opinion, what will be the biggest challenge facing tomorrow’s leaders and what will be the most important skills and attributes required of them? 

Relevance. The pace of technological development means that innovation will continue to thrive, creating new products, services and firms, and forcing organisations to prove their ongoing relevance. 

This will be the real challenge for leaders over the next decade. Not only will the challenge be for leadership relevance in the context of managing and motivating teams while ensuring a sense of followership in people management, but it will also be for leaders to ensure relevance of their organisations. Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, Tesla and Apple’s iPad are all about 10-15 years old. The next 10-15 years will bring about new innovations. So, for today’s organisations and leadership to remain relevant, maintaining customer experience, organisational purpose, community engagement and societal impact becomes key.  

What do you feel is the main challenge facing Business Schools in New Zealand and the surrounding region? 

Agility. There’s much captured in this one word. Let me elaborate on two aspects. In many parts of Asia Pacific, there is a lack of trust between Business Schools and industry, or universities and industry in general. 

This distrust has resulted in reduced collaboration due to the divergent goals of Business Schools and those of industry, to the extent that we see increasing competition with consultants who have ventured into the areas of research and training. 

The second aspect is around the agility of a Business School to alter course and rethink its business model. Most institutions continue to focus on models that delivered success in the past, but these are unlikely to be fit for the future, given technological advancements in the areas of, for example, new forms of AI-driven and customised online learning. Very soon, if not already, the opportunities in this arena could all be up for grabs.

Chris Vas is Associate Professor and MBA Director at the University of Canterbury’s (UC) College of Business and Law, which houses UC Business School. He holds a PhD in public policy from the Australian National University.  

Bringing business education to Niger

Kader Kaneye, Co-President of the African Development University, talks about the challenges and rewards of his work to give Nigeriens a business education. By David Woods-Hale

At 2018’s Association of African Business Schools Conference in Tanzania, AMBA & BGA’s CEO, Andrew Main Wilson, met Kader Kaneye, Co-President of ILIMI African Development University (ADU) in Niger.

Impressed by the mission and values of ADU, in working to provide quality management education in challenging circumstances, Main Wilson made a trip to Niger to visit the School and find out more.

In the 2018 UN Human Development Index (HDI), Niger was ranked 189th out of 189 countries, reinforcing its image as one of the ‘least developed’ countries in the world. Approximately 80% of its population lives in the Sahara or other desert areas, climate change is increasingly causing drought conditions and, at 7.2, the average number of children per mother is the highest in the world, giving rise to the world’s fastest-growing population at a rate of 4% per annum. 

ADU was created more than two years ago – the brainchild of Nigerien businessman, Kaneye – and has set out to give Nigeriens an opportunity for business education, featuring international best-practice standards, irrespective of financial means. 

Supported by visiting faculty from leading US Business Schools and high-profile local entrepreneurs and CEOs, Kaneye and his team dedicate many unpaid hours each week to nurturing the development of an enthusiastic body of students, in a country where only 1% of Nigeriens undertake tertiary education. 

When Main Wilson visited the campus, the construction of a new Business School was still underway and there were no full-time faculty members – yet the School’s significant impact across the local community inspired him to invite Kaneye to address AMBA & BGA’s Global Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2019.

After Kaneye’s keynote speech at the conference, we were able to find out more about the story of ADU and how it had been created in such a difficult environment, with extremely limited resources.

How have you been able to set up a Business School in such difficult circumstances? 

It has been a combination of hard work, good fortune and timing. I came to Niger after graduating from Business School in the US. I came back with a close friend who had played a role in Barack Obama’s political campaign and we brought together stakeholders in Niger (including parents, students, governments, the corporate world and traditional leaders). We told them that they were facing economic, political and societal issues and we thought education could be the solution. 

They all wanted to be part of this and it became a social movement. Everyone came to help in different capacities and something we planned to start in three years was up and running in three months. 

Can you describe your role and the challenges you face as a leader?

I am a Founder of the university and I’m currently its President. I will say that running a university every day, when you come from the private sector, is quite challenging. I’m learning every day. I love the process of learning, but at the same time, learning comes with mistakes and I make them all the time. Sometimes, the impact [of these mistakes] can be felt and it slows our progress. This is one key challenge we face on a personal level. 

As an organisation, we face two key challenges. One is awareness. Niger is not well known by most people, so I have to explain what and where Niger is and how different it is from any conception a person will have about Africa. Raising awareness about the project is a challenge. The second challenge is around funding, but we are making progress. 

Tell us more about the ILIMI African Development University

ILIMI’ is a Hausa term, one of the most widely spoken languages in western Africa. It means ‘ethical knowledge’ and it says a lot about what we’re trying to achieve with this university: teaching students knowledge, but knowledge they can use to leverage ethical behaviour and leadership in society. 

The world’s leaders all have something in common: a college education. But we think there is something missing in education and that is the ethical part; the commitment to serve. This is what we embed in the core of our education. 

We currently offer undergraduate, post-graduate and executive education programmes and have 250 people in our community (110 undergraduates, 40 studying at master’s level, 100 studying English and a few more in executive education). 

In a country where the role of a woman is challenging, we’re proud that 70% of our student population is made up of women. Women perform the best in our entrance exam, and as a result, our community is heavily leveraging the role of women in society. 

Do you think Business Schools around the world have lessons to learn from your experiences? 

They can learn from our business model and the innovation in setting up the university. Usually a startup Business School would need significant resources and lots of money for a brick-and-mortar approach, as well as a permanent faculty and PhDs. A lack of resources and scarcity pushed us to innovate – for example, the way we brought stakeholders together to cover the fundamentals [of business] and the way we focus on ethics and 21st-century skills, while teaching students solid knowledge. Flexibility is something we can teach universities around the world. 

What are the next steps for you and your School? 

I have lots of big dreams and projects. We are moving forwards in our sustainability plan and we would like to break even by year five. For that to happen, we’ll need 800-1,000 students and more physical capacity, so we are raising money to finish our second building. 

After that, we’re planning to launch a large campaign to build a world-class campus where we can have residential programmes. In parallel, we’re planning the launch of an engineering school. These are our big projects at the moment. 

Do you feel optimistic about the future of business education in Niger and the African continent? 

I’m extremely optimistic. Business education is here to stay. When you look at the challenges in countries like my own, we need managers in all sectors – and a Business School to prepare these managers. For me, the future of management is within the Business School. 

How important are the connections you can make at the AMBA & BGA Global Conference? 

They’re fundamental. That’s why I came here. It’s critical to build credibility, to reassure the community and our teams who work day and night in the face of the impossible. When the world is looking at us and wants to work with us, it gives a different and special energy to every member of the team. This allows us not just to move mountains but to lift them and throw them out of the way. We’re working together for success with everyone. 

Kader Kaneye is the Co-Founder and Co-President of ILIMI Development University (ADU) in Niger. He is also a certified practising accountant with 12 years of experience in promoting corporate ethics through auditing and consulting for international development organisations, governments, banking, and services in more than 15 countries across francophone Africa. He holds a master’s of public administration (MPA) from Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

The à la carte future of post-graduate business education

Business education’s future will resemble the music industry, where individual songs can be downloaded à la carte without paying for a pre-determined selection, says Universidad Nebrija’s Dean, Fernando Tomé Bermejo. Interview by Tim Dhoul.

Business education’s future will resemble the music industry, where individual songs can be downloaded à la carte without paying for a pre-determined selection, says Universidad Nebrija’s Dean, Fernando Tomé Bermejo.  

Moves towards students being able to pick and choose what are often termed ‘stackable’ qualifications are a reaction to changing student needs and stand to empower them as consumers. The market demands this kind of change, and, for Tomé, this demand extends to Business Schools’ inclusion of responsible management principles and practices.

‘Consumers want to be identified with the values of the businesses of which they are clients,’ he says arguing in favour of incorporating responsible management into all of a programme’s courses rather than covering the topic and its related areas in standalone courses. ‘This… contributes to understanding the transversal value of these concepts and allows them to permeate the entire institution,’ he reasons.  

Based in Madrid, Spain, Universidad Nebrija offers an MBA programme with specialisations available in entrepreneurship, tourism, law and technology management. Its roster of master’s programmes, meanwhile, encompasses programmes in digital marketing, leadership and HR management. In the full interview with Business Impact below, Tomé also outlines the School’s plans to integrate AI into its programmes and to increase the level of diversity seen among its student and faculty. Read on to learn more.

Please can you tell me a little about typical student intake sizes and proportions of international students at your Business School? 

The student intake increases with each passing year. Nevertheless, we prioritise quality over quantity when selecting our students. In the latest MBA cohort, we have selected a total of 80 students. When it comes to our international students, the vast majority come from Latin America, with China as a close second.

Please outline the importance of responsible management to your Business School’s strategy and why you feel it is a vital topic for business as a whole today.

‘Responsible management’ is a concept that began to be included in post-graduate studies towards the end of the last century and it is now undoubtedly an essential topic when it comes to the educational development of executives.

The fact that a business should be based on ethical and sustainable principles is effectively a matter of personal and corporate responsibility. Nevertheless, it is also something the market demands: consumers want to be identified with the values of the businesses of which they are clients.

It is therefore essential that all our students are well trained in this matter. Although this training used to be given through an all-inclusive, standalone course, I believe that it should now be included in all of the courses. This way, all subjects can be taught according to these principles, which in turn contributes to understanding the transversal value of these concepts and allows them to permeate the entire institution.

Is there anything you’d like to see change among providers of business education, or that they could be doing better?

I would like to see more flexible programmes, more à la carte. If we can now choose exactly what music we want to listen to by downloading each individual song and without being forced to buy a pre-determined selection, as we had to years ago, I believe the future of post-graduate education will follow the same pattern.

We will have to offer a series of subjects or modules and it will be the student who chooses their own formative itinerary; always logically within some requirements and limitations, and with a great advisory service on the part of the School.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing providers of business education in the country headquarters of your School and the surrounding region, in your opinion?

I believe that we face both challenges that are unique to Spain and its neighbouring countries, and others that are common to any School in general.

In the first group, I am convinced that there is still a lot of work to do to achieve internationality in all of its perspectives: internationality of students, teachers and contents. We must ensure our students are versatile and able to build their professional lives anywhere around the world. In this sense, I think it’s important to provide our graduates with tools that allow them to learn and be adaptable in the face of ever-faster technological change.

As for the second group, I believe the challenge for everyone is to form professionals that lead this technological change. In order to do so, they must develop their innovation capabilities.

Lastly, I believe that attracting female talent is still a pending subject for every School. Although it is true that this change will only occur if it also happens in businesses, this does not mean that Schools should not contribute to it. I believe that a larger presence of high-profile women in faculties and highlighting and supporting cases of success of female leadership is essential.

How is your School working to boost the employment prospects of its graduates?

The School is devoted to improving the employability of its graduates. However, we must keep in mind that our target students, especially those in the MBA, are already employed. For this reason, the internship and practice-based approach has some very evident limitations and, therefore, this element is more present in those programmes attended by more junior students.

We attempt to improve the employment prospects of our more senior students with two different tools:

  1. Coaching – to boost our candidates’ self-awareness and help them identify areas for improvement
  2. Mentoring – to guide them when making decisions regarding their professional careers

How are programme curricula developed and refined at your School to ensure that they remain in touch with the changing needs of both students and employers?

The method we have been employing for some time to perfect our programmes – and which has given us some very good results – follows a 360° perspective, by means of analysing the feedback we get from the following stakeholders of our School:

  • Former students, by following their professional careers
  • Current students, by monitoring their satisfaction and experience
  • Businesses, which periodically evaluate the contents of our programmes and our graduates’ employment; and which monitor the performance of our employed students
  • Academic experts and members of the marketing department, who look to innovate content and teaching methods, as well as to analyse market tendencies.

Which single new programme course or initiative are you most excited about and why?

We are currently very excited by our coaching programme because it is cross-curricular, and we therefore believe it can have a very positive impact on all of our students. It is also focused on improving our students’ employability in a more practical manner.

Elsewhere, the inclusion of AI in our programmes is an exciting challenge for us in the medium term.

What are your hopes for the School in the next five years?

While we are invested in increasing the number of students in our classrooms in the following years, we are more interested in their quality and diversity.

On this last point, we are convinced that the coexistence of different nationalities, genders and generations in the classroom adds great value to peer learning. We also expect to see this diversity reflected among faculty members – having professors with differing perspectives greatly enriches the learning experience. Regarding our programmes, we believe that the integration of AI and of concepts and experiences which train our students in digital transformation should be the fundamental area of our programmes’ development.

Cultivating diversity to open opportunities

Diversity is ‘a strength which opens opportunities’ and that’s why exposure to different backgrounds and ways of thinking is a firm focus for Céline Fauchot, Dean at France’s South Champagne Business School (SCBS), part of the Y SCHOOLS ecosystem

‘In your personal life, or in your professional life, you must be prepared to accept and to cultivate diversity. It is a strength which opens opportunities,’ says Céline Fauchot, Dean at South Champagne Business School (SCBS) in Troyes, France.

Students at SCBS are therefore encouraged to work with those from different backgrounds, Céline Fauchot explains, as well as with those studying at different institutions within the Y SCHOOLS ecosystem to which the School belongs. ‘We do not want to create clones – we cultivate the difference!’ she adds.

Céline Fauchot also talks about the continuing challenge of convincing people that online learning need not be of lesser quality than face-to-face interactions, in this interview with Business Impact Content Editor, Tim Dhoul.

The value of being able to learn and develop for the future through the Y SCHOOLS’ campus in Cameroon is another topic covered by the SCBS Dean. ‘Innovation is a key issue for Africa and we are very excited to be part of the change.’ Read on to learn more.


Please can you tell me a little about the programmes available at your School, as well as typical student intake sizes and proportions of international students? 

SCBS offers four programmes among which is: a Programme Grande Ecole (PGE) master’s degree with four different tracks; an MSc in Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship; a BBA with the opportunity to work and/or study in four countries; and the Global Business Management bachelor’s.

What do you think makes your portfolio of programmes stand out from others that are available in the country headquarters of your School and the surrounding region?

Our portfolio of programmes can really be considered different because our Business School model is different.

SCBS belongs to the Y SCHOOLS ecosystem, inside of which different schools (including schools in design and tourism, for example) work together and open possibilities to create unique multidisciplinary programmes. The MSc in Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship and Strategic Design Management programmes on offer are good examples. Thanks to Y SCHOOLS, we can develop and strengthen transversality and diversity in our programmes.

Something else which stands out is the possibility students have to integrate an apprenticeship into their master’s degree.

Does your portfolio of programmes encompass international study or international work experience? If these elements are optional rather than requirements of the programme(s), how many of your students take advantage of these options, on average?

International [experience] is an integral part of SCBS. More than 40 different nationalities compose our student number. Almost all students are keen to encompass the international dimension during their study. For instance, a BBA student can spend up to 30 months on internships in four different countries.

Please outline diversity’s importance to your Business School’s strategy and why you feel it is a vital topic for business as a whole today.

Our ambition has always been to consider diversity as a strong component for our development. Whether it’s diversity of skills, culture or ways of thinking; diversity is real life!

In your personal life, or in your professional life, you must be prepared to accept and to cultivate diversity. It is a strength which opens opportunities. That’s why we make French students work regularly with international students. In addition, the students of our management programs work in close cooperation with those enrolled on design  and engineering programmes. Cultivating diversity to cultivate curiosity and open-minded personalities is the Y SCHOOLS concept. We do not want to create clones – we cultivate the difference!

How is the School working to boost the employment prospects of its graduates? (E.g. through the use of internship schemes, exchanges, or other industry initiatives)

A strong focus at SCBS is to ensure that companies are ‘inside’ our Business School and not ‘beside’ it. [There is] no way to imagine our Business School without a strong relationship with the world of Business.

Company and block-release training [a form of vocational education in France, linking study to the world of work] exhibitions are often organised with several specific focuses and ways to catch the attention of both companies and graduates.

Specific attention is also given to soft skills. A unique PPP (Professional and Personal Project) is implemented for each student, for example, to ensure that they get all the tools [they need] to be ready when they enter their professional lives. And six months after graduation, 94% of our graduates have secured a job. 

How are programme curricula developed and refined at your School to ensure that they remain in touch with the changing needs of both students and employers?

The world is changing, technologies are changing, needs are changing… so our daily concern is to ensure that we prepare our students for the reality and for the future needs of enterprises.

With this purpose in mind, we have implemented a process to evaluate the efficiency of our pedagogical approach. We also have a Laboratory of Pedagogical Innovation that proposes new teaching tools regularly, so as to fit the changing characteristics of our students.

Through advisory boards that include companies, our pedagogical teams – supported by professionals – ensure that our curricula are in line with what is anticipated to be the needs for tomorrow.

Which single new programme course or initiative are you most excited about and why?

A new, open-minded programme will be launched in January that is designed to support students who still have doubts about their future direction, by integrating management, design and tourism courses. The programme, Stud’Up, recognised by the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Ministry (MESRI), is very exciting as it represents a real answer to the situation of many youngsters who have not found their way or who are disappointed by their current choice.

If we come back to our DNA, entrepreneurship programmes are the most exciting. Being close to the Technopole de l’Aube and having a foot in the local incubator, as well as links to the Design School in the Y SCHOOLS ecosystem enables SCBS to offer different opportunities to our students.

What are your hopes for the School in the next five years – what do you want to see happen?

SCBS has always been recognised in France for its focus on entrepreneurship and innovation. We expect to strengthen these expertises and create new programmes that will be in line with global changes in behaviours, technologies and, above all, ensure that we are meeting the needs of business world.

Through the Y SCHOOLS campus in Yaoundé, Cameroon, we also expect that our engagement on the African continent will enable us to develop new skills in entrepreneurship and innovation. Innovation is a key issue for Africa and we are very excited to be part of the change in some of the region’s countries.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing providers of business education in the country headquarters of your School and the surrounding region, in your opinion?

One ongoing and challenging change in the French education system is the development of online learning. French students and families remain quite reluctant to this evolution and one of our challenges will be to accompany them on the journey towards accepting this evolution of technology by ensuring that the quality of learning will not only be the same as in face-to-face courses but, for some content, it will be upgraded. New technologies will really open new doors.

Céline Fauchot is Dean of SCBS (South Champagne Business School) – part of the Y SCHOOLS ecosystem – in Troyes, France. A French Business School graduate, she has more than 25 years of industry experience and has created and managed marketing teams at international level in the automotive, mechanical and medical industries.

Bringing a glocal approach to the Netherlands

To add value to the local region while promoting internationalisation, Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences takes a ‘glocal’ approach

‘We strive to bring expertise, knowledge and diversity to the local region in which we operate, thereby enhancing the economy, culture and social environment around the university,’ explains Peter Birdsall, President of the Board at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences in Apeldoorn, Netherlands.

In this interview, Birdsall goes on to outline the School’s plans for the future, while expressing his enthusiasm for two new MBA specialisations on offer at Wittenborg, in AI and clean technology. ‘The employability of these graduates in the Netherlands looks very promising,’ he says. Read on to learn more about the School’s outlook and strategic vision.

Please can you tell me a little about the programmes available at your School, as well as typical student intake sizes? 

Our School is based in the Dutch town of Apeldoorn and we currently offer bachelor’s and master’s programmes to around 1,000 students a year (as of 2019) from the Netherlands and around the world. Around 100 of those students are studying entrepreneurship and an MBA in international management at our Amsterdam campus.

We are a continuously developing institute that enjoys bringing a global outlook to a local region. We are growing by an average of 17% a year and aim to achieve around 1,500 students by 2023.

What do you think makes your portfolio of programmes stand out from others that are available in the country headquarters of your School and the surrounding region?

What makes Wittenborg special is its international character. Our students represent over 100 different nationalities and our 120 academics and 60 support staff represent over 40 different nationality backgrounds. It’s a wonderful and dynamic atmosphere to work and study in and the internationalisation and diversity that Wittenborg brings to the municipality of Apeldoorn is clearly appreciated. We embrace internationalisation as a key value and aim to let this be shown in every aspect of life at the School.

To achieve this, we engage in close dialogue with industry, government (local, regional and national) and NGOs, creating a so-called ‘triple helix’. We strive to bring expertise, knowledge and diversity to the local region in which we operate, thereby enhancing the economy, culture and social environment around the university. We call it a ‘glocal’ approach.

How is the School working to boost the employment prospects of its graduates?

All of our programmes contain an element of work experience. In the bachelor’s programmes, this ranges from three to six months depending on the pathway. While work experience is optional in the master’s programmes, modules such as ‘professional enquiry’ and ‘project weeks’ are all carried out in combination with an investigation into practice in the work field.

We encourage all students to centre their final project and graduation assignment on a company or organisation. We find that bachelor’s students often stay at their work placement company to continue with their research project, while master’s students often find work during their graduation phase and base their project on that employer.

Employability of graduates will become an ever-increasing important factor in all audits and measurements of our success in the future and we intend to extend the quality system to encompass assurance of learning by further involving graduates and employers in the development of learning outcomes.

Which single new programme course or initiative are you most excited about and why?

Our MBA is currently available across nine different pathways, and we are extremely excited about the development of two new MBAs with technology specialisations, focussed on AI and clean technology. The employability of these graduates in the Netherlands looks very promising and we have developed these specialisations together with regional employers, and other educators in the area.

Outline the importance of diversity and ethics to your Business School’s strategy and why you feel they are vital topics for business as a whole today

Wittenborg embraces diversity as a key value. It is extremely important to us to promote total equality of students and staff, of cultures, gender, and people with disabilities within the School and also within our environment. We promote a working environment that is fair, and emphasises respect between and within our student and staff body.

Wittenborg’s motto [‘better yourself, better our world’] expresses the commitment to offer higher education where students and staff understand that ethics plays a central role in their every decision. Guided by well-established ethical and moral standards, such as honesty and integrity, we strive for a better tomorrow.

What are your hopes for the School’s future?

Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences’s goal is to develop into a broad business and management-orientated university of applied sciences in various professional fields, such as business and entrepreneurship, hospitality and tourism, arts and technology, health and social care, and education.

As we are a non-profit School, we are able to plough all extra revenues back into the organisation, to support education development and the development of staff. For instance, we currently have 39% of our academics holding a doctorate or PhD. Our aim is to reach 60% of academic teaching staff holding a PhD equivalent qualification, and 40% being scholarly active, by 2021.

The aim to increase our proportion of scholarly-active teaching staff is one of our seven strategic initiatives. These strategic initiatives also include the further development of staff as well as maintaining and managing the current growth strategy, which means ensuring that the quality of incoming students is more important than the quantity and that we continue to improve and enhance our international classroom.

Last year, we started offering split-site PhD programmes in business and management, hospitality and tourism, together with our UK partner, the University of Brighton. This will help us develop our ‘own’ research environment and prepare us well to offer our own doctorate degrees.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing providers of business education in the country headquarters of your School and the surrounding region, in your opinion?

We are a private university of applied sciences, and the only one that is fully English speaking and has such a diverse and international student and staff body. Many of the private Business Schools in the Netherlands are smaller than Wittenborg, and struggle to gain recognition, nationally and internationally.

Is there anything you’d like to see change among providers of business education, or that they could be doing better? (in the country headquarters of your School and/or throughout the rest of the world)

In the Netherlands, there are so many publicly funded business degree programmes taught in English (with Dutch speakers often teaching Dutch speakers in English) that it would be nice to see some regulation of these, as Dutch Minister of Education, Ingrid van Engelshoven, has indicated. Business Schools should focus on excellence within their own particular environment and try to establish a particular outstanding profile, rather than trying to ‘be like the rest’.

Peter Birdsall is President of the Board of Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. He was previously reponsible for internationalising the curriculum at the Saxion University of Applied Sciences in Enschede, Netherlands. He holds a bachelor’s in teaching from Windesheim University of Applied Sciences and a master’s in education management from the UK’s Open University.

Recognising the value of management education in the Czech Republic

Students of MBA and related programmes would greatly benefit from greater recognition from the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Education, as would providers of post-graduate management education, says Ivo Ducheček, Director of Prague’s Business Institut EDU. ‘A change in the legislation would be a welcome step,’ he says.

For Ducheček, the value provided by Business Institut’s BBA, MBA and DBA programmes, both in-person and online, is clear from the employability of its participants. ‘There is literally a “battle” for our graduates,’ Ducheček says.

As well as discussing the need to adapt to students’ learning preferences and the need for continual improvement, Business Institut’s Director also outlines the School’s plans to maximise the benefits of the latest teaching technology and to expand internationally in this interview with Business Impact Content Editor, Tim Dhoul.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing providers of business education in the Czech Republic and the surrounding region, in your opinion?

Maintain students’ interest. Many students decide [where to study] on the basis of positive references, so it is important to direct attention not only to new students, but also to current students.

It is equally important to keep the quality and professionalism of the education provided. The biggest challenge is to continually improve, move forward and always provide a little more than the competition.

Is there anything you’d like to see change among providers of management education in the Czech Republic?

A change in the legislation would be a welcome step. Post-graduate management education is, in my opinion, as important as university education. Yet, in the Czech Republic, it is not recognised by the highest body, the Ministry of Education, as it is in other countries. Such a change would certainly be positive, not only for quality schools, but for MBA students themselves.

How is Business Institut working to boost the employment prospects of its graduates?

We regularly cooperate with the best headhunters and high positions are filled by our students or graduates. Overall, our form of teaching is built to be highly practical, so there is literally a ‘battle’ for our graduates in the job market. We regularly carry out research in this area, and this suggests that 98% of Business Institut’s graduates advance their careers immediately after graduation, which also means a significant salary increase.

How are programme curricula developed and refined at Business Institut to ensure that they remain in touch with the changing needs of both students and employers?  

We ensure this development in two ways. Our employees, in co-operation with lecturers, regularly change, supplement and fine-tune the syllabus, study materials and structure of programmes, according to the latest knowledge, trends and methods and to ensure their continued attractiveness.

We also listen, and adapt, to the needs and demands of the students themselves and, based on their feedback, incorporate requirements. During group classes, it’s no problem to adapt the programme according to such requirements, or any practical interests, directly in class interactions.

Which single new programme course or initiative are you most excited about and why?

Currently, we are most pleased about the enormous interest in online MBA study, where we use the latest technology in our teaching.

Outline the importance of diversity to Business Institut’s strategy and why you feel it is a vital topic for business as a whole today.

In a saturated market, you must always be one step ahead of your competition, so we believe strongly in diversity, conceptuality and creativity. We want to give our students plenty of opportunities, to give them a choice, and to create conditions that are favourable to them. This is the basis of our studies. There are many programmes to choose from, different forms of teaching, and activities beyond teaching.

What are your hopes for the School in the next five years – what do you want to see happen?

In the next five years, we would like to provide most of our programmes in a purely online form, and to make them stand out through the kind of interactivity that new technologies can bring. For example, we would like to make more use of virtual reality in our teaching processes.

We are also looking to expand abroad to other European markets. Business Institut is one of the most prestigious providers in the Czech Republic, but we currently do not provide any international exchange or study programs. We are considering this for the future because we see potential in it.

Ivo Ducheček is the Director of Business Institut EDU a.s.