Six ways to build a Business School’s organisational resilience

How recent changes and strategic initiatives at Rennes School of Business have put it on the path to resilience in the testing times of Covid-19

Are you building, or already working in, a resilient Business School or organisation? This article aims to identify a series of questions that might help you reflect on this question and is based on two years of actions taken at Rennes School of Business in pursuit of this goal. 

Much is being written about what can be learned from the Covid-19 crisis, or how organisations – and Business Schools in particular – can adapt and move forward in a way that is better prepared for the future. Similarly, there’s an abundance of articles, news, and ‘expert’ opinion on what the world will look like tomorrow. This crisis has taken thousands of lives, ravaged the world economy, and brought about an enormous social cost in the form of lost livelihoods, changed lifestyles and broken families, so we must try to learn lessons about how we can evolve from this experience.

However, despite being an avid reader, I have not seen anything written on the subject of how educational organisations or businesses prepared to build resilience before the unexpected catastrophe of Covid-19 erupted.

January 2018 was a pivotal time for Rennes School of Business. At the early age of 27, the School had a consolidated position as the youngest triple-accredited business institution in France and was ready to make a significant qualitative and quantitative jump to position itself solidly among the best Schools in France and Europe. In doing so, the School aimed to look to the future by building a solid strategy for the coming years that would harden its foundations and leave it prepared for a world that was changing faster than ever. Those were measures that, in retrospect, have allowed the School to be in a very robust position to face the Covid-19 crisis. The subsequent pages show how Rennes School of Business did it.

1. Change and strengthen top leadership

Doing the same thing over and over will not yield different results. With this in mind, the management of the School was renovated, bringing in a new Dean, Thomas Froehlicher, as well as Santiago Garcia, as Dean of the Global School, to help from the right seat of the cockpit, particularly in all matters related to global business at a time when this was a fundamental dimension of the School – 95% of the faculty and 55% of the students were international across a programme offering comprising 17 different master’s programmes delivered in English. 

Organisations often change leadership within or after a crisis but, by then, it’s too late. Fresh ideas, new energy, an outsider perspective, or a renovated view can help organisations to wake up from habits that, while comfortable in the day-to-day routine, might not help when circumstances change radically. This begets the first question: has your organisation reviewed its leadership, board, or advisory panels in such a manner that routine is ousted?

2. Launch or review your strategic plan 

Fresh energies brought to the helm need to be channelled properly through the articulation of a clear strategy. In the case of Rennes School of Business, the strategic plan was conceived in collaboration with all stakeholders of the School, paying particular attention to the development of an analysis that would allow us to accommodate the modern world’s unheard of threats, unexplored opportunities, and innovative ideas. From this reflection, the 2025 Rennes School of Business Strategic Plan was created. Encompassed within the School’s strategic plan was the further development of four areas of excellence, around which scientific production and expertise is organised at Rennes School of Business. In light of the Covid-19 crisis, these four areas seem critical for all of society and business:

Agribusiness and agrifinance. At the crucial time we are facing, the supply of the most essential good for survival is food (despite those who still think it’s toilet paper). Understanding the production of food, as well as its commercialisation and business-related aspects is of paramount importance.

Demand-driven and green supply chain. The intertwining of supply networks and their complexity are now well established. In times of crisis, it’s even more important for goods to flow to where they are needed. Developing knowledge in this field is fundamental to preparations for the future.

AI and digital business.With a large part of functions in most organisations now being deployed through technical means, the ability to use data and digital tools, and to understand the implications and possibilities of these tools for business is crucial for the survival of any organisation and to deliver our day-to-day work.

Mind. Understanding how the human factor interacts with the external world, particularly within organisations facing crises, is more than relevant than ever today. The question for Business Schools and organisations to ask themselves here is whether they have looked internally enough to identify the key topics and strengths that will allow them to remain relevant in the event of an unknown threat taking place in the future.

3. Diversify risks/income 

From April 2018, an active strategy for the diversification of students’ origin was set in motion at Rennes School of Business. Under the plan, specific actions were put in place to increase the body of international students by 2,000, adding a further 20 nationalities within five years. In addition, a revamping of executive education activities with an enhanced portfolio was launched. 

Similarly, to become more attractive in the French market, the School’s French National Programme (Programme Grande Ecole) was overhauled radically to make sure we remained ahead of the competition and potential challenges.

The question to pose is: ‘How is our company making sure we don’t rest too heavily on one single market that might be obliterated tomorrow?’ This is exactly what has now happened to some organisations.

4. Organise internally by building strong managerial and operational teams

The challenges facing any organisation dealing with this crisis are multi-faceted: financial stability, deployment of operations, communicating with stakeholders, and so on. To make sure its new strategic plan was attainable, Rennes School of Business organised internally along three main business units reinforced by a range of general support services. 

The business units and transversal support services were designed along the dimensions identified as critical in the strategic plan, thereby aligning strategy and operations in a unique manner that allows for immediate and coordinated actions. The pertinent reflection here is to analyse whether an organisation has built the internal teams, both managerial and operational, along its conceived strategy. 

Often, a strategy is not achievable because teams are not organised accordingly at the implementation level. As the strategy evolves, teams have to be modified according to an action plan that is designed to put resources where they are needed, and that has chains of command with the flexibility to adapt to new circumstances, and coordinated to act as
part of a larger team while remaining independent to infuse speed in implementation. How does your organisation fare in this regard?

5. Design for speed and anticipate

One primary aim of the organisational chart at Rennes School of Business is to build speed and efficiency. A structure along business units with freedom of action and small, but reactive, teams that can count on bigger support services for the deployment of specific actions at short notice has been key
during this crisis. 

For example, it allowed the School to implement online delivery modes across all programmes before it became mandatory for educational institutions to shut their doors. Our students had instructions to continue their studies remotely and our professors and staff were trained in the new methods and tools within one week. 

The question here is whether an organisation has the structure, processes, teams, and philosophy to anticipate and adapt to change swiftly. Is the decision-making process centralised, or is it possible for teams to take coordinated, but independent actions, so that they are faster and can adapt to the unique challenges they face? The answers to these questions, at a time when speed in decision making is key, can be the difference between success and failure. 

6. Embrace change and unframe your thinking

It’s important not to be afraid to do things differently, or to think differently. That’s why the Rennes School of Business slogan is ‘Unframed Thinking’ – summarising the School’s philosophy in two words. 

The creation of the School’s Global Campus may represent a telling example of how the School is willing to challenge old models. Creating an international ecosystem within its walls, the Global Campus allows educational institutions from across the globe, and with unique expertise in their fields, to get together in research labs, create and deploy new educational programmes, and foster a network of professors, researchers, staff and students. 

Whereas other Schools might embark on multi-campus international operations with ruinous financial viability, dreadful logistic deployment and huge opportunity costs for the comparatively pyrrhic benefit of building an international image, the Global Campus model means international Schools have no need for their own new location to join different partners with diverse areas of expertise: they are all hosted under the same roof, at Rennes School of Business, saving time, improving financial performance, and building on their international dimension.

Here, it merits asking whether a Business School or organisation is in the ‘safe’ business of following the herd or is prepared to become a trailblazer. In the current climate, nothing is safe. Being bold enough to challenge the status quo and to free oneself from established frames can be critical for survival in such changing and challenging times.

Santiago Garcia is Dean of the Global School at Rennes School of Business, France, and Distinguished Professor, at EICEA, Universidad de La Sabana, Colombia.

Thomas Froehlicher is Dean at Rennes School of Business, France. His previous roles include deanships at Kedge Business School, France, and HEC Liège, Belgium. 

This article is taken from Business Impact’s sixth edition in print.


Leveraging Antwerp’s international ecosystems

Antwerp Management School’s Dean, Steven De Haes, tells Tim Banerjee Dhoul how the School seeks to maximise the benefits of its location in the thriving business environment of a city that is home to one of the world’s largest ports

Antwerp, Belgium, is home to Europe’s second-largest port, a thriving logistics hub, and international companies which use the city as a springboard into the European market. It’s this singular environment that Antwerp Management School (AMS) looks to leverage in its programme offerings, says the School’s Dean, Steven De Haes, among which is one of Europe’s earliest executive MBAs. 

Topics covered by De Haes in this exclusive interview with Business Impact include the use of  neurotraining to hone leadership skills, AMS’s performance in a new impact-oriented form of Business School rankings and how being able to retain a truly international study experience could act as a potential differentiator, post-Covid-19. 

Why is management education important in your country? What is the value it brings to the community you serve?

Due to its open engagement in international trade and business, Belgium has always been at the forefront of global business developments, and especially Antwerp, through its international port activities. Many international companies continue to use Belgium as a springboard to the European market. 

Alongside this, management and business education in Belgium has an equally long tradition – the first management education at university level dates from 1852. With the battle for talent growing stronger every year, Business Schools like Antwerp Management School are providing companies and public authorities with the professional talent they need to manage their business activities in a competitive, innovative and sustainable way.

Antwerp Management School celebrated its 60th anniversary last year – its EMBA programme started in 1959 and is one of the pioneers in Europe. Through this, and many other programmes, we are serving the international business community and leveraging the unique international ecosystems in the greater Antwerp area. 

In addition, the School’s research and educational activities create awareness among our customers of recent management practices and provide participants with the knowledge and skills they need to make a difference. The School also assists and guides companies and organisations during processes of sustainable transformation and realising a positive impact on society.

How healthy is the current market for business education in your country?

The attractiveness and competitive value of business education in a country like Belgium is founded on several factors. Its location in the centre of western Europe offers an excellent setting to discuss European business practices. Brussels is home to a large number of international institutions, such as the European Union and NATO, but also a great number of international companies have Belgium as their European headquarters. Major business centres like London, Paris and Frankfurt can be reached easily in a few hours, so our School can offer business students direct access to major economic decision-making powers and invite key business leaders to contribute to our programmes on and off campus. 

Besides this environment, Belgium has always invested significantly in high-quality, accessible education. A city like Antwerp has the additional advantage of being a major European hub for transport and logistics, while offering a very good quality of living vs. cost of living. The current global situation [caused by the Covid-19 pandemic] puts a lot of pressure on international travel, but due to the factors described above, we are better armed than most to continue offering a truly international study experience. 

Can you tell me a bit about the type of people who study at your School and what those who have graduated from your School have gone on to do in the local region and beyond? 

Our School offers two types of graduate master’s programmes: full-time master’s degrees and executive master’s degrees. There are nine full-time master’s programmes run over one year of full-time study, with about 250 students. Their average age is 24, and they come from almost 50 different countries worldwide, with a very good gender balance. 

There are about 200 students on our four executive master’s programmes, which involve two years of part-time study. Participants are professionals from various sectors, public and private, who want to accelerate or diversify their careers, with an average age of about 37. 

In total, AMS now has more than 26,000 alumni in more than 100 countries. While a whole generation of top managers in Belgium have been educated at the School since the 1970s and 1980s, international expansion has been remarkable since the start of the 1990s and many of our alumni have gone on to develop significant careers in their home countries and abroad, in many different sectors.

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?

In the first place, AMS has a strong focus on demonstrating its positive impact on society and the world. 

AMS is one of three European Business Schools that are ranked as ‘transforming Schools’ in the Positive Impact Rating (PIR), announced recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos. PIR is a new ranking that goes beyond ordinary rankings to measure societal impact. Today’s young and experienced professionals not only want to get the most out of their careers in the traditional sense, they also want to make a difference in society. They are therefore counting on their Business School to set a good example. PIR assesses seven dimensions of impact: governance and culture, programmes, learning methods, student engagement, the institution as a role model, and public engagement. In other words: walking the talk. 

AMS also has a unique opportunity to tap into some international ecosystems present in Antwerp. For example, the port of Antwerp is Europe’s second largest, and is the centre of an extensive transportation and logistics hub. This offers students in our supply chain management programme, as well as those studying our maritime and air transport management programme, the perfect environment to learn and see how the sector evolves, technologically, and from a business perspective.

About which single new programme or initiative are you most excited, and why?

The ‘Global Leadership Skills’ (GLS) programme – an intensive one-year trajectory that is now integrated in all full-time master’s programmes. The idea behind this interdisciplinary programme was to develop an integrated learning journey that would put the values of the School – global, critical, and sustainable mindsets – at the centre of AMS’s full-time master’s programmes, and to engage all students in concrete activities that support these values. 

One example of a GLS activity is teams of students setting up their own action-learning project, which is basically a community project that contributes to one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

In these multidisciplinary and international project teams, the students not only acquire important leadership skills but also contribute to raising awareness of the SDGs both inside and outside the School. In this way, we ensure that AMS alumni fully embrace a global, critical and sustainable mindset. 

Can you provide an example of how AMS is using online learning and/or new technology to meet the needs of its students?

When AMS moved to a new campus in 2018, this opportunity was used to invest heavily in virtual learning facilities. These allow faculty and staff to apply online teaching and blended learning capabilities across all programmes, and has made the School quite resilient in these challenging Covid-19 times. 

AMS also invests in technology-enabled innovations to explore new frontiers of knowledge. Last year, for example, a NeuroTraining LabTM was installed at Antwerp Management School under the guidance of Neuroscience and Strategic Leadership Professor, Steven Poelmans. 

Neurotraining is a method for the development of leadership competencies, by observing leadership behaviours in a controlled high-tech setting and measuring the associated neurocognitive activity. Its purpose is to increase EQ, performance and health in professionals by giving task-based neurofeedback. Participants confront emotionally challenging business situations by interacting with one another and a specifically trained actor. Our feedback allows them to observe, and to improve, their responses and behaviour, because we can link their biometric and electroencephalography (EEG) activity to underlying leadership competencies. So far, many enthusiastic responses were received from participants and companies.

How does AMS engage with businesses, government and other public sector organisations in your region? 

Managers and business practitioners, often alumni, contribute to the School’s programmes in many ways: guest lectures, meetings with students, company visits, members of project juries and so on. All these activities fit into AMS’s strategy of positioning itself as a trusted partner for organisations in transformation. 

In addition, Antwerp Management School has always cultivated strong collaborative links with local, regional and national public authorities. We have an excellent relationship with the city of Antwerp, but also with non-profit organisations, such as hospital networks and cultural institutions. 

What does ‘responsible management’ mean to your School and how is this concept introduced to, and instilled into, your students?

For more than 10 years, one of the key elements of AMS’s mission statement has been ‘societal consciousness’. This broad concept combines principles of ethical behaviour, sustainability, personal engagement, social equity and the responsibility of companies and organisations in society as a whole. Introducing these concepts to our students clearly goes beyond teaching and reflection. 

Students are actively involved in community projects, for example, and are encouraged to integrate these issues in their reports and projects. They are even asked to challenge their peers, faculty, companies and the School itself on these matters. Antwerp Management School is also a signatory to the UN’s Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) and one of the founding institutions of its Benelux-France chapter. The PRME are a very useful instrument in making students understand what responsible management is, and they are actively used in their study programmes. We ask students to voluntarily become ambassadors of these principles, and many embrace this role enthusiastically. 

What plans does your School have for the next three years and what developments would you like to see?

Since the current health crisis, this question has become a lot more difficult to answer. Before Covid-19, Antwerp Management School was on a journey of steady growth through a careful balancing of our programme portfolio. We were, and we are, developing innovative approaches to become a truly responsible and sustainable Business School with personal attention for each student, and a focus on developing the best leaders, not ‘of’ the world but ‘for’ the world. 

The changing circumstances that we are now facing only confirm the importance of the choices we have made and strengthen our determination to continue to pursue these goals. Realising them will require additional resilience and creativity, but we are convinced that the innovative spirit of the School will enable and accelerate this transformation and eventually strengthen our market position.

Steven De Haes, PhD, is Dean of Antwerp Management School (AMS) and Professor of Digital Strategy and Governance at AMS and the University of Antwerp, Belgium. 

This article is taken from Business Impact’s fifth edition in print.

Commitment, collaboration and citizenship: a Business School’s journey to impact

Measuring impact is central to theArthur Lok Jack Global School of Business’s plans for the future. Kamla Mungal and Jaidath Maharaj outline the School’s impact assessment system, and its focus on helping reduce corruption and increase competitiveness in Trinidad and Tobago

In Trinidad and Tobago, a small, emerging country of 1.3 million people within a region that comprises 16 countries and several dependent territories with a population of approximately 45 million people, there continues to be tremendous faith and expectation that the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business, University of the West Indies (UWI) will promote leadership and achieve impact on business and the development of the society.

While graduates of the School assume the highest levels in public and private organisations, and thereby have significant influence on policies, there was no way to provide tangible, defensible and meaningful evidence that the School was making the impact envisaged at its establishment 30 years ago and transforming society positively.

In 2017, the School’s leadership asked the big question: ‘How do we know we are meeting the public’s expectations to change business and society?’ This set us on the path of examining the desires of business and society and establishing a framework for connecting societal impact with the School’s activities.   

Developing impact goals

Determining the School’s impact goals required consideration of both local and global issues. This is because the Business School, by its very nature, must address global considerations.  

Kamla Mungal

Guided by the impact standards of accreditation agencies, projects undertaken by Business Schools globally were explored to understand the way in which those projects were designed and executed to create impact. We then met with faculty, employers, alumni, staff and students to agree on the most important issues to be tackled by the Business School. The list eventually included six big-ticket impact areas: social progress; economic revolution; cultural evolution; environmental sustainability; global insertion; and technological sophistication (see box on page 27 for more details). Having established its top six issues to address, the School sought to develop and refine its goal statements by identifying recurring national themes through a review of published national development plans over the last decade to ensure alignment with the goals of successive governments. At the intersection of these themes and the six core issues lay the School’s goal statements, written to ensure they were within reach and that they represented the desired contribution. These statements guide the School’s leadership team to define and execute projects and activities that yield impact and contribute towards the achievement of specific goals.

Impact goals in focus: combatting corruption and climate change

The reduction of corruption and the promotion of moral and ethical values have been recurring themes for the leadership of Trinidad and Tobago and indeed, the wider Caribbean. There was no doubt that this was an area where the School can impact the country and region positively.  

One of this year’s projects is the School’s collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute to implement recommendations from the Business Integrity Country Agenda (BICA) research project. These recommendations focus on strengthening legislation and promoting the adoption of anti-corruption measures in businesses. The collaboration is strengthening the relationship with business, chambers of commerce and the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute. Its impacts lie in the implementation of laws for enhanced business integrity and greater awareness within the businesses community of the importance of self-monitoring and the publication of anti-corruption measures. 

Another area of focus is environmental sustainability in light of global climate change. This necessitates a shift in focus from people and profit to people, planet and profit. This has led to strategic alliances and partnerships that create synergies around the issue of environmental sustainability.  

For example, one of the Business School’s recruitment activities involves inviting secondary-level students to the School’s Environmental Day – an event held in partnership with various businesses, advocacy groups, NGOs and government officials. Students are actively engaged in competitions and innovative activities, giving the School an opportunity to plant the seeds of environmental sustainability in the minds of prospective students while positioning itself as a Business School of choice. This model raises awareness and spreads messages of change, and is more effective than individual efforts.  

In addition to partnerships and strategic alliances, the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business has initiated projects to create a positive mindset towards environmental sustainability among its internal staff, both academic and administrative. These include the use of recycling bins for paper, plastic and glass, and moves towards a paperless environment. The School has also begun an exercise to track its usage of power to reduce excess usage. 

Impact goals in focus: competitiveness, diversification, social development and GDP growth

Jaidath Maharaj

As a Business School, we have contributed to the development of these areas through initiatives such as our participation in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report (GCR), which tracks our country’s competitive position continuously. 

Every year, we share the GCR’s findings with the public and alert policymakers to critical changes required. An example is the School’s response to the country’s continuing low scores in the area of innovation – we developed academic and executive programmes in this area and reoriented our global conference (now known as the Distinguished Leadership and Innovation Conference) to include innovation. These initiatives contribute to progress in the areas of competitiveness and innovation, and will ultimately affect other metrics, such as diversification and GDP growth. 

Another powerful example is the output of some of our recent MBA students in their in-company capstone projects, which were focused on the manufacturing of lumber from plastic waste. This initiative has a number of benefits including reduction of waste, reuse of discarded materials, repurposing of plastic, creation of a new industry and opportunities to increase GDP by producing a product for local consumption and export. The projects also provide opportunities for community organisations to create employment along the value chain, for example in the collection and sale of plastic waste, with knock-on effects of an improved standard of living and a healthier environment. The School continues to explore other initiatives that would produce similarly synergistic changes.

Measuring impact 

Our impact model is an amalgamation of the areas of impact adopted by various global accreditation agencies and contextualised to our own realities. In the case of the BGA Continuous Impact Model (CIM) we had full appreciation of the need to show what the School was doing and the impact it was having on stakeholders, but were not clear on how to present this holisitically and meaningfully. The CIM provided a structure that allowed us to place our mission at the centre and to identify the distance between actions of the School and impact to be achieved, allowing stakeholders to see their contribution to the impact goals and serving as an axle for collaboration. In terms of process, each Centre within the Business School identifies its projects or activities, the dimensions of impact expected, the metrics, inputs, outputs, outcomes, and the eventual impact. Data is then collected and analysed to provide a clear understanding of the stakeholders impacted, level of impact, and contribution to impact goals along with recommendations and suggestions for future activities.  

The School believes it has been successful in defining impact and creating a robust system to measure it. As we pilot the process, we have gained valuable insights, such as the difficulty of directly attributing positive or negative changes in the wider society to the Business School’s efforts due to the number of external variables over which the School has no control. However, having an impact assessment system helps guide the overall improvement efforts and there is no intention to suggest causality. 

Impact assessment can be curtailed without top leadership support, as there are many competing priorities and resource constraints are a reality for most Schools. It is therefore important that top leadership drives the initiative from conception through to institutionalisation. Data gathering can also be tedious and it’s important to always assess the load with respect to the data to be gathered, kept and collated across the institution. Ultimately, sharing impact stories and creating excitement around impact can help to overcome all hurdles.   

Kamla Mungal is Director of Academic Development and Accreditation at the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business, UWI, in Trinidad and Tobago. Kamla is also Director of the School’s Leadership Institute and a lecturer in organisational behaviour and development. 

Jaidath Maharaj is Quality Assurance Manager at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, UWI. 

This article is taken from Business Impact’s fifth edition in print.

Moving beyond Covid-19: Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, Scotland

How have Business Schools been working to move past the pandemic, both in the short and longer term? Kathleen Riach, Professor of Organisation Studies at Adam Smith Business School, offers her perspective

An initiative designed to help students at Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow transition to an online world of work has been rolled out to a wider audience of alumni and partners, says Professor of Organisation Studies, Kathleen Riach.

This is just one example of the School’s response to the challenges presented by Covid-19. In this interview, Riach also discusses the need – and opportunity – for the sector to learn lessons from the speed of response to the pandemic’s outbreak and outlines her belief that global and ‘inward’ strategies are not dichotomous ideas.

Business Impact’s fifth edition in print turned to the BGA network to canvas the collected thoughts of Business Schools based in India, Scotland, Puerto Rico, Poland, and the Netherlands to find out how they expect the pandemic to affect their outlook, strategy and offerings, both now and in the future. Given in June 2020, the below interview offers greater detail of Riach’s perspective on how the emerging situation and challenges had been approached at Adam Smith Business School to date.

The Covid-19 pandemic has, in many cases, led to a greatly increased uptake of online learning technology in business education. Although this has been a short-term necessity, does it present the sector with any opportunities in the longer term?

There is absolutely a need to think about this not as an erroneous year, but rather how we can build on some of the creative virtual teaching and learning practices that have sprung up all around our Business Schools.

Part of this is thinking about how we share what we are doing in lieu of the watercooler and corridor conversations we usually have with colleagues. It is also about ensuring that in the longer term we encourage the creation of ambidextrous learning assets that can enhance our students’ learning experiences in a number of settings, whether that is online, blended, or predominantly face to face.

I also think that it has made us more open to thinking about asynchronous and synchronous learning as not an either/or conundrum and that our curricula might want to be more flexible in this regard, which is a good thing given that more and more of our students are now balancing multiple roles as workers and carers as well as learners.

At the same time, I think there has been a renewed appreciation of what being physically present provides within an educational setting and that there is a qualitative aspect that is very difficult to replicate through other media. Moving forward, it provides us with an opportunity to think about how we use the valuable face-to-face time we have with learners to support and create a transformative learning experience.

Going beyond the pandemic’s immediate impact, have the year’s developments influenced your School’s strategy with regards to the use of online technology?

It’s really important not to underestimate the amount of upskilling and sheer number of hours of labour that has been put into this by faculty and professional staff, and that this effort is going to continue as we seek to create sustainable teaching and learning practices over the coming years. We need to consider this not simply as a matter of online technology, but also a matter of wellbeing and ensure we are promoting practical ways that all Business School staff do not carry the health hangovers of this period of intensive work into the future.

However, amid the exhaustion there has also been some excitement to see just how quickly at Glasgow – an institution that is more than 550 years old – we can change and adapt, which can sometimes be a challenge in any large organisation.

I also think it’s important that now the initial ‘rush’ of pivoting online has occurred, we have the opportunity to think a bit more strategically about not just online technology, but also how we can learn lessons from what was a very rapid response to a crisis. Strategically speaking, how might we be able to learn lessons surrounding quickly enabling and mobilising in ways that help us proactively address broader challenges in the business world and beyond?

The global financial crisis of 2008 has been linked to an increase in applications to Business Schools, as people decided the time was right to reassess their career goals and pursue personal and professional development. Do you think the Covid-19 pandemic could have a similar impact?

Any seismic global event is undoubtedly – and hopefully – going to make people reflect on what they do and why, and I think we will see an increased interest in people taking this time to recalibrate career goals. 

What changes do you anticipate to the number and profile of those applying to programmes at your Business School over the coming three years? Do you envisage greater interest in any individual programme(s) on offer?

Apart from having to navigate the logistical challenges that may face our international students, what we see is that students are very aware of how we are proactively responding to and engaging with current events, from sustainability to global inequality.

Business Schools are often encouraged to play a greater role in their local and regional communities. Has Covid-19 inspired any new events, activities or initiatives with this in mind?

Across the School we have seen our staff leverage their existing research expertise to provide thought leadership and new research projects that speak directly to some of the economic, work-related and social issues that circulate around Covid-19.

We have also decided to offer our DigiGallus initiative – an online programme developed to help students transition to an online world of work during lockdown – to alumni and key partners with the Business School. The traction we got from students in the School with DigiGallus has also provided the opportunity to develop an online mentoring scheme between our students and members of the local community who are shielding. We are hoping that this not only provides a service to local residents to navigate online living, but also gives students the opportunity to develop skills in leadership and intergenerational learning during the Summer break when many of their internships and workplaces are suspended or remain closed.

Leaving aside Covid-19, which single new programme, course, or initiative are you most excited about and why?

We just launched our MSc Financial Technology programme which is an interfaculty postgraduate degree with computing science, and law. Students from a variety of disciplines learn practical and conceptual skills, then have the opportunity for either a six-week industry placement or a startup pathway in an incubator developing an investment plan. It’s exciting to see the potential.

But beyond this, what we have seen in Covid-19 is a renewed thinking about how all our course provision is going to respond to the seismic changes we see in the world,  and teaching staff are taking this opportunity to think about how we make sure that the skills we develop and way we teach is relevant to the world we are now in.

This might sound a rather obvious point, but as academics we are also all voracious learners, and listening to the different types of conversations with colleagues about exploring and developing provision in our courses that will support and equip our students to face their future worlds of work is pretty invigorating.

Do you think Business Schools will need to focus more inwardly (and therefore less ‘globally’) than they have been in their teaching in order to address industry needs post-Covid-19? If so, could this have an impact on your School’s international exchange and partnership options?

There are certainly practical challenges and possibly uncomfortable conversations that have to take place surrounding what it means to be a global Business School. Covid-19 has perhaps accelerated and brought to the fore a lot of the concerns many already had about the ways and means we think about being international and paying attention to all of our key stakeholders. 

However, I don’t think global and inward strategies are dichotomous ideas. Rather, it is about thinking what our students and ourselves achieve from initiatives such as international exchanges and partnerships in their current form, and thinking creatively about how we can maintain and strengthen these aspects in a variety of ways, as well as considering how these competencies and benefits can be garnered through a more intimate engagement with, and contribution to, local economies.

For example, at a university level, our institution is currently thinking about civic engagement as a strategic priority and partnering with local and national government on very practical initiatives. One of the things that struck me when I came to University of Glasgow was that it certainly is ‘home to the world’ in many ways and that students who come here very quickly adopt the city. So, I think it’s more a case of developing these relationships further, rather than an ‘inward’ turn.

Do you anticipate Covid-19, and related issues, influencing course offerings within the programmes on offer from your School?

In many ways, Covid-19 has only further legitimised the direction we were already moving in terms of our provision. We have recently become advanced signatories of PRME and with COP26 being hosted in Glasgow, we already had the momentum of thinking about a different ecology of business education. At the same time, as a research-led School, provision is a ground-up process and courses are led by the expertise of faculty. I think it’s very important that we don’t simply begin introducing reactionary courses that speak directly to a theme per se, but rather think about what capabilities and skills students will need as a result of these global changes and how we can best foster these in our curricula.

There is an argument that the economic challenges that Covid-19 will bring represent a huge and much-needed opportunity for Business Schools to reinvent their value proposition for the better. What would you most like to see change in the business education industry?

We must acknowledge that this has been – and will continue to be – a devastating event for the world that has disproportionately affected certain parts of the population. But using it as a productive moment to think how we can do something is vital.

Business Schools collectively are a powerful force and thinking not only about our multiple accountabilities but also our potential to be incubators for change is so important, especially as we are at the beginning of the United Nations’ ‘Decade of Action’. In my role, one of the aspects we are going to focus on is how we ensure stewardship is central to the curriculum. If we really want to support our students becoming change agents in their future workplaces and the economy more broadly, then we need to ensure they don’t feel they are passive or mute agents in the current systems and ways of thinking. 

Kathleen Riach is Professor of Organisation Studies at Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, Scotland, having previously held faculty and visiting positions in Australia, Sweden and Germany. She is the School’s inaugural lead of Responsible and Sustainable Management, with her own research focusing on organisational age and gender inequality.

Moving beyond Covid-19: Inter Metro, Puerto Rico

Inter Metro’s Antonio Fernós Sagebién looks at how the Puerto Rican institution’s offerings and plans for the immediate future have been affected by the pandemic

How will Covid-19 affect Business Schools’ outlook, strategy and offerings, both now and in the future? Business Impact’s fifth edition in print turned to the BGA network to canvas the collected thoughts of Business Schools based in India, Scotland, Puerto Rico, Poland, and the Netherlands to find out.

In this third part of our serialisation online, Antonio Fernós Sagebién – Associate Professor at the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico, Metropolitan Campus (Inter Metro) – shares his views on the awaited ‘new normal’, changes to programme structures, and financial challenges for part-time students that work full time. Please note that this interview was given in May/June 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic has, in many cases, led to a greatly increased uptake of online learning technology in business education. Although this has been a short-term necessity, does it present the sector with any opportunities in the longer term?

Yes, my university has a long-standing [history] of 100% online programmes (mostly courses that are 75% asynchronous) but now we have had to move [programmes with] 100% presence to hybrid (courses that are 100% online but that are at least 25% synchronous) courses.

As such, 100% of our faculty is now certified by [edtech company] Blackboard and, in our 100% online courses offer, existing courses are being refreshed with new material and modules and new courses are being created.

Going beyond the pandemic’s immediate impact, have the year’s developments influenced your School’s strategy with regards to the use of online technology?

Yes, faculty and students are now required to use online library resources (for both databases and periodicals/journals).

What will be the core challenges for the business education sector in recruiting new students (at both undergraduate and postgraduate level) over the coming three years?  

Our students and my institution take pride in our very low teacher-to-student ratio, along with having personalised class scheduling processes. We now will have less degrees of freedom on our courses scheduling offer.

As most of our MBA students are employed full time, if any specific industry or sector gets affected or labour force is displaced, these students will have no source of funding.

Leaving aside Covid-19, which single new programme, course, or initiative are you most excited about and why? 

New concentration in business analysis and a new master’s degree (non-MBA) specialised in banking administration.

Do you think Business Schools will need to focus more inwardly (and therefore less ‘globally’) than they have been in their teaching in order to address industry needs post-Covid-19? If so, could this have an impact on your School’s international exchange and partnership options?

Yes, indeed. As part of the US, our borders/immigration policies are the same as those of the US. It is always a challenge to get approval on visas for international students in Puerto Rico.

Do you anticipate Covid-19, and related issues, influencing course offerings within the programmes on offer from your School? (E.g. new modules, or new approaches within existing modules)

Yes, financial hardship from new and existing students will force us to create new delivery channels that are not yet validated. Exploring is a part of innovation and students, faculty and administrators are looking for a return to a ‘new normal’ that we have yet to know. Quite possibly, MBA courses will be [start to be] offered in a bimonthly cycle modules.

However, our position is that until we meet this ‘new normal’, we make no sudden moves.

Moving beyond Covid-19: Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)

RSM Dean, Ansgar Richter, on how Covid-19 has accelerated the School’s plans to make technology more prominent in its thinking and why Business Schools must avoid turning inwards

How will Covid-19 affect Business Schools’ outlook, strategy and offerings, both now and in the future? Business Impact’s fifth edition in print turned to the BGA network to canvas the collected thoughts of Business Schools based in India, Scotland, Puerto Rico, Poland, and the Netherlands to find out.

In this second part of our serialisation online, Ansgar Richter – Dean of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) – discusses how the School’s online strategy has evolved, how the crisis has given increased importance its sense of citizenship, and the dangers of ‘turning inwards’.


The Covid-19 pandemic has, in many cases, led to a greatly increased uptake of online learning technology in business education. Although this has been a short-term necessity, does it present the sector with any opportunities in the longer term?

Most certainly. We have learned a lot over the past months. The turnaround has been quick and effective, and teachers overall are positive. In a post-Covid-19 area, RSM will indeed move to a blended learning approach, and also fully online programmes – but only in those areas where we have unique strengths over what others offer.

Going beyond the pandemic’s immediate impact, have the year’s developments influenced your School’s strategy with regards to the use of online technology?

In the sense that the evolution has been quicker than expected, yes – but the developments were taking place already. For example, we had already established a learning innovation team a number of years ago, and Erasmus University – of which RSM is an integral part – set up an education lab (which includes a television-grade studio). These investments are now paying off, and we plan to accelerate them going forwards. Technology will feature much more strongly in our strategy.

The global financial crisis of 2008 has been linked to an increase in applications to Business School, as people decided the time was right to reassess their career goals and pursue personal and professional development. Do you think the Covid-19 pandemic could have a similar impact?

We definitely saw an increase in applications for our pre-experience programmes for the current academic year, in particular for our MSc programmes. For the post-experience programmes, it is too soon to tell – they will only start next January, but we have no indications of declining demand so far; on the contrary!

I think there are a number of things at play here – students’ desire to reassess their career goals being one of them.

What changes do you anticipate to the number and profile of those applying to programmes at your Business School over the coming three years? Do you envisage greater interest in any individual programme(s) on offer?

One of our flagship programmes is the MSc in global business and sustainability. This programme has already been hugely successful, and we are now seeing demand for this programme growing further. Our MSc in business analytics is also set for further growth.

What will be the core challenges for the business education sector in recruiting new students (at both undergraduate and postgraduate level) over the coming three years?

There is no doubt that international student recruitment has become much more competitive in recent years, at least until the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. One challenge that all of us in the sector are facing is how to navigate the rapidly changing political landscape – factors such as visa and right-to-work policies come into play here, but also the rise of authoritarian or nationalistic governments in several countries that show no respect for the values that academic institutions around the world stand for: open exchange, freedom of thought and freedom of expression, equality, and the dignity of every human being regardless of factors such as colour, gender, creed or sexual orientation. I believe students will choose their place of study on the basis of these factors, too.

Another challenge that a lot of Business Schools will have to grapple with relates to pricing. In many universities in the UK, the US and Australia, Business Schools are often the cash cows of the universities, whose income is used to cross-subsidise other programmes. Effectively, these institutions have made the study of business administration too expensive, raising concerns about whether Business Schools contribute to inequality. I believe there needs to be a recalibration.

Business Schools are often encouraged to play a greater role in their local and regional communities. Has Covid-19 inspired any new events, activities or initiatives with this in mind?

We offer free webinars on a regular basis which are very well attended. During the crisis, we have also undergone a Business School Impact System (BSIS) assessment exercise, which has demonstrated the impact that RSM has had and continues to have in our region, the Rotterdam and greater Randstad area. This initiative was in the making before the pandemic, but the crisis has raised the importance of our citizenship in this area.

Leaving aside Covid-19, which single new programme, course, or initiative are you most excited about and why?

In the undergraduate programmes, we are rolling out an initiative called ‘Boost the Bachelor’, which will vastly increase flexibility, provide students with greater choice, and transform the student experience. We are also developing new interdisciplinary programmes with other schools within Erasmus University – for example with our medical school (Erasmus Medical Centre) – and with other institutions, such as the Technical University of Delft.

Do you think Business Schools will need to focus more inwardly (and therefore less ‘globally’) than they have been in their teaching in order to address industry needs post-Covid-19? If so, could this have an impact on your School’s international exchange and partnership options?

‘Turning inwards’ is a danger that we absolutely need to avoid. Some partner institutions are unable to accept international exchange students at this particular time, so the value of having a large network of partner schools to choose from becomes even more apparent. What has become more problematic are highly rigid programme structures, where you rely on one particular partner, or where a residency can only take place within a narrowly defined time window. So, you need greater flexibility, but not to turn away from the idea of international exchange.

Do you anticipate Covid-19, and related issues, influencing course offerings within the programmes on offer from your School?

Yes, we will have a more blended approach. Whether content will change remains to be seen – we have adopted our teaching in line with our mission to be a force for positive change in the world and this is a broad response to current global issues in any case.

There is already an argument that the economic challenges that Covid-19 will bring represent a huge and much-needed opportunity for Business Schools to reinvent their value proposition for the better. What would you most like to see change in the business education industry?

A large proportion of the jobs that will be done in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. Similarly, the meaning of ‘management’ will be totally different in the future, from what it is today. Tomorrow’s managers will need to be incredibly comfortable with constant change. We will need to prepare them for that. The Covid-19 crisis is providing much-needed focus on what’s really important in business education. We educate our students not only for the purpose of making lots of money, but also to enable them to be a force for positive change in society at large.

Ansgar Richter is Dean of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). Before joining RSM, he served as Dean of Surrey Business School in the UK.

Portions of this interview feature in ‘Moving management education past Covid-19’ – the cover story in the fifth edition of Business Impact’s print magazine.

Moving beyond Covid-19: Collegium Humanum

How has the management education landscape been affected by Covid-19, and how are Business Schools working to move past the pandemic, both in the short and longer term? Insights from Collegium Humanum-Warsaw Management University, Poland

In spite of the shattering human cost and the innumerable challenges presented by Covid-19, the management education sector has made positive moves over the past six months which promise not only to facilitate management education’s recovery from the pandemic, but also to aid its progression in the face of evolving technologies and student demands in the third decade of the 21st century.

Business Impact’s fifth edition in print turned to the BGA network to canvas the collected thoughts of Business Schools based in India, Scotland, Puerto Rico, Poland, and the Netherlands to find out how they expect the pandemic to affect their outlook, strategy and offerings, both now and in the future. Here, we look in more detail at the thoughts of Paweł Czarnecki, Provost at Collegium Humanum-Warsaw Management University in Poland.

The Covid-19 pandemic has, in many cases, led to a greatly increased uptake of online learning technology in business education. Although this has been a short-term necessity, does it present the sector with any opportunities in the longer term?

When it comes to the strategy of educational activities in the area of business here at Collegium Humanum, we never planned online education because our education philosophy rests largely on the values associated with the creation of networking opportunities and personal relationships among students. In the long run, this translates into their further professional success.

The pandemic situation has, however, forced us to move to the online education sector. From research and observations among our students, we have noticed considerable interest in this form of education and an increased commitment to acquiring knowledge. I am therefore convinced that online education will in no time significantly support traditional forms of education. Yet, one must still admit that online education cannot and will never replace direct contact and meetings with people.

Going beyond the pandemic’s immediate impact, have the year’s developments influenced your School’s strategy with regards to the use of online technology?

We do not know what the situation will be in the coming months. I do hope that the pandemic will be only a memory. We have, however, drawn positive conclusions from this difficult experience, and yes, we will support traditional education with online education technologies. We will also expand our virtual university systems.

The global financial crisis of 2008 has been linked to an increase in applications to Business School, as people decided the time was right to reassess their career goals and pursue personal and professional development. Do you think the Covid-19 pandemic could have a similar impact?

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have recorded increased recruitment levels for MBA, DBA and LLM studies. Perhaps this was due to the lockdown [restrictions] necessitated by the sanitary regime which left our candidates with more time to spare for education. This trend still continues.

What changes do you anticipate to the number and profile of those applying to programmes at your Business School over the coming three years? Do you envisage greater interest in any individual programme(s) on offer?

We strive to adapt our educational offer to the individual needs of various candidates for business studies. Individual organisation of studies, tutoring as well as mentoring activities are all standard services available to students at our university. We assume that, over the next three years, the number of students on MBA and DBA courses will increase.

What will be the core challenges for the business education sector in recruiting new students (at both undergraduate and postgraduate level) over the coming three years?

The main challenge will be to create an educational offer that will meet the current and potential needs of the labour market. Hence, our study programmes are formed in constant consultation with our social and economic environment as well as its stakeholders. We work to the understanding that our study programmes should educate and equip our graduates with practical preparation for professional roles. The challenge is therefore to provide practical education that is implemented by a truly experienced cohort of practitioners and experts.

Business Schools are often encouraged to play a greater role in their local and regional communities. Has Covid-19 inspired any new events, activities or initiatives with this in mind?

During the pandemic, our university implemented a legal aid project and developed a textbook related to the changes in legal regulations in view of the enforced sanitary regime and other restrictions as well as changes brought upon us by the broader epidemic regulations.

We published this on our social media and on our website. A professor of our university has also been giving daily advice, in Polish and English, on matters related to Covid-19 and the pandemic with the largest television broadcaster in Poland (TVP).

Leaving aside Covid-19, which single new programme, course, or initiative are you most excited about and why?

We have launched a completely online MBA programme, which proved, and is still, very popular.

Do you think Business Schools will need to focus more inwardly (and therefore less ‘globally’) than they have been in their teaching in order to address industry needs post-Covid-19? If so, could this have an impact on your School’s international exchange and partnership options?

As long as there is an epidemic threat and related sanitary regime in place, there will be inevitable restrictions related to the mobility of students and the teaching staff.

In the long run, however, one cannot run successful business education programmes without exchanging experiences or involving external partnerships. Partners not only bring additional educational quality to the study programmes, but they also influence the prestige of the studies.

Do you anticipate Covid-19, and related issues, influencing course offerings within the programmes on offer from your School?

It seems viable that study programmes might have to be integrated with courses that will deal with various competencies that relate specifically to crisis management, especially when it comes to health emergency situations. We will integrate such modules with programmes of all types of studies.

There is already an argument that the economic challenges that Covid-19 will bring represent a huge and much-needed opportunity for Business Schools to reinvent their value proposition for the better. What would you most like to see change in the business education industry?

In the business education industry, it is particularly crucial to educate in the field of practical functioning of businesses according to the latest knowledge and market trends. This requires constant tracking of the market trends and consulting the study programmes with different business practitioners so that to adapt them to the current needs.

Paweł Czarnecki is Provost at Collegium Humanum-Warsaw Management University, Poland. A Professor of Social Sciences, he is also Member of the Marketing Committee at the Polish Olympic Committee, Professor at the Technical University of Košice (Faculty of Aviation) in Slovakia, and Member of the Supervisory Boards in Wroclaw Technology Park and Business Solutions in Warsaw.

Looking ahead: educating leaders for a fast-changing world

Given management education’s importance to the evolution of Russia’s economy, the MGIMO School of Business and International Proficiency is training a new type of manager, says its Director, Angelika Mirzoeva. Interview by David Woods-Hale

In a landscape that is effectively defined by disruption and change, preparing leaders and managers to not just ‘cope’ with volatility, but to also make an impact, is the overarching challenge shared by Business Schools the world over. 

Business Impact caught up with Angelika Mirzoeva, Director of the​ MGIMO School of Business and​ International Proficiency, to find out how Schools could be doing more than​ just reacting to this environment and​ instead, help to set the scene themselves. Her advice:​ innovate, collaborate and diversify​ wherever you can…

Why is management education important in Russia and what is the value it brings to your community? 

The global community is faced with new challenges, which will define the framework of business education both in Russia and beyond. 

Today’s management education is not simply a process of consuming knowledge. It is a creative process involving both teachers and students. Managers that are able to think outside the box are in demand and, in turn, the demand for business education is becoming more focused and stringent. 

The responsibility for finding the right solutions to modern challenges should lie with leaders who are highly qualified managers those who are able to see what lies ahead, and to transform and improve the present in line with this forward-thinking vision. 

Training these leaders of the future requires a revised system of business education. It becomes lifelong learning, implying complex training in science and humanities, providing students with knowledge, and, most importantly, developing certain beliefs and values in them, and a socially responsible code of conduct in a professional environment. 

Given the importance of management education in forming a new economy in Russia, the MGIMO School of Business and International Proficiency trains managers of a completely new type: those who possess fundamental knowledge, aim to work in an innovative way, and take effective management decisions.

How healthy is the current market for business education in Russia, and the surrounding region, and what are the main challenges? 

Business education in Russia has aroused public interest for almost two decades. The market is not homogeneous and, in different segments, it develops differently. 

I would point out two main challenges for Russian business education. First, business education is often confused with training, short programmes, and masterclasses. It should be noted that business education is a large market and constantly changing. The other challenge is the imbalance between practice and theory in the curricula, and lack of educational innovations.  

The biggest hurdle facing our business programmes is not retaining high-quality staff or recruiting sufficient numbers of students – the problem is innovation in the classroom. Today’s most effective managers are the ones who are able to organise interaction between various groups, find additional resources and attract partners. These are the people we see apply to Business Schools when seeking out new competencies. 

I believe that over the coming two years the MBA/EMBA market will continue to develop steadily in certain segments. Whether the economic growth of the labour market is high or low, demand for MBA programmes will remain. Specialists planning to reach a new level of professional development will have no alternatives.  

What type of people study at your School and what have graduates gone on to do in the local region and beyond? 

The target audience is top and middle managers, business owners, people with successful careers, and ambitious people with leadership potential. An average MBA student at our School is aged 34, has higher education (mostly specialist level) and between eight and 13 years of experience; the bulk of students are Russian citizens. Gender breakdown has not changed significantly over the past three years. In 2019, it was 56% men, 44% women.

We do not target a specific geographic location; instead, the programmes are made with the global market in mind.

The Business School’s students include those studying PhDs, master’s, specialist degrees, and bachelor’s, and more than nine out of 10 enrolled students (91%) successfully complete the MBA programme and achieve their diplomas. Our graduates become members of the MGIMO Trusteeship Council, and some of them even go on to become visiting lecturers at the School.

In terms of jobs, many graduates enjoy greater career opportunities with government agencies, both in Russia and abroad. Established entrepreneurs, meanwhile, might use the knowledge acquired to expand and diversify their businesses, while others use it to begin building their own companies.

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

Our programmes have an international component. Moreover, we have a number of very popular specialisations, which meet current trends and requirements.  

To make the MBA programme truly international, we seek to help students understand the styles and methods of management used in different cultures and parts of the world, citing examples and studies of diversity. 

Diverse concepts and styles of management are made part of the curriculum by mapping leadership development; holding joint sessions with students from other groups and years; citing international examples in virtually all courses; and organising external modules and internships at international Business Schools.Today’s world needs applied knowledge first and foremost, and our School strives to make the knowledge we provide to be of actual benefit to our students, the economy, and the general public. 

The School’s ties to industry are also a differentiating factor. Russia’s largest companies, such as OJSC Russian Railways and the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, are among our corporate clients. We also have agreements with other leading Russian companies, as well as those overseas, in terms of internship programmes, outreach units, and graduation projects for students of our MBA programmes. 

Can you provide an example of how your School is using forms of new technology to meet the needs of its students?  

The Business School seeks to use innovation to boost its students’ personal growth and learning outcomes. Since 2016, the School has been recording and publishing its distance courses on Coursera. MBA and EMBA students can access these Coursera courses for free, giving them the extra option of distance learning. 

Currently, Coursera contains 13 of the School’s courses and one specialisation. We believe this project has been a success and opens opportunity for outstanding potential to be used, especially in the context of global digitisation. Online learning and technology, it seems, will impact heavily on the executive education space in the coming years, revolutionising the way we approach the development of our personal and professional skills. Business Schools always need to look ahead because they educate leaders and decision makers for a fast-changing world that is being greatly disrupted by the digital era. 

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

The School has developed a new MBA specialisation recently, in strategic marketing and management. 

Elsewhere, we have started combining our use of distance and multimedia learning methods with traditional methods (lectures, seminars, role plays, trainings, and masterclasses) and are working actively on developing blended MBA distance programmes. As for training areas, we continue to expand our programmes in digital economy, entrepreneurship and international business, developing markets, and the fashion industry.

Does your School engage with businesses, government and other public-sector organisations in your region? 

Public and private sector representatives are partners, as well as corporate customers and employers of our graduates. 

In addition to this, we involve employers in discussions relating to the admissions office, the final certification commission, the selection of the final project topics, external modules, and internships. Employers are eager, for example, to set the challenges each student has to address as part of their final project. Employers are also members of the School’s Expert Council, and function as professors – wherein senior managers of companies come to us to deliver lectures and masterclasses. 

We have also worked in partnership with Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture to open a new department focused on global agricultural markets and foreign economic activity in the agricultural sector, and to launch a vocational retraining programme and a global agricultural markets master’s programme. The School’s Odintsovo branch, meanwhile, has opened a base department of the Ministry of Housing and Communal Services of Moscow Region to explore urban infrastructure and territorial management.

Further examples of industry collaboration include: launching a new advanced training programme in political management in co-operation with the consulting company, Baikal Communications Group; coordinating the discussion of an idea to set up the Expert Center for procurement activities in the UN system together with UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation); and launching an open course in sports marketing together with our partner, VTB United League, and in conjunction with the School’s sports diplomacy master’s programme.  

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

Through a culture of entrepreneurship, open-mindedness, non-conformism, pragmatism, and leadership,  the School has trained managers who are experts in the challenges posed by business. Working with companies to help them in their search for interns, apprentices and future executives, we maintain close ties with the corporate world to co-design teaching and anticipate graduates’ future careers.

In today’s fast-changing and complex world, talent acquisition is key. Businesses need high potential talent that possess a global mindset and are ready to make an impact from day one. Our aim is for MGIMO students and graduates to deliver just that. For this, the School of Business and International Proficiency, in conjunction with MGIMO career centre, hold coaching sessions, networking events, and job fairs. 

The career centre is designed to support international-profile professionals and their employment goals. Among its partners are major Russian and international companies. 

MGIMO University’s traditional job fair takes place twice a year and gathers representatives of Russian and international companies. About 25 employers and more than 1,000 students have taken part in the poster session.

What plans does your School have for the next three years and what developments would you like to see?  

To further its international partnerships, the Business School has defined a number of core strategic goals for the next three years. 

These include: adding to the learning process’ international dimension and creating an international atmosphere at the School; improving integration in international education and research networks through joint research projects involving international professors and experts; creating an    infrastructure and institutional conditions for greater student, professor, and researcher mobility; opening joint MBA programmes with ADA University in Azerbaijan and Cambridge Judge Business School in the UK; and expanding the exportation of educational services (such as external MBA modules for the UK’s Henley Business School). Aside from these objectives, the need to be innovative and creative in EMBA programme delivery has been a compelling finding among our recent experiences. This is a market trend to which we have to adapt, in terms of our teaching ideals and objectives. Indeed, the focus on innovation and creativity in EMBA delivery is important to us and we are keen to differentiate our offerings in an increasingly crowded market. 

Our current focus for developing EMBA programmes is on increased ‘flexibility’ and adapting to the way students learn. In this, it is worth noting that there could be a link between being innovative and creative in EMBA delivery, and adopting and upgrading digital technology. This innovation is underway and continues; specialist EMBA programmes are a growing trend. Of the current specialist EMBA programmes on offer, the most popular are in the fields of finance, innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Anzhelika Mirzoeva is the Director of MGIMO School of Business and International Proficiency in Moscow, Russia. 

This article was originally published in Business Impact magazine, issue #4 (June 2020)

A clear vision: the role of mission statements in supporting success

A Business School’s mission statement can be the golden thread sewn throughout the narrative of an accreditation report, says Tania Easton, former Head of Accreditation and Standards at Kingston Business School. But clarity in a statement’s wording is essential if its message is to be conveyed effectively

When we know what we want to achieve but need the support of others to be successful, communicating with clarity is critical. In delivering their strategy, Business School leaders need internal and external stakeholder engagement, and communicating a clear vision can support success.

Setting out on your mission

A vision and mission statement is an open communication for many businesses, and for Business Schools it is also a statement against which it is measured by accreditation bodies.

Central to accredited Business Schools are principles of research and corporate engagement, and the creation of a learning environment that is both theoretical and practice-based to prepare students for their chosen career. An important question for leadership teams scoping or revising their School’s mission statement is how to individualise this statement when their core offer is largely the same as that of their competitors. Where are the areas of distinctiveness for the statement? Using Simon Sinek’s Start with Why approach, we can look for clarity with answers to questions such as:

  • Why your organisation exists beyond the basic product that competitors also sell? For example, is it strongly linked to supporting a specific regional need or industry?
  • Why do staff choose to apply for a role at the School, or choose to stay working at the School?
  • Why do students choose to attend this School instead of another?

Questions such as these can begin to outline the current mission delivery of the School, regardless of how this may be described in a mission statement. If what is actually happening isn’t aligned with the ‘why’ of your long-term strategic intention, then your strategic plan will be difficult to deliver successfully.

When scoping or revising a vision and mission statement you can challenge your wording with questions such as:

  • Does your mission statement explain your specific mission clearly, or is it too generic and, in fact, would suit many other Business Schools? 
  • Does it ‘set out your stall’ and inform your stakeholders?
  • Does the wording support your colleagues to engage with delivering the mission, actively and consciously?
  • Does the statement create distinct themes for marketing and communications campaigns?
  • Is there enough clarity to allow you to evidence success?

To test a current mission statement and strategic focus, we can also ask if we embed the themes throughout all work, or whether it is lip service in some areas: do we ‘walk the talk’, and do our marketing colleagues tell the same tale to external stakeholders? Are strengths and innovations of the School clearly associated with words that create distinct hooks against which to hang descriptions of mission impact, and are those strengths and innovations being purposefully led?

Engaging others in your plan

A mission statement can be simple, but its audience can be complex in engagement and understanding. This means the creation of the statement can also be complex, as we look to define the words that pinpoint the reason for activities.

We can assume that people want to understand our plan, and so we seek clarity with the words we choose, so that we can communicate our message well. A challenge with this is that we need simple ‘layman’s terms’, but without over-simplifying and disengaging experts or undermining our intention. Those in academia understand this challenge, as they may explain new insights or knowledge differently to peers and students.

A mission statement can be reviewed by the advisory board, or even a critical friend with a fresh pair of eyes, for feedback on clarity. What an author intended and what can be inferred are sometimes different, and feedback on unintended potential for misunderstanding is helpful in our international, multilingual, and multicultural community. 

To create impact in any form of communication, we need to consider:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What do we want those people to hear?
  • What do we want those people to do?

Stakeholders will want to know why the Business School has a certain strategy and mission statement, and what it means for them and their engagement with the School. Faculty and staff, for example, will want to know what they are expected to do to support the success of achieving the mission and any related goals, which may bring them a deeper sense of purpose at work. Your critical friend can check that you have explained with clarity, so that you can get buy-in more easily.

Evidencing your success

A vision and mission statement is informed by the central strategy. Consequently, showing how you are delivering on your mission will need to sit within the strategic plan. Doing this well requires clarity on the strategic objectives. How will you be measuring your success, and with which overarching goals do those strategic objectives align? The vision and mission statement should reflect those goals, and the journey you’re taking to your chosen destination, but without stakeholders seeing all the associated activities.

Involving your marketing and communications team in understanding your strategic plan can help you evidence your mission. Stories and marketing assets can be written to be aligned and reinforce your message of success.

Evidencing your mission is also fundamental to accreditation reports. A clear vision and mission statement with words selected to support your evidencing will make reporting easier; these words and themes are the golden thread sewn throughout the narrative of your report. When there is a clear structural link between the strategic plan, measures of strategic activities, and a Business School’s vision, mission and values statement, then an accreditation report can become a more integrated part of strategic reporting processes, and the clarity (and success) of your strategy is evident.

Tania Easton is an independent consultant on strategy, communication, accreditation and their associated operations. She was formerly Head of Accreditation and Standards at Kingston Business School, London. During this time, she was Co-Chair of the UK and Ireland Accreditation Group, the network of academic and professional accreditation leads.

Opening the minds of tomorrow’s leaders

Emmanuel Métais, Dean of EDHEC, discusses innovation at his School with David Woods-Hale and shares his thoughts on instilling leadership capabilities in MBAs at a time of genuine change

EDHEC Business School (EDHEC) is headquartered in Lille, France, but runs its Global MBA programme from its campus on the French Riviera, in Nice. The School also has campuses in Paris, London and Singapore. Emmanuel Métais has been Dean of the School for the past two years, but has been a member of its faculty for more than two decades – the perfect choice, therefore, to learn more about recent developments at EDHEC and the School’s strategy for the future.

What are the biggest challenges facing international Business Schools today?

The need to demonstrate the relevance and social utility of what Business Schools do. Through education and research, we can have a positive impact on society and greatly influence areas such as inclusion and diversity, sustainability, the climate change debate, and internationalisation. 

Higher education, as we know it, is undergoing revolutionary change. In an age where knowledge is available anywhere and anytime, the role of education is no longer just to transmit knowledge, but to give it meaning and guide the way forward. Tomorrow’s professors are going to need to develop their students’ intellectual and creative abilities in a way that makes human intelligence and AI and complementary.

In a society searching for meaning, teaching serves a purpose when it actively contributes to furthering the transformation processes currently taking place in society and business. 

In the case of research, we have to make it useful and let its value be judged according to its real impact on the world. Higher education institutions can no longer be content with simply delivering knowledge, but need to construct robust responses that serve society and the economy in terms of education, career preparation and knowledge creation. 

For instance, the idea behind the launch of the EDHEC-Risk Institute and Scientific Beta (an organisation which provides smart beta indices underpinned by the EDHEC-Risk Institute research), was not only to furnish financial markets with new and robust financial instruments, but also to use our research work to cross-fertilise the courses we offer to our students. 

From my perspective, this cross-fertilisation between research, course content and the needs of business is the way to judge whether research is genuinely useful to the economy and society in general. International Business Schools need to think in terms of sustainable business models. 

How does your School work to prepare leaders to survive and thrive amid change and volatility? 

Until very recently, both educators and employers believed that producing specialists was the best way to respond to a broad range of issues. This remains true, and specialisation is still a guarantee of employability for the vast majority of those in higher education. But if we accept that 60-80% of professions likely to be practised in 2030 do not yet exist, it is easy to see that specialist expertise will not be enough on its own and that employability is set to go hand in hand with adaptability. 

At EDHEC, our mission is to train young professionals with composite profiles to be capable of reading across a multidimensional matrix that not only embraces their main area of expertise, but also extends to disciplines such as the humanities and others that are not traditionally taught in Business Schools. We need to teach students to be curious and ambitious, to have the curiosity to question the world, to open up to other realities and to stay alert and in touch with useful knowledge throughout their lives. They need to have the ambition and desire to change the world, and get back to the basics of entrepreneurship, by looking for the meaning and impact of their actions, and leveraging their creativity to help society progress. 

In your view, what are the factors that set the EDHEC MBA apart?

First of all, our MBA students and graduates are completely sold on the location of our Nice campus at the heart of the French Riviera and the School’s hard-to-beat balance between studies and quality of life. Another differentiating factor is the highly international and diverse nature of our MBA, with more than 36 different nationalities, and women holding 35% of positions on student bodies. The EDHEC network also extends to every corner of the planet, and the programme includes international business trips to global centres such as London, San Francisco, New York and Singapore. 

EDHEC also offers an intense programme that allows students to graduate with their MBA in just 10 months. EDHEC has always stood out among Business Schools for its ability to adapt its offering to what students and businesses are looking for.

What innovations are your School developing to future-proof its postgraduate business programmes? 

Tomorrow’s leaders are going to have to be able to inject meaning into their actions and demonstrate value to society, their stakeholders and all those they reach. 

By breaking boundaries between disciplines and encouraging cross-collaboration, we can foster minds capable of conceiving and injecting sense into things that cannot currently be imagined. 

The return of the humanities to Business School curricula is already well-documented. Will tomorrow’s business executives have to be accomplished sociologists in order to beef up those sales pitches? Not exactly, but we need to strike the right balance and this is the aim behind EDHEC’s pre-master’s year and digital culture course initiatives.  

The idea is not to squeeze in a dose of Socrates between two classes on machine learning, but to offer a rich reading matrix and provide students with context, by accustoming their minds to multidimensional thinking, thereby enabling them to harness the past to project into the future. 

In order to address the challenges looming on the horizon specifically, EDHEC has just launched a new MSc in Global and Sustainable Business. This programme not only provides a solid grounding in essential business disciplines, but also offers courses on specialist subjects such as business ethics and the impact of AI on business and society. It also includes modules devoted to innovations across a broad spectrum of sectors, from energy and fashion, to food and green real estate, while seeking to develop a mindset that ensures best practices are both sustainable and profitable.

Almost all new students, including those entering EDHEC’s pre-master’s year, kick off the academic year with a 28-hour non-stop hackathon run as part of an entrepreneurial day that is devoted to climate change. Participants are tasked with cracking real-life problems proposed by 10 major partner companies and non-profit associations, in an exercise designed to bring out entrepreneurial flair with a focus on the new imperatives for our planet. 

How is technology continuing to impact the Business School environment? 

While there is no question of technological progress slowing, we do seem to have left behind the logic of progress for progress’ sake: what’s the use of data if there’s nobody to explain it? What’s the point of ‘uberisation’ if its overriding effect is one of destruction, instead of simply removing the ‘middleman’? Where’s the sense in a social network if it distances people from each other, rather than bringing them closer? 

While technology has boosted the quantity of readily accessible knowledge, it has also multiplied our ability to personalise, support and transform. The application of technology to education is ‘rehumanising’ teaching: the use of learning analytics now allows us to identify how students learn, the pace at which they learn, and what they retain. This enables teachers to adapt their teaching to students’ profiles and has changed their role into one where they seek to guide students through the learning experience.

EDHEC sees its role as providing the starting point for a lifetime of knowledge, friends, contacts and influence. We are therefore firm believers in ongoing training. The School’s executive education offering embraces a portfolio of programmes designed for various key moments in participants’ careers. They cater to those seeking to transform themselves through personal and professional growth, and looking to move on from one phase of their career to another. 

Ongoing training allows participants to update their capabilities continuously, in line with the most pressing challenges and this form of learning thereby responds to the goals of both individuals and companies. Rather than focusing on pure competencies, the onus is on developing the participant’s state of mind, by raising his or her awareness and improving the ability to frame the right questions.

How important is it for Business Schools to be ahead of the curve here and what more could and should they be doing?

This is no time for Schools to be passive observers and let change pass them by. New players are arriving in the market and business students have greater choice than ever before. 

In anticipation of this shift, EDHEC has embraced technology for augmented learning, notably via the creation of  EDHEC Online, a digital learning platform combining faculty expertise with technology and designed to meet growing demand from students and executives for a more flexible, bespoke and globally accessible study experience. Business Schools need to go ‘phygital’. That is, to be digitally-enabled, but with physical, real-world aspects that embody their strength and heritage. 

Moreover, bringing students into close contact with research is a way of feeding their appetite for learning. By involving them in the research process to varying degrees, students develop a taste for analysis and reading at a very early stage. Likewise, they pick up a ‘test and learn’ philosophy, which gradually demystifies uncertainty and helps them deal with failure – fundamental components of entrepreneurial culture.

Just as students and future professionals are expected to show great agility, those tasked with shaping them should be expected to do so too. A strong presence in class and well-prepared courses no longer suffice on their own. Professors need to be capable of offering a diverse range of teaching modes and scenarios. Ongoing teacher training, or facilities such as EDHEC’s PiLab, are there to support our professors in their own development and help them take an objective view of their practices. 

EDHEC is part of the Future of Management Education (FOME) Alliance. Can you tell us more about this initiative? 

The FOME Alliance is a very exciting development in our sector, geared to creating the world’s first fully online learning platform leading to the award of degrees. This ambitious student-centred platform has the potential to revolutionise remote learning as we know it. 

In the near future, students will be able to choose degree programmes co-developed by two or more of the Business Schools in the alliance. Through a combination of technological and pedagogical excellence, these degrees will rank highly in terms of value, while placing FOME at the forefront of the global remote learning market.

Is the business education sector as a whole responding quickly enough to disruption?

Disruption is already here and there is plenty more upheaval arriving at speed, but many Schools are too stunned to do much about it. Disruption is driving a genuine revolution that is overturning traditions and habits. From the way we teach, to how we manage professors and build the student relationship, every aspect of what we do demands fundamental change. It’s a new game with new rules that are still being defined.

Are Business Schools reluctant to introduce too much change into their programmes? 

To some extent, this is true. Education is a long lifecycle industry and the fact that it is quite tightly regulated means it can seemingly take considerable time to implement far-reaching change. At EDHEC, we’ve managed to reinvent the educational experience and make fundamental changes to our programmes. Many Business Schools will admit that some of their professors are resistant to change, but we have been fortunate to have so many professors on the team who are keen to do things in new ways. 

What advice would you give to other deans hoping to take advantage of the tech revolution? 

Be creative and harness the people around you – your professors, staff and students are the best agents of change you have. And use your creativity to think of positive ways to inspire and encourage teachers and staff, and make sure you protect the innovators. 

They are the ones liable to keep the whole School heading in the right direction.

How important is sustainability and how have Business Schools incorporated this into their programmes? 

If we can no longer live on the planet 50 years from now, what point is there to anything? Sustainability is clearly vital. Harvard Business School put business ethics on Schools’ radars back in 1929, but the sector’s general awareness of the situation’s urgency has only really taken hold recently. The climate emergency is our moment, an historic opportunity for Business Schools, and businesses in general, to contribute sustainably to the good of humanity. But regarding the extent to which Schools have incorporated this issue into their programmes, there’s probably still too much window dressing and a shortage of real deeds and decisiveness.

How would you define ‘sustainable leadership’? 

Our School’s founder, Motte Duthoit, defined this concept more than 100 years ago. In his words, graduates from our Business School would be fully-rounded people, capable of speaking and writing to a high standard, and of making sound judgements. The School would not just teach leaders how to manufacture products, but also show them a way of leading others that relies less on authority and more on their intellectual and moral powers. Sustainable leadership is that special ability to blend the societal, ethical and financial constraints of business into one.

How is EDHEC building links and collaborations with employers? 

The classroom is not a closed box, but a theatre of enriching interfaces in all directions, notably with businesses. By having companies participate in building and delivering our programmes, EDHEC students are challenged to respond directly to real-life problems and issues. 

EDHEC has set up a wide range of initiatives aimed at bridging the gap between Business Schools and the corporate world: examples include the ‘teaching factory’ based on the co-development of courses, open innovation challenges or Explora Project rooted in a ‘test and learn’ approach. While medical schools have their clinics, Business Schools have their ‘reality’ labs, where the application of knowledge can be used to create strong connections with the corporate world and hence with the needs of society. 

The same logic applies to EDHEC’s community-based commitment, which is often the cornerstone and the differentiator of the educational experience in Business Schools, since it forges an immediate link between academic capabilities and societal impact.

What are the next steps for yourself as a Business School leader? 

Having taken on the mantle of Dean in 2018, I’m still in the early stages of a journey. My immediate future lies in continuing to steer EDHEC into the future as a flourishing and vital institution and we have many ambitious plans already on track with this goal in mind. 

Do you feel optimistic about the future of business, Business Schools and the economy?

Yes, I am optimistic, because I know business can be an extremely powerful driving force. Businesses have become major institutions within our societies and exert a significant impact on our lives. If we ensure that education contributes towards opening the minds of tomorrow’s leaders to the new realities and challenges to be faced in the upcoming decades, business can be a definite force for good.  

Environmental sustainability, security, respect for diversity and gender equality are all key issues progressively taking centre-stage in societies around the world. Today’s young generations are therefore going to have to address them. The key to enabling them to do so is to be found in education and its ability to raise awareness among tomorrow’s leaders and prepare them for the future.    

Emmanuel Métais is Dean at EDHEC Business School. He has been a member of faculty at EDHEC for the last 23 years, holding various leadership positions at the School prior to his current role.