Interview de Santiago Iñiguez – Directeur de IE Business School

Despite its youth in the European education landscape (30 years), IE Business School (Instituto de Empresa) has strong European and international rankings, especially for its MBAs. How IE has achieved such a performance against hundred-year-old competitors?

IE is a very innovative business school, where things happen fast in response to the quick evolution of the business environment. Our school has been very entrepreneurial and market-oriented since its inception, one of the factors that may explain our success. Every year we explore new avenues in management education, which result in new programmes and renovated educational activities. For example, in the past years we have been very active in high quality on-line programmes, with the launch of a very successful “blended” International Executive MBA, which is quite unique among the schools of our cluster.

We do not feel handicapped by the burden of tradition, a syndrome that sometimes occurs at centenary academic institutions. We rather see ourselves as a modern, flexible and dynamic, sometimes even disruptive, institution with a distinctive orientation towards the market.

Can European programmes be really attractive for US managers? If I’m an American manager, why should I chose an European MBA?

Indeed, European business schools have become very attractive for American MBA applicants in recent years. Cultural diversity, multilingualism and the rich historical environment are some of the reasons often mentioned to justify this phenomenon. In addition, leading European business schools normally have a clear orientation towards the business world, present in the profile of its faculty or the importance of executive education in their portfolio of activities, as compared to the more academic-oriented American business schools.

As member of the Boards of EFMD and AMBA, what is your vision of the European management education offer (graduate and MBAs) in 5/10 years?

It is expected that management education in Europe will grow considerably in the coming years as a consequence of the implementation of the Bologna Accord, i.e., the creation of a single market of higher education with degrees of same duration and equivalent contents. In particular, masters in management will be the segment of fastest growth, estimated at 500,000 participants in Europe in 2010, according to a GMAC study. Masters in management are programmes addressed to students without professional experience who decide to continue their university studies immediately after obtaining their bachelor degrees.

At the same, MBA programmes will continue to be the hottest postgraduate and post-experience ticket. I believe that the number and quality of on-line MBA offerings will grow in the future, thus better satisfying students’ needs of attending their programmes at their most convenient time and from their own location.

This growth will be naturally accompanied by an increase of competition, among educational institutions, to attract the best students and professors.

EQUIS and AMBA accreditations are given to a growing list of B-schools; is being accredited still a differentiating mark and a competitive asset?

Both EQUIS and AMBA are accreditation schemes that demand higher quality requirements from accredited schools than the national accreditation agencies. EQUIS has accredited 100 schools worldwide in its 10 years of existence. AMBA only accredits those MBA programmes of the leading institutions in each country.

I firmly believe that international accreditation systems such as EQUIS and AMBA will be necessary for the implementation of the Bologna Accord since they provide information, transparency and comparability to the higher education market.

As leader of the Bologna process, you said once that the French system « prépa + Grandes Ecoles » was not attractive enough for foreign students. In the same time, French B-schools are performing better results in European rankings : how can you explain such a paradox ?

True, some French B-schools are experiencing excellent results in recent European rankings. Historically, France has been a destination of higher education students, given its rich cultural legacy and its pivotal role in the construction of EU. At the same time, the average two year of preparation needed to enter the Grandes Ecoles traditional track, with its theoretically focus and, maybe I might be wrong, with its French emphasis to the general culture questions, dissuades foreign students from applying; especially those who look for global-oriented programmes in terms of admissions, participants, contents and careers.

How can we adapt the French educative system (Grandes Ecoles, universités, etc.) to fit it to the European and international competition?

France, with its dual management education track –Universities and Grandes Ecoles- represents a singular and very interesting case from the perspective of the Bologna Accord.

However, I believe that most initiatives should be bottom-up and not top-down. They should come from the players of education -Grandes Ecoles and the Universities- and not from public administrations. I know that some of the relevant institutions, such as the Chapitre de Grandes Ecoles or the Institute des IAE are taking steps in order to better prepare its members for international competition. The recipe is, in my opinion, clear but not easy to implement: educational institutions should become more flexible, market oriented, competitive and international.

IE has launched scholarships for women in MBA programmes; is it to raise your proportion of women students or to avoid a sort of sexist discrimination in top management?

Those scholarships are primarily intended to increase the percentage of women in IE master’s degree programmes. Our MBA programme already has one of the largest participation of women, among other leading schools, currently over 45%. We have some other initiatives in place to foster the participation of women in business, which include a mentorship programme, a series of case studies of women business leaders as well as specific international seminars and conferences.

IE’s Global MBA is recognized one of the best e-learning MBAs, you’re a regular blogger, FamilIE, IEcommunities… IE is deeply techonology and networking-oriented ; does it shape the future of Management education?

IE is a very innovative business school and we try to anticipate many of the transformations that will affect management education, particularly as technologies are concerned. Indeed, technologies will not only affect the whole learning process but they will also configure a new profile of students and managers. The young students that are increasingly joining our programmes, the “Net Generation” using the popular term coined by some sociologists, learn, socialise and work in a non-traditional way. They have a natural desire to use technologies in most activities. They value time and look for immediate responses. They enjoy team work, social networks, sharing of knowledge and they feel committed to human causes. I sometimes hear deans from other schools say that the new generations of students are worse prepared for education and work than their predecessors. I sincerely believe that the future belongs to them.

Thank you, Pr. Iñiguez.

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