Nova Lima, a small town 19 miles outside Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third-largest city, might not seem like the most intuitive place for one of Latin America’s best business schools.

But Fundação Dom Cabral, rated fifth overall in the FT’s executive education ranking, and third for customised courses, has few traditional on-site students. Most of its teaching is done in offices in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, or anywhere else in Brazil or the world that a company might need it. That is because FDC accepts few individual, unsponsored students – the vast majority remain in their jobs at their companies.

“People come to us because of how closely we work with corporations,” says Paulo Resende, institutional director. “It won’t be until our third meeting with the company, after listening to their needs, that we will come up with a proposal.”

He adds: “Companies can go to Harvard or Wharton and they will find excellent quality, but it’s a package. If they want something tailor-made, FDC is the place.”

The school, founded in 1976, makes about 65 per cent of its revenues from direct executive education, usually delivered in company offices, a hotel or a resort over the course of anything from a week to three months. Another 15 per cent comes from MBA and specialisation programmes, whose students come to the FDC one week a month over 18 months. The remainder is from “partnership programmes”, in which experts visit offices over long periods and companies pay to subscribe to the service, not per visit.

Customised teaching is both about putting in extra effort, says Emerson de Almeida, dean, and about employing a pragmatic and horizontal teaching philosophy.

“We are not an ‘academic’ institution,” he says. “Our programmes are very hands-on. And this comes from a very old belief at FDC that it’s not only the school that has knowledge, but the companies too. We help the participants in the companies develop themselves.”

FDC’s profile is rising in Brazil as the country is rising internationally. Now the world’s seventh-largest economy, it is seeing more and more of its companies go abroad as the developing world catches up with the rich countries. The school is taking advantage of this trend to launch an internationalisation programme.

“We have the Brics-on-Brics programme, with alliances in Shanghai, Moscow and India,” says Sherban Leonardo Cretoiu, head of international affairs. “And we have a platform called Brazil Business Environment, in which we give an overview of Brazil’s economy, politics, investment environment and market opportunities. We’ve had schools such as Johns Hopkins, Santa Clara and the Indian School of Business participate.”

And with 30 in-company courses that can be offered as far abroad as Asia or Africa, FDC’s professors clearly have no lack of opportunities for travel outside quiet Nova Lima.

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