Business school explores fresh way of thinking

Insead, the business school with campuses in Fontainebleau, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, is considering charging international companies rather than MBA-seeking executives as it attempts to build a market for business education in Africa.

Dipak Jain, dean of Insead, predicted Africa would become “a major continent” for management education in the next decade, led by Chinese and Indian companies’ need for well trained local executives rather than expensive expatriates.

“The question is: what business model do you need to have to do [university courses] there? And my view is rather than scholarship you should go for [corporate] sponsorship,” said Prof Jain, who joined Insead last year after running the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the US.

Several business schools have looked at Africa, and China Europe International Business School offers courses in Ghana, but most have struggled with the fact that their usual fees are prohibitive for all but a few local executives.

Charging companies rather than executives may be a faster way to expand the African market from Insead’s Abu Dhabi campus, which opened last year with a small faculty offering shorter executive MBA programmes.

Prof Jain said he was still examining options for Insead’s long-held ambition of having a hub in the Americas, including partnerships or its own campus in north or south America.

Insead already has partnerships with the Wharton School in the US and Fundação Dom Cabral in Brazil, but he said: “We need to build stronger bridges with the US because you cannot be a business school for the world without having a link to the $15 trillion economy.”

Prof Jain also set out plans to broaden Insead’s reach, through partnerships that would allow its students to gain more access to business knowledge.

“Business schools will become more important because they will be providing management education to people who are not thinking of an MBA but who want the fundamentals of business,” he said.

He cited the example of PhD candidates studying life sciences taking a sabbatical to get an MBA. “Not every [PhD student] is looking to become a professor. Some of these people would like to become entrepreneurs; some would like to go and work for venture capital firms who invest in biotech firms,” he said.

Most US business schools are already embedded in universities, and European competitors including Oxford and Cambridge have strengthened links between university and business school faculties. Insead, a standalone business school, just launched a joint business and law qualification with the Sorbonne university.

Prof Jain said he wanted to turn some required classes such as statistics into online courses that would be taken before students arrived, freeing time for more critical thinking on campus. “If I can take [those] classes out, then I can create one on financial decision-making, one on marketing decision-making, one on ethical decision-making,” he said.

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