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Alternative strategies for business schools and universities

Not all business schools and universities teach the MBA degree the same way. Apart from different specialisations, funding models and programme lengths, schools also follow quite opposing strategies when it comes to one of the most sought after economic degrees.


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Santiago Iniguez, dean of the Spanish IE Business School, sums this up in an article for job network LinkedIn: “We talk of business schools in broad terms as if they are globally homogenous. This is what critics of business schools often do. In fact, business schools differ widely across the globe in terms of mission, programme portfolio, legal status and economic models.”

Iniguez distinguishes between professional networks (like the Grandes Ècoles in France, belonging to the Chambers of Commerce), and independent schools, like Insead. He also points to schools that belong to wider universities, like most business schools in the US, or the alternative option where schools are part of small, specialized universities, like the polytechnics of Milan or Zurich in Europe. There are also large, public options, like Arizona State University in the US or Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, as well as the opposite one like Dartmouth College and Brown in the US, Cheung Kong Business School in China or Sabanci University Business School in Turkey.

According to Iniguez business schools may be classified generically into two types: Vertically-integrated business schools and focused business schools.

Their strategies differ in the way that vertically integrated, or full-service business schools offer every segment of management education, from undergraduate programmes to executive education. Iniguez names Wharton in the US, Oxford’s Said Business School and Rotterdam, IE Business School or HEC-Paris in Europe as examples. “Schools that adopt these kinds of strategy may build up a teaching staff made up of a wide range of academics, typically leaders in their field, and whose responsibilities include undertaking research and teaching”, the IE dean states.

Focused business schools have a different approach: They concentrate on a particular topic and strive to become the global leader in their field of expertise. The Spanish dean cites the Swiss based business school IMD as an example, where the focus is on Executive Education. Former IMD president Peter Lorange, has once elaborated on their choice of strategy in a 2005 article on Deans’ Talk. “With its own approach to learning, IMD is perhaps unlike other business schools. While we are fully aware that our nonconformist model will not necessarily work for all executives or all companies, all the time, I do think it illustrates the need for all business schools ­– including IMD – to continuously pose this general question: ‘Who are our customers and how can we serve them best?" Even if the answer means saying no sometimes or making tough choices that break with traditions. Strategy means choice indeed and this may be more true today than ever!’”

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Two alternative strategies for Business Schools and Universities

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