Can INSEAD Really Be Global Without a U.S. Campus?

How can any educational institution lay claim to being “the business school for the world” when it lacks a real presence in the U.S., the world’s largest single economy?

It’s a good question for the new dean at INSEAD, which proudly claims to be the quintessential global business school, yet is headquartered in Fontainebleau, France, on the outskirts of Paris. After all, of all the world’s industrialized countries, France is the nation where the hurly-burly of market capitalism has long been viewed with both suspicion and contempt. And while the prestigious school boasts campuses in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, it still lacks a physical campus in the Americas.

Dipak Jain, who became dean in March, doesn’t blink at the question. He insists that a physical presence in the U.S., or any specific market for that matter, isn’t a necessary condition to be a global business school.

“You don’t have to be in every economy,” insists Jain. “Harvard is a global business school, (but) Harvard is not in every country. Global means that you attract students from all over the world. Global means that your curriculum is international. Global doesn’t mean that you have to have a campus in every part of the world.”

To Jain, it’s mindset and diversity that counts. At INSEAD, he points out, the faculty is from 36 countries; MBA students in any typical class are from 70 nations. With campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, and a research center in Israel, INSEAD spans three continents. The largest single proportion of this year’s incoming class of MBAs is from India; the second largest from the U.S.

“”Overall I see people being more global in their views and thought process,” says Jain, who had been dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “My colleagues at INSEAD are mostly trained in the U.S. anyway because the U.S. is the biggest source of PhD supply. But our diversity is greater. For example, we are going to do an executive program for a big bank in Russia and at INSEAD we have enough people of Russian origin who can teach the whole program in Russian. That could not have happened at Kellogg.”

Yet in a wide-ranging interview with Poets&Quants, Jain says he plans on offering an MBA program in the U.S. either at a standalone campus or through INSEAD’s alliance with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “We are not sure whether we would do it alone or with someone,” says Jain. “But definitely we want to increase our presence in the U.S.”

When Jain stepped down as Kellogg dean in August of 2009, little did he realize that he would be back at the helm of another leading business school in just over a year. Three months into his new job as dean of INSEAD, ranked second by Poets&Quants among non-U.S. schools, it’s déjà vu all over again for Jain who is trying to learn the ins and outs of a new institution.

But this time around the job is perhaps a wee bit more complex than before. “Back then when I took over the reins at Kellogg, the big challenge for me was to learn how to do a completely new job,” says Jain from Fontainebleau.

When Jain took over the reins from his predecessor Don Jacobs at Kellogg in September 2001, he had big shoes to fill and formidable challenges ahead. For one, he became dean on Sept. 11, just as terrorists attacked the U.S. Anticipating a tough job market, he started reaching out to Kellogg alumni and prospective recruiters, asking them for help in placing the new graduates. This move was harshly criticized in the media, particularly by CNN anchorman Lou Dobbs who said that “business school deans are begging for jobs.” The move paid off, however, and Kellogg grads managed to find jobs despite an economy that fell into the tank.