For the first time in more than a dozen years, INSEAD turned to its inside ranks to name an economics professor based the new dean of one of Europe’s top business schools. Ilian Mihov, who has taught at INSEAD since 1996 but has scant administrative experience, had been one of two interim deans since March when Dean Dipak Jain resigned the job due to health reasons.
Mihov, who is based in Singapore, won the job over Peter Zemsky, a strategy professor on INSEAD’s home campus in Fontainebleau, France, just outside Paris. As deputy dean since 2011, Zemsky has been leading the school’s MBA, EMBA and specialized degree programs. Previously, he served as the dean of faculty and before that as the head of the strategy area.
The school said that the new dean will be the first to carry out his duties in Singapore, a change which signals that the center of gravity for the school is likely to shift from the more mature European market to the more growth market in Asia. INSEAD is planning a vast expansion of its Singapore campus that will make Singapore, now much smaller than Fontainebleau, nearly equal in size by the end of this decade. That shift has already begun over the past couple of years. This year, INSEAD boasted 59 professors in Singapore, up from 55 during the 2012-2013 academic year, while it had 81 in Europe, down from 84.
HAS INSEAD GIVEN UP THE FIGHT TO BE EUROPE’S BEST BUSINESS SCHOOL?
Having the school’s leadership based in Singapore comes after the school has consistently fallen behind London Business School in various rankings. In its composite list of the five most influential MBA rankings, Poets&Quants currently ranks London as the best business school outside the U.S., with INSEAD in second place. This year’s Financial Times’ global MBA ranking, which tends to favor non-U.S. schools, has London in fourth place behind only Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton.
INSEAD is sixth, just after Columbia Business School. On three occasions, the FT has ranked London first in the world (in 2009, 2010, and 2011). INSEAD has never won that distinction and has never been ranked above fourth place by the Financial Times. The shift to Singapore suggests that INSEAD may be giving up the fight to be recognized as the best school in Europe, preferring to claim that distinction in Asia where there is significantly more growth ahead for business education. Years ago, INSEAD was commonly believed to be the best business school in Europe but year after year the Financial Times’ rankings have consistently eroded that perception.
The school attempted to downplay the change in its news release on the leadership change. Immediately after acknowledging that Milhov will be based in Singapore, the school emphasized that its new dean will do “frequent travel around the world to engage the entire global INSEAD community.” The school also asserted that its “presence in Europe will remain strong thanks to an appointed Deputy Dean and full academic and administrative team which will be anchored on the Europe campus in France, the home of the 53-year old independent business school.”
WANTED TO SIGNAL THAT SINGAPORE IS NOT LONGER A SATELLITE CAMPUS
A Bulgarian-born academic educated in the U.S., Milhov told The Financial Times that the decision to stay in Singapore will help to diminish the notion that there is a headquarters in France and a satellite campus in Singapore. “The biggest significance is that we really wanted to signal this,” said Milhov. “We also want to explore the expansion in Singapore.” The British newspaper also attributed the move to Singapore to “the more punitive tax system under France’s socialist government, the more generous living allowances available to INSEAD professors in Singapore and the greater choice of English language schooling there for professors’ families.”