An Interview With INSEAD Dean Ilian Mihov

INSEADpixWho do you consider INSEAD’s peer schools?

For faculty, we compete with all top brand schools, the top seven like Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, and MIT. We compete with London Business School, of course. On the faculty side, this is more or less our competition. On the student side, we compete with schools that also focus more on international. As you know, at INSEAD we have many people who just apply to INSEAD and we have this requirement for languages that is relatively restrictive. But we compete with the top schools, with five or six of the top ten.

A large number of applications are coming from people who basically don’t want to go anywhere else. One reason is the one-year MBA program. Many of our students say they can’t afford to be out of work for more than one year. And the other reason is they want to be in a global environment. They see their careers in Europe and Asia. This restricts choice significantly.

Would you ever consider eliminating the language requirement for applicants?

I want to think we would keep the language requirement. We started it in the 1950s with a noble goal: to keep peace and stability. Instead of fighting the Germans, French and Brits, the founders of INSEAD thought we should be doing business together. At first, we had a three- language requirement. Over time, we have relaxed this requirement and all the teaching is in English and we require students to have a second language coming to INSEAD and be at an efficient level with a third language by graduation. Most people come with three or four languages, anyway.

You’re in a curriculum review of the MBA program. How come?

Our last review of the MBA program was in 2002. We are a very market-based institution which means the courses have changed a significant amount. Today,  25% of all our courses are in entrepreneurship and all are electives. That was not the case ten years ago when we had two or three courses. About 50% of our alumni start a company at some point in time.

The reason that we still get a lot of entrepreneurs to apply is I really think that entrepreneurship has become a global activity in many ways. Out of the total MBA graduates who completed the INSEAD MBA program in July and December of 2012, 793 (87%) gave us details about their career decision. Out of the 793 (41) or 5% started their own companies straight out of INSEAD. The number tends to grow over time and anecdotal evidence shows that between 30% to 50% have had a stake in an entrepreneurial venture from five years out.

Who should apply to INSEAD?

You have to be looking for high quality delivery and teaching but also you should really want to do something in the global economy. No other school in the world is as global as INSEAD. I don’t want to brag about this thing, but I went on the website of The Financial Times and saw an interview there with Tom Robertson, the dean of Wharton. He was asked, ‘What is the big problem at Wharton?’ He said, ‘The biggest issue for us is internationalization. We still cannot crack this nut.’ INSEAD is number one in this.  If you try to think who is number two or three, there is nobody. There are other schools that have very diverse students and good programs. But with our dual campuses and integrated program between Singapore and Fontainebleau, INSEAD is unique.