One of the things you mentioned in your interview with Poets&Quants in 2014 was putting a significant emphasis on fundraising. Can you give us some updates on how that is going?
It’s going very, very well. This data is in the reports, so it’s publicly available, but the new one we are still preparing. If you look at fundraising about five years ago, we raised €4.7 million. But it’s been increasing and the last academic year that we just finished, our objective was to raise €16.5 million. And we ended up with close to €24 million. So we exceeded the target by more than 45%. I think that’s where the school can be, and even higher. Most of the money we raise is for scholarships. We also raise money for research. We raise money for career services. The career development center was funded by donations from alumni because they understand this. So it is still a priority. Because, for me, fundraising is about investing in the future of the school — building a better school, ensuring the quality of the students. And that’s certainly working well.
We’re still not where we want to be in terms of scholarships. We want to go more than double the amount we currently give for scholarships. It’s a very important objective. But things have changed dramatically.
In that interview you also mentioned INSEAD being the most complicated business school in the world and a logistical nightmare moving students across two or three campuses in a year. Do you still feel that way?
It is still the most complicated. I said it today at the reunion. Because we are the biggest MBA program in terms of number of students that we put on the market every year. On campus some U.S. schools have more students, but what really matters is how many students you have to help in finding jobs and it’s quite significant. Still, 75% move between campuses. And now we introduced another complication by offering a period in Abu Dhabi. But at the same time, I think that it is worth doing this. This complication is not for its own sake. I think the students that do move between campuses see firsthand the different environment’s globalization. And some of them go to Wharton. So it’s Fontainebleau, Singapore, and Wharton with the Wharton exchange.
I don’t know if I said this in the previous interview, but I think that if we had not gone to Singapore, INSEAD would not be where it is today.
Why do you think that?
Because I think that today we offer a unique opportunity for people who want to think about the world and to experience the two campuses. And we have developed expertise on Asia and Asian companies that otherwise, I don’t think would have developed. It’s very difficult to build cases on China or India or Singapore or Indonesia by sitting in Fontainebleau. You can do it, but it’s not as insightful as when you’re there. Even when you read the newspaper, you see all of the news coming in and you can integrate it into the teaching. I think our students get information about Asia and Europe more than anybody else among the top schools, just because they are in this environment. Of course you teach a lot of other things like globalization and the U.S. and so on, but it’s the environment. We have speakers, forums, field trips, that help them understand the culture and the way people do business in these countries.
What are some of the most important differences between campuses?
Let me first start with Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is still in the process of development. We are going to possibly build a new campus in Abu Dhabi. Right now we only have our executive MBA there, which works quite well. And we have executive education. Only one of the MBA classes can go there for two months. We want to develop this going forward with getting more periods in Abu Dhabi. So it’s a very different campus compared to Fontainebleau and Singapore.
In terms of culture among the students, I think there is no difference between Singapore and Fontainebleau. The composition of the class is the same. It’s true, we have about 200 in Singapore and 300 in Fontainebleau, but the mix of nationalities is very similar. Of course Singapore is an urban campus, so it’s slightly different and people are in the city. Here there is a potential in getting closer to each other because everybody is in Fontainebleau and there is not much else there unless they decide to go to Paris. It’s a very good environment for studying for one year.
So I think there are slight differences because of this, but at the same time, in terms of culture, students move seamlessly between the two campuses. I have not seen any problems or people from Fontainebleau or Singapore behaving differently.
How do you think applicants from the U.S. view INSEAD and what would you change about that, if anything?
That’s a very interesting question because in the last few years, we have seen a rapid increase in the number of applications from the U.S. In fact, today, the biggest group on campus are Americans — 9% of the new class that we just admitted. In the past five years it has been Indians and Americans as the largest groups, but still a minority like everybody else.
We see now a big increase in applications. I think the number-one ranking has helped people become aware. But I still think it is difficult for some applicants to see the benefit of INSEAD compared to other schools. And there is still skepticism to the one-year program. Academically, there is almost no difference. Because in the U.S., two years is four semesters of three and a half months — so 14 months. And very often you have a day free during the week for career and job search and networking. So basically you have 20% less, so it’s about 11 months of academic work. And at INSEAD, the 10 months are including classes on Saturday. So from an academic point of view, in terms of what you get in the classroom, you get the same thing that you get at other schools. Now, I think that more and more applicants see the one-year MBA as a viable and strong product. I think it was the GMAT data that said more people applied for one-year programs.
Specifically, from the U.S., we obviously have several things that work against us. The first one is the language requirement. On entry, you need two languages spoken and written at a high level. And on exit, you need a third language. Many students come with three languages already but there are also others that do not. In Europe, most people do have these languages. The education system is different where almost everybody starts with a second language in middle school and a third language by the time you go to university.
The other thing is that the U.S. has a lot of other great schools, so there are other opportunities. Many applicants are considering the U.S. schools. And the value of INSEAD, we sometimes don’t communicate properly enough. For us, we think that if somebody is looking for having a career in a global economy, working with teams that are very diverse, then INSEAD has a lot to offer — more than most of the U.S. schools. We have today 86 nationalities on campus. We create teams of people that sometimes are from countries that are at war with each other. Because we want to make sure that during this year they learn how to interact in teams with somebody that you may not like. But you still have to work on that team. So we’re trying to develop them as managers or leaders or entrepreneurs with a global perspective. Again, the two-year schools are excellent of course, but still, most people look for jobs in the U.S. Most people end up with jobs in the U.S. It’s still the biggest economy. But it’s just a different position, competitively. We just have to make our story heard, and if somebody wants to have a global perspective, then hopefully they apply to INSEAD.