Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class Of 2018

Some of the MBA students in INSEAD’s Class of 2018

The world is contracting. Riven with fear, frustration, and fury, many have retreated to their safe corners – content to mythologize an old world that never really was. INSEAD was founded in response to a similar era of red-faced populism, when taunts fueled tyranny and age-old animus was twisted into a final solution. From the ruins of chastened Europe, INSEAD laid out a distinct vision. Here, engagement replaces detachment and hard-won teamwork is celebrated over rugged individualism.

“The recent rise of isolationism runs against the core values of our school,” explains Ilian Mihov in a 2017 interview with Poets&Quants. “INSEAD was founded to promote peace and prosperity in post-war Europe by bringing people together so that they can build businesses and work together. Today, our mission is to bring together people from all over the world.”


Mission accomplished. Just ask the Class of 2018. Shane Zhu, an economics journalist who comes to the incoming class from China, declares that “it’s impossible not to be international” at INSEAD. Indeed, such cultural collisions are the heart of the program – and its biggest attraction to the incoming class.

“It all summed up to diversity,” says Alda Kule Dale, a native of the Congo who worked in private equity. “I wanted a school that would provide me with the ability to travel in a classroom. I wanted to learn from people whom I might, under normal circumstances, never have the opportunity to meet. I wanted to build a global network and get out of my comfort zone. I also wanted to not be the only odd one standing in an all-white male dominated environment—as was the case in my previous job. The INSEAD’s “all minority” culture simply resonated with me.”

The Financial Times ranks INSEAD’s full-time program first for two straight years

For many, this diversity involves more than just being exposed to different nationalities. By extension, it is diversity of thought, a means to explore the how’s and why’s of international business more deeply. This opens students up to new ideas and approaches that they can apply throughout their international business careers, says Bavaria’s Kristin Karlisch.

“Working with a variety of different people broadens views, brings new perspectives, and creates a different approach to problems,” she points out. “That does not only concern cultural variety, but also all sorts of different educational and professional backgrounds. Through each discussion with people adapted to a different way of thinking, communication and business, I will learn a new way to look at a problem and to approach it, I will get a better understanding of the other person and will therewith be better to predict the other person and increase my ability to act instead of having to react on things I have not been able to anticipate.”


 INSEAD’s main campus is carved out of a national forest just 30 minutes from Paris. The setting is almost symbolic – a place for students to stand back from the clutter and absorb the big picture – separating the forest from the trees, so to speak. It is here where you’ll find some of the most passionate, bold, and interesting business students in the world

Take Zhu. He dubs himself the “first Asian man to stand on the wings of a biplane in order to demonstrate wing walking in an aerobatics flight.” Gijs Pelt considers his first real job to be a professional sailor on the Dutch national team. Want a cool hobby? Talk to Rouzbeh Shirgiri about the guitars he builds or Karlisch about the horses she rides and trains. If you decide to go head-to-head against Roni Semaan, just know you’ll have to pull out all the stops to beat him. “I once kept going in a TV-broadcasted national swimming competition after my swimsuit fell off just to finish 1st,” he recalls.

Their professional stories are even more impressive. Nourhan Farhat earned five promotions in her first four years at Roland Berger Middle East, becoming the youngest person to make senior consultant at the firm. In two years at Ritual Technologies, Arianna Lu turned a thousand users into 100,000 – along with establishing the firm’s brand identity. Mohamed Bassiouny quadrupled the value of SolarizEgypt within a year of joining the solar energy company. At the same time, Shirgiri spearheaded an effort to open Iran’s first bio-ethanol plant, which will soon produce 200,000 daily tons of cleaner fuel.

Sometimes, the class even achieved feats that earned recognition at the very highest levels. Zhu earned that when he accompanied China’s 31st Antarctic Expedition, which explored the highest elevation of the continent. “I was working in blistering cold temperatures of -40℃, eating frozen food with no vegetables, and not showering for 55 days,” he shares. “In honor of my multimedia reporting of Antarctic Expedition (60-minute TV news reports, 36-minute documentary video, and 13 social media columns) which set records in length and diversity from 30 years of Antarctic reporting, I had an audience with President Xi Jinping of China.”



By the numbers, the fall class is comparable to the previous year’s autumn intake, though numbers rose in several key measures. Notably, GMAT averages climbed for the 500+ student cohort, going from 708 to 712. This places the class four points higher than the London Business School – and 26 points above HEC Paris. By the same token, this average still lags behind the top full-time American programs, falling closest to the University of Virginia’s Darden School at 713.

INSEAD also made strides in terms of the percentage of women in the class. 34% of the fall intake is comprised of women, up four points from the previous year. Progress, yes – but this performance still trails behind the London Business School at 39%. The school also slipped in terms of an international population, going from 93% to 89.4% between the fall classes. True to tradition, the class’ average age is 29 – nearly two years older than the average MBA (and ranking behind just HEC Paris as the oldest cohort). Consider this a hidden benefit of the program, with the extra work experience making classroom discussion all the more rich and relevant.

Despite these changes, the class compositions remains almost identical to the previous year. Business and Administration majors occupy the largest number of fall seats at 34%, up three points from the previous year. That difference was made up by law and political science degree-holders, whose representation dropped by the same amount. Majors in engineering (27%), economics (11%), sciences (8%), and arts and humanities (6%) round out the class. In terms of professional experience, the all-encompassing “corporate” role accounts for the largest bloc of the Class of 2018 at 40%. Consulting and finance take up 28% and 21% respectively.


The Class of 2018 is arriving at Fontainebleau and Singapore to a revamped MBA curriculum described by Virginie Fougea, the MBA Recruitment and Admissions Director, as “more rigorous.” Notably, the curriculum stresses analytical skills and the impact of political forces on business to a greater degree. What’s more, adds Fougea, the curriculum reinforces the program’s growing investment in career development.

“Highlights of the new curriculum include a personalised learning journey called the Personal Leadership Development Programme (PLDP) aimed to guide students to develop self-awareness, interpersonal skills, and communication effectiveness through professional and peer coaching. There are also content innovations within the core courses and electives aim to enable our students with the relevant tools and knowledge to understand and appreciate the complexity of the interactions between business and the society.”

Go to page 2 to see in-depth profiles of incoming INSEAD MBA students.

  • Sidharth Arya


  • SRpr

    Actually, close to 100% of INSEAD MBB students are sponsored, which is the same with all top US schools. On another note, whilst the prestige of a school may be debatable, the INSEAD network in Europe is much better than all US schools apart from HBS.

  • Karlus

    slightly disagree. You have said: “If you talk to HR of an european industrial group they will have no idea what Booth or Kellogg are but will have a great opinion of INSEAD and LBS”, The true sentence should look like: “If you talk to HR of an european industrial group they will have no idea what Booth or Kellogg are but will have a great opinion of IMD”, for consulting, it is INSEAD, for Banking it is LBS, unless you are german, then the banking career start from St Gallen.

    It is true and completely agree that prestige is mostly associated with the mother university brand, so, worldwide, it is Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. In particular, Harvard and MIT, they are very well known to almost everyone, and hold the prestige that hard to match anywhere in the world.

  • Morning

    Being European I nearly agree with Max, it is HS (not HSW) and then INSEAD. The truth is that only in consulting and finance are the M7 schools known in Europe. If you talk to HR of an european industrial group they will have no idea what Booth or Kellogg are but will have a great opinion of INSEAD and LBS.
    If anything they will evaluate the quality of your US MBA based on the prestige of the institution it is attached to, hence you are better of going to Harvard, Stanford or MIT which are known internationally rather than Northwestern, Dartmouth or Duke.
    This being said all these schools are great so these debates are rather pointless. The careers MBA graduates aspire to have in common to be highly competitive with progression based on performance and not on your diploma…

  • MBAObserver

    Great class Insead. Really diverse and accomplished. Good luck all with your MBA next year.

  • yalin

    Wharton, Columbia, MIT, Kellogg, and Chicago, all are way ahead of INSEAD and LBS in every single measure.

  • MBA-Expert

    Practically, all the top 30 business schools offer a good and quality education. The differentiation is largely on the soft factors such as: prestige and networking. It is hard to think of INSEAD as more prestigious than Chicago, Columbia or MIT! Yes, it is an apparent that if you are sponsored and want it fast, then 10 month program may be better. This is the good option at INSEAD and MBB benefit from it, they get discount on fees, short time for the sponsored analysts, so it is more profitable on the short term than the two year MBA. Keep in mind that almost 60% of INSEAD students coming from MBB are sponsored.

  • Nadrin

    What about Wharton in your experience? Also do you every see MBB people not making it into INSEAD or is everyone “shoe in”?

  • Max

    I am just observing where the people from our MBB office (in Europe) are going. You try to get into H&S. If that does not work out, you go to INSEAD or maybe another M7. After H&S, nobody really cares where you went.

  • MBA-Expert

    There are two type of europeans: those who disregard “american” things, for them, Master in Management from St Gallen, or HEC is more prestigious than all “american” MBAs.
    and those who really know MBA well and like it, for them, it is M7 and then INSEAD & LBS, with great debate on Duke, NYU, Haas, Tuck, Darden, Michigan, UCLA, are they better than INSEAD & LBS or not.
    Simply put: there is no peer in the world for the M7 schools.

  • Max

    For Europeans it is rather:
    HSW and then INSEAD

  • MBA-Expert

    M7 and then INSEAD & LBS.

  • Arash

    @john and @hbsguru
    I would be really curious to hear your honest opinions on how INSEAD compares to top 5 US MBA programs. In tearms of program quality, prestige, exit opportunies etc.

  • Battersby

    With all due respect, I attended a top U.S. program, and had several professors who went to INSEAD. I can say, without a doubt, that they are some of the most brilliant business minds in the world, U.S. included.

  • yawn..

    Good program for Europe but it’s not seriously trying to compete with the top US programs.. Just look at the overall class quality and stats and it’s easy to see why