IMD’s MBA Recast On ‘Positive Change’

IMD of Switzerland also has a campus in Singapore

IMD is changing the focus of its 46-year-old MBA program.

Sean Meehan

The Swiss business school announced December 18 that, led by incoming program Dean Seán Meehan, the MBA program will increasingly focus on business leaders’ impact in society — a recalibration to engage tomorrow’s leaders with “global perspectives, digital transformation opportunities, and positive societal impact,” according to a school news release.

“As incoming program dean, I look forward to welcoming the class of 2018,” Meehan said in the school’s announcement, which noted that the IMD MBA will consist of 90 students from more than 40 countries, each averaging more than seven years’ global work experience — making it “arguably the most diverse MBA class in the world.” The new cohort will be undertaking “what we hope will be a transformative experience placing them at the center of a shared learning environment, comprising 9,000 senior executives,” continued Meehan, who will assume the deanship on January 1.

“Our whole community is dedicated to equipping them to face tomorrow’s challenges, ready and able to make a positive impact.”


Meehan also announced that IMD had awarded 34 scholarships to 38% of the incoming cohort.

IMD, based in Lausanne, Switzerland and Singapore, was named the No. 5 best international business school in the 2017 Bloomberg rankings this month, and the No. 1 school in the 2017 Financial Times ranking of open-enrollment executive education MBA programs. Forbes ranks IMD the top European MBA option for one-year programs, while Fortuna Admissions, a consulting firm comprised of admissions directors from the world’s top business schools, places IMD fourth — but notes the school “continues with its recovery from a rankings fall from grace in recent years.”

IMD’s newly recast MBA program is touting a Business and Society module it says is designed to enable participants to explore cases and meet “central actors” who can discuss these topics and provide best practices. The program boasts a 1:2 faculty-to-MBA ratio and offers what it calls “discovery expeditions” to innovation hubs such as Bangalore, India, Silicon Valley, California, and Singapore.


The move toward more responsible corporate behavior has been a growing theme in business education, and particularly in MBA programs, for several years now. B-schools are using egregious examples like Martin Shkreli — the “Pharma Bro” who became infamous for mercilessly pumping up the price of a lifesaving drug. Ten years ago, Shkreli — or other offenders like those responsible for the recent Wells Fargo scandal in which the mega-bank opened fake accounts and other products in customers’ names — might have escaped public ignominy. No longer.

Moreover, as mid-tier MBA programs struggle across the B-school landscape, schools have begun to promote these programs as a home for those who might otherwise pursue degrees in public administration or other fields not naturally associated with finance and the making of money. This has diversified cohorts, and curricula have begun to reflect the students’ changing views.

“Business plays an increasingly important role in society,” IMD’s Sean Meehan says. “It is essential for business leaders to know how to find ways of collaborating with other stakeholders, and need to learn to live with increased transparency.”


  • Class of 2016 grad

    I just cant understand the whole negativity around IMD! sure Ralf Boscheck former dean was good at pissing off the journalists and careers services at IMD isnt good but the opportunities are tremendous at IMD. Classes were amazing school was designed for education in mind, every aspect of our lives was considered! We had great time and are all very very close! I assume any MBA candidate is good enough to netwrok and find his/her way and in reality what you need good alumni network and reputation! ( IMD has probably the best alumni networks people go beyond and I mean beyond their way to help out) I was one of the people who was openly critical of the school during the year. However, while my friends at INSEAD and LBS are still looking for jobs I have changed 3 jobs every day I have new exciting offers and at my current job a year after graduation I am pulling 40% over HBS grads ( Hint: I am not a 7 am to 2 am consultant) Out of my class the only people who didnt work after MBA were the ones who did not want or need to work. So If I am to rank IMD id quote Ralf it is like comparing Apples to refrigerators.

  • GrouponCollector

    The careers office needs a re-organization. To be fair, executive education is IMD’s core business. Full time MBA is just a sideline. It is true that LBS and Insead have grown more with new degree programs, dual degrees with partners and campuses for executive educations in Dubai and Singapore.

  • Sam AB

    Interesting the amount of hate IMD gets here – seems like a lot of bitter people for some reason 🙂

    IMD is very strong player in Europe and globally. Check the quality of professors and alumni on LinkedIn and that will tell you half the story. The MBA program is one of the (if not the most) intense in the world, and the program structure is simply exciting. For the first 3 months, you’re working with European startups that have been funded and are successful, helping them go to the next level. In June, you travel to Singapore, India and California to visit tech hubs and network with the best start-ups in the world. In Q3 and Q4, students travel for 6 weeks to work on an international consulting project that global companies pay a lot of money for to get IMD’s student support on. Some companies are that prominent that they have non-disclosures with the students to make sure that projects are kept confidential.

    As for recruiting, BCG and McK are gold partners on campus and recruit actively. Bain recruited this year as well. Amazon puts out many offers as well (double digits for a class of 90). There is absolutely no truth to many of the childish comments here by people who always seem to have an interesting agenda against IMD.

    As for those who love to jump on the acceptance rate of IMD and how it’s lower than other schools, their rate was about 35% this year. What’s INSEADs? About the same. They don’t actually report it, but many MBA admissions websites put it at around the 30-35% mark). That’s with IMD having their “Assess your chances” option before applying where you actually get detailed candid feedback from the admissions office on your “fit” and whether you should go ahead and apply or not. Don’t underestimate this feature; many of us would choose this option before submitting an application to make sure we are a decent fit, and avoid paying upwards of $300 for an application that is not competitive. This filters out a substantial number of applicants. Even if 30 applicants use this feature and decide against applying, the acceptance rate increases by 3%. Think about that for a second.

    And if you were invited to interview for IMD? You actually have to fly to Lausanne or Singapore for the interview, which is a full 8 hour day of cross-examination by staff, including case discussions and impromptu presentations in front of all other prospective students. If this is not something for you, that’s fine and some people may choose not to apply because of this (and the travel charges that you incur!). But the simple fact is this is probably the most stringent evaluation in the MBA world right now, and has been for quite some time.

    Many great MBA program options in Europe and elsewhere, and its increasingly more about the fit than anything else. If you think the education you’re getting or the alumni network is not consistently strong across the top schools, you’re delusional. For prospective students, do your research on the schools your’e interested in, connect with Alumni, and you will be able to make a better decision.

    Cheers 🙂
    A prospective MBA student

  • rechercher la gloire

    The MBA program is overpriced for its education and career services. It lost its competitive edge, but it uses buzzwords to create some appeal. IMD needs to do more to turn around, otherwise it rests on its past laurels.

  • John Smoe

    As a 2017 graduate I can clear up some of the misconceptions… Most of the MBA professors are also the professors of the executive programs which, as Yan pointed out, are the best. Secondly I’d point out that the next deans, Sean and Knut, are very intelligent and strategic. Sean has previously led the program and was extremely successful in doing so. Knut was one of the top people at BCG and, having worked with him, I know he will have a lot to add at IMD. I was not part of their curriculum but I’m confident it will be very strong. IMD is the top in many things, including the Forbes ranking and the 5 year MBA financial gain. For everything that I got as an IMD MBA the tuition seemed really low. Prior to the transition from Ralf to Sean and Knut there was no recent staff turnover or rebuilding… Not sure where this came from. Everyone missed the St Gallen MBA surge as it never happened. I’d be happy to discuss the qualities of the IMD MBA with any prospective students. Attending the program was one of the best decisions of my life. My fellow students were really incredible and the learnings I had far surpassed my expectations. There are lots of great programs across the world but IMD truly offers something unique and life changing.

  • IMD-Insider

    Alternative to IMD in europe and better, there is: Cambridge, HEC and IE, all tend to accept slightly older applicants, avg age: 30, 29, 29 respectively. All strong in technology and digital business, IMD just made “digital” a word in its program, very late.. In US, you will have strong and better alternative with Kellogg 1Y & Cornell one Year MBA, both far better and strong in brand, career and culture. In switzerland, IMD missed the surge of St Gallen MBA, it is a name of prestige in the swiss world, it is quite strong in banking and corporate europe. After all, a program with just 269 applicants is hardly near elite or prestigious… It was , yes, but now, no..unfortunately.. the late director was the stick that broke the camel’s back with his weird attitude and “rude” behavior..

  • Juicy Lucy

    Positive Change and Transparency sound empty phrases to me. IMD dropped the ball with its MBA. I don’t see any real major improvements in the program. Prospective applicants may consider other better alternatives in the US or Europe.

  • yan

    True. For executive education, IMD is one of the best, if not the best, BUT for degree programs, it is not. Many recruiters nowadays prefer taking MBA grads from M7 schools + INSEAD and LBS, then after 5 or 10 years give them “educational vacations” in lausanne in IMD.

  • Malvern

    It is only top at charging prohibitive tuition for its MBA while losing influence in business education.

  • Conscientious Objector

    The untenured professors at IMD don’t leave because the MBA rankings falter. They typically leave because they are asked to leave, and they are asked to leave because they don’t perform well perform in the school’s executive classrooms, the focus of IMD. Check out the Executive Education rankings – IMD executive programs rock.

  • Hexagon

    IMD’s new sales pitch sounds flat & recycled from the previous administration. Compared to other peers, IMD plays catch up and has nothing new to offer in its syllabus. The rebuilding after staff turnover has not yielded strong results while LBS and Insead are surging ahead with international expansions.

  • John Smoe

    I just graduated from the IMD MBA and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I was accepted to a number of top programs and selected IMD. I had one of the most rewarding years of my life at IMD and I had the chance to study with some of the most accomplished people I have ever met. I learned as much out of the classroom as I did in the classroom. I had 4 offers from top tier firms prior to graduating and my classmates landed incredible positions all over the world. The professors and staff are incredible, especially the departing program director. Joining IMD and studying under Ralf was one of the best decisions of my life.

  • John Smoe

    Yeah everyone just disregard this comment as it is entirely false. Just graduated from the IMD MBA and I can assure you this is absolute nonsense. I was accepted to a number of top programs and selected IMD. I had one of the most rewarding years of my life at IMD and I had the chance to study with some of the most accomplished people I have ever met. I learned as much out of the classroom as I did in the classroom. I had 4 offers from top tier firms prior to graduating and my classmates landed incredible positions all over the world. The professors and staff are incredible, especially the departing program director. Joining IMD and studying under Ralf was one of the best decisions of my life.

    Yan, I will not detail your history and motives and I will not name the school that employs you out of respect for everyone else that works there but there is one clear top school in Switzerland and that is IMD.

  • yan

    It is very hard to bring the IMD MBA back after the severe damage caused by the former program director. in a course of 4 years, the number of applications went down from 600 to 200, many prominent professors left the school, many great staff left, ranking down every year.. grads struggle in the job market.. many companies are no longer come to campus..

  • Interested Observer

    IMD’s learning environment is certainly great. It is also not that which is depicted in the photo. BTW – more like nestled on the shores of Lac Leman (Geneva), not the Swiss mountains. Too hasty P&Q…

  • MBAObserver

    I was reading elsewhere that there would be two deans, Sean and Knut Haanaes. Just looked up Knut and he is the former Global Head of BCG‘s Strategy Consulting Practice. Maybe something to add to the article