Globalization In Retreat? Not For B-Schools

SDA Bocconi School of Management, based in Milan, Italy, is collaborating with Rotman School of Management, based at the University of Toronto in Canada, to create a dual-degree offering that will give participants an MBA from the Rotman School and a Global Executive MBA from SDA Bocconi. SDA Bocconi photo

Globalization is in retreat. Protectionism is gaining ground. Right? Wrong, if business schools have anything to say about it.

B-schools are bastions of free trade, the free exchange of ideas, and internationalism, and they inject this philosophy directly into the bloodstream of businesses all over the world. And despite the heated rhetoric from certain corners of the political arena, if B-schools are an accurate barometer, globalization shows no signs of slowing. 

Sean Meehan, dean of the MBA program at Swiss business school IMD, summarized the landscape succinctly during a panel discussion at the Centre Court conference for prospective MBAs in London earlier this year: “The future direction of the global economy won’t be dictated by a 70-year-old man in the White House. It will be dictated by the people in this room.”


If anything, business schools are doubling down on globalization. Berlin’s ESMT business school is one example of many. ESMT just announced the launch of a double-degree program with Yale School of Management; students who enroll in the one-year MSc in Management at ESMT will be able to continue their studies at Yale for a second year and receive a Master of Management Studies. SDA Bocconi School of Management, based in Milan, Italy, and Rotman School of Management, based at the University of Toronto in Canada, recently revealed that they, too, are creating a dual-degree offering, an 18-month GEMBA program starting in October 2019 that will give participants an MBA from the Rotman School and a Global Executive MBA from SDA Bocconi.

Brian Golden, vice dean of MBA programs at Rotman. U-Toronto photo

All elite business schools offer their MBA students trips to places like Silicon Valley or Shanghai, and they often have associations with other schools where students can study for a semester. Several loose groupings of business schools also exist. The Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) is an alliance of 30 B-schools that collaborate in various ways. CEMS, the Global Alliance in Management Education, is another consortium of 30 business schools and dozens of corporate and social partners; it offers a Master in Management degree.

In recent years many top-class business schools have begun to formalize their connections with degree programs taken at various sites or which offer dual degrees. Madrid’s IE runs a dual-degree international MBA and Master of Advanced Management with Yale, as well as a dual-degree program with MIT’s outposts in Zaragoza and Malaysia that gives graduates an International MBA and a Master of Supply Chain Management. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management runs an EMBA jointly with the National University of Singapore. Paris’ INSEAD runs an EMBA with China’s Tsingtao University business school in Beijing. Several European schools run joint EMBAs with schools in the Americas (see below).

Why is this happening? Market demand. “When we look around the globe these days, we see countries erecting more walls or barriers around their economies and around their populations,” says Brian Golden, vice dean of MBA programs at Rotman. “Our students were telling us that that’s just no way to run a business. ‘We need skills to work across countries and across cultures.’”


Dual-school business qualifications offer value for money because they give graduates two degrees in the time it takes to do one MBA. There’s also the experiential appeal: European students often want to experience American campus life, and U.S. students get to live in a European city for a year. Those from farther afield get a taste of two different Western styles of business and living.

More practically, when applying for certain jobs it can help to have an Ivy League university or a top-class European school on your resume. Then there is the network effect. Students are exposed to faculty who might have different perspectives and new alumni networks, and they also get to meet recruiters in multiple markets and locations, which opens up opportunities.

Put it all together, and grads from cross-continental dual-degree programs get the benefits of having studied in several prestigious schools. “If you put on your CV that you have done a double-degree program, that signals to employers that you’re serious about your future because doing a double-degree is an additional challenge,” says Zoltan Antal-Mokos, ESMT’s dean of degree programs. “In a way, this may signal to your future employer that you’re committed to your own development.”


Students get another benefit from such programs: deep experience in very different business cultures. Students on the Kellogg-Otto Beisheim joint EMBA get to experience Germany’s center of telecommunications and media as well as an American hotbed of financial services and manufacturing. Studying in Berlin and Yale gives them access to one of Europe’s coolest start-up scenes and entry to blue-chip America. Rotman is embedded in the AI hub of Toronto, while Bocconi is connected with the Italian luxury-goods sector and southern Europe’s banking center. Bottom line: Everywhere you look, employers committed to globalization like people who have experienced more than one place.

Who are these multi-country programs for? A typical student is a leader who is driving a firm’s globalization, whether that is a global company working toward having a total global footprint, a business which is starting that journey, or one that wants to expose its future leaders to globalization strategies, says Ferdinando Pennarola, director of SDA Bocconi’s GEMBA.

“There is a lot of partial globalization,” Pennarola says. “Thousands of companies have a wider exposure in some areas. Some business models work well in old Europe, but not in emerging economies. A lot of companies need to know how to expand their global footprint.” And GEMBA students can help with that.

Employees with a multi-country educational experience are gold-dust to businesses that are committed to globalization. And globalization is, after all, a fact of life. “Walls don’t work in 2018,” says Rotman’s Brian Golding. And they won’t in the future, no matter the rhetoric from certain politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.



A triple-school EMBA run by London School of Economics (UK), HEC (Paris, France) and NYU Stern (New York). The 18-month program was ranked #2 EMBA in The Financial Times’ global rankings in 2018.

Bocconi (Milan, Italy)-Rotman (Toronto, Canada)

Bocconi School of Management has been running a GEMBA for a decade, but from 2019 will run a dual-campus one with Rotman. Participants also get the chance to visit Mumbai and Shanghai.

ESADE (Barcelona, Spain) and Georgetown (Washington, USA)

A small but highly ranked GEMBA – it was ninth on the QS Joint Program EMBA ranking in 2018. The next course starts in 2020.

Columbia (New York) and London Business School (UK)

The EMBA-Global Americas & Europe gives graduates an MBA from both Columbia and London Business School. LBS runs a similar course called EMBA Global Asia with Hong Kong University. Both last 18 months.

Kellogg (Chicago, US) WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management (Vallendar, Germany)

A joint EMBA that has been running for 20 years, where the cohort has a strong German contingent – around 30% of participants are German, and the same number are from other European countries. The course runs for 21 months, but involves just 53 days out of the office.


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