INSEAD Delays Start Of MBA Classes Due To COVID-19

INSEAD announced today (May 15) that it will push back the start date for its next incoming class of MBAs by more than a month to October 5 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement comes after the French government said it would permit on-site teaching from Sept. 1.

“We believe an October start date will provide plenty of time for arrival, quarantine, and settling in before commencing Launch Week in late September, wrote Urs Peyer, dean of degree programs, in an email. The school had planned to start its MBA program on August 21. To accommodate the delayed opening, the school is reducing its core curriculum and extending the final period of the program into July so MBAs can take more electives then. INSEAD said it is waiting for word from the government in Singapore before resuming classes on its campus there.

Caroline Diarte-Edwards, a former director of INSEAD admissions and a co-founder of Fortuna Admissions, told Poets&Quants that she thinks it is likely that INSEAD is in a better position to deliver an on-campus experience than many other schools in the U.S. “As the pandemic has been more effectively managed in France and Singapore than in the U.S.,” she says, “it seems possible that INSEAD will be able to deliver more in-person instruction than many of the U.S. schools in the fall.”


Urs Peyer, dean of degree programs at INSEAD

INSEAD, which has two MBA intakes a year in January and August/September, was among the very first schools to be impacted by the coronavirus when Dean Ilian Mihov tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized in Singapore on March 15. It is believed that he caught the virus while in France at the school’s Fontainebleu campus. Mihov has since recovered.

“More than ever the world is at a crossroads in the light of the COVID-19 crisis,” wrote Peyer. “Whether the world makes the right or wrong decisions moving forward will be heavily influenced by leaders who value diversity, learn through the exchange of ideas and experiences, and believe in the role of business as a force for improving people’s lives. Based on these values, with a focus on the utmost health and safety for the entire INSEAD community and local government regulations, we will commence the 21J MBA class in both Fontainebleau and Singapore on 5 October 2020 with core courses. We all invite you to the MBA 21J Launch Week starting 28 September 2020.”

Peyer said the decision to push back the start date was made after the school reviewed survey responses from successful applicants to INSEAD. “The class preferred a later start date, with a strong preference for an October start,” he said. The decision by the French government to allow on-site teaching from Sept. 1 also figured into the decision. “We believe an October start date will provide plenty of time for arrival, quarantine (if applicable), and settling in before commencing Launch Week in late September. Formal classes will begin on 5 October.”


He added that the Singapore government’s circuit breaker is set to expire on June 1, after which the school expects to receive instructions from that country’s Ministry of Education. “If allowed, we plan to open the campus and conduct in-person classes,” wrote Peyer. “As we await the decision from the government about moving forward after 2 June and clarification regarding border and immigration issues, we again believe that 5 October is a reasonable start date.

“Our 20D students will be returning to campus to complete their studies on 3 September and 20J students may also be on campus taking advantage of P6, an optional period after graduation that allows students to take additional elective courses.  These students will be on campus to welcome you and host numerous bonding and networking activities.

The delayed start date requires INSEAD to make a number of changes to its academic experience which is divided into five periods, each lasting eight weeks and concluding with an exam, essay or project. The first part of the accelerated ten-month program is built around 14 core courses, after which students can choose from among more than 75 different electives in a variety of subjects. The delayed start will force INSEAD to trim back part of its core, however.

“First, the core curriculum during P1 and P2 will be reduced so you can complete the two periods before 22 December,” said Peyer. “We will postpone one core course to P3. Since you will be taking more core courses in Jan/Feb, we will expand P5 into July so you can take more elective credits during that period. Thus, graduation will be later in July than originally planned. The exact graduation date is yet to be scheduled. The overall number of weeks for core and elective teaching on campus will be maintained.”


If the school must teach online, Peyer said INSEAD is preparing for “an engaging and transformative learning experience while also following social distancing measures and high standards of hygiene.  We have the capacity and Amphi space on campus to reduce the number of students in class to ensure safe distances and also have a great IT and iLite, a teaching and learning support system, to provide the best teaching online and via Zoom if needed. We have every intention and hope that we are able to deliver your MBA journey in person.

“However, the COVID-19 situation is evolving, and we must follow government regulations which means some temporary constraints are possible on in-person teaching as well as travel and possibly campus exchange (self-quarantine may also be required when traveling from one campus to the other or limit your ability to go for an interview in-person due to travel restrictions).”

INSEAD told admits that the second installment payment for the program remains due on July 25 unless other arrangements are required for students who face financial constraints. “For us to prepare for your arrival and make arrangements, we need you to make a decision about participating in the 21J Class commencing 5 October 2020, by 29 May 2020,” added Peyer.


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