Ever since its founding as a business school in 1973, IE University has been one of the most innovative institutions of higher education in the world. The school was the first to launch a truly international MBA in 1983, the first to market for a blended international Executive MBA in 2001, as well as the first to partner with an Ivy League university on a unique Executive MBA at Brown University in 2011.
And in September, IE University will open the doors on a new and incredibly novel campus in its home city of Madrid, one of the few high-rise university campuses in the world. The vertical campus will stand 180 meters tall (591 feet), with 35 floors covering 50,000 square meters and 7,000 square meters of green space. The new IE Tower, in the north of Madrid in a complex of five new skyscrapers, will vastly expand the school’s capacity, adding space for some 6,000 undergraduate students.
The new building will provide IE with an additional 64 flexible classrooms as well as 30 unique spaces that will favor interaction, innovation, and creativity, as well as open areas on various floors to promote social and cultural experiences. Among the main spaces will be a Venture Lab to accelerate the creation of startups, a FabLab to develop architecture and design projects, and an auditorium with the capacity for 600 students. There also will be a host of sports facilities, including a heated swimming pool, gymnasium, and sports courts, art exhibition areas, rehearsal and micro-concert spaces, and reading and meditation areas.
‘A BIG STEP FOR US’
“It’s going to be a big step for us,” IE University Executive Vice President Diego del Alcázar Benjumea tells Poets&Quants in an interview. “This is going to be something quite impressive, one of the biggest and tallest vertical campuses in the world.”
The addition of the tower will allow IE to double its undergraduate enrollment over the next three to four says, adds Benjumea. “Our bachelor level students have been growing in double digits for the last ten years,” he says. “We want to be the size of a small Ivy League university. Brown has about 7,000 students at the undergraduate level. This would be our target size. This year we will enroll about 1,000 students. We have around 3,500 total undergraduate students, and our aim would be to have around 7,000. Demand is very high.”
The school’s expansion will not change the global nature of its students, says Benjumea. Currently, 80% of IE’s undergraduate students are from outside Spain. “This is the percentage we find perfect, though in our MBA only of the students are Spanish. With 80% of international students, IE is the most international university in the world. We don’t want to have more than 10% of the students from any one country except for Spain.”
A KEY MILESTONE IN THE HISTORY OF IE
Benjumea views the opening of the IE Tower as one of the university’s milestones that include its founding as a business school in the 1970s and its expansion into a university with five schools spanning business, law, the social sciences, architecture and design, and human science and technology. “It is a big thing but there have been many. When we were founded it was a big decision to be an open agnostic, international university from our dictatorship. Having entrepreneurship as a core value was a big thing. Teaching online in the beginning of 2000 was a huge decision and a painful one because we invested a lot of resources to be successful. At the time, our students probably weren’t prepared for learning online and our faculty had a learning curve that was super steep. Integrating from being a business school to a fully fledged university was a very tough decision and it has been a huge success story. This decision is a consequence of the legacy of many tough decisions from the past. The world is exposed to strong forces of change so our purpose as an institution is to help with these changes through education and innovation.”
IE is also pressing forward on an online strategy that it has called “liquid learning.” “The main point of our future strategy is online learning, but also the social experience of our students. Different STEM degrees will have a main role in our future studies because there is a need in society to navigate the huge complexity and disruption that technology is causing.”
The school intends to retain its two other campuses, María de Molina in Madrid in the Spanish capital’s nearby financial district, where MBA students study, and also in Segovia, a campus housed in the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real, a historic building declared a national historic site.
ORIGINAL OPENING DATE WAS LAST SEPTEMBER
The new campus was originally expected to open last September but the pandemic and construction delays postponed the opening. IE expects the tower to be a benchmark for innovation and technology in education, and has also been built with sustainability criteria and maximum energy efficiency in mind. Over the course of 2021, IE University will promote the development of social impact initiatives as part of its sustainability strategy within the framework of its ‘Ten-Year Challenge’, which sets annual goals to promote sustainability within the institution between 2020 and 2030. With this objective, IE University endeavors to train resilient people, aware of their potential for change and capable of having a positive impact on the community.
From its new headquarters, IE University plans to promote urban and social transformation initiatives, energize the capital’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and develop new collaborative projects with international companies. IE Tower classrooms will be equipped with the technology to simultaneously deliver face-to-face and online sessions. Students will experience technological immersion, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence applied to their programs.
Though a specific date for the September opening has yet to be set, Benjumea is promising a wide range of events to celebrate the new milestone for IE University.