At More Than 100 Leading Business Schools, Fall Reopening Plans Forge Ahead

Another year of COVID at INSEAD


After most efforts to have consistent in-person course delivery in 2020-2021, an academic year that ended with most B-schools unable even to have live graduation ceremonies, all the schools in the P&Q ranking plan to bring their students to campus this fall. Only a few have announced plans to use remote delivery in special cases, such as international students unable to get a visa on time.

“As of now the presumption is that all university classes that normally take place in person will return to that model,” says Colin McEwen, assistant director of media relations at the Case Western University Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio. “Weatherhead does have an online MBA, so of course that one will not be in-person.”

“We are only offering in-person courses this year,” says Mike Mannor, associate dean of the Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business MBA, “as we feel that the most powerful and impactful learning experiences that define Notre Dame can only be fully experienced in person.” All Notre Dame MBA students must be vaccinated, he adds.

At another Midwest B-school, vaccinations are not required, but in-person attendance is. The University fo Minnesota Carlson School of Management can take this approach because of the size of its cohort, says Phil Miller, Carlson’s assistant dean of MBA & MS programs.

“Beyond the mode of delivery, we run programs whose size allows us to know and interact with each student closely,” Miller says. “Residential programs like the full-time MBA will be in-person with no formal streaming of courses. Conversely, working professional students have significant demands on their schedule, whether that be time or location/travel. For these audiences, we are providing modality and schedule choices (online, Hyflex, in-person) as their learning needs are quite different from residential, full-time students.” He adds that Carlson will not leave international students out in the cold. “Our support for international students at an individual level has been outstanding, particularly as they seek to understand their immigration and employment status.”

Another school that is not requiring students to get vaccinated is getting creative to incentivize them to do so. At Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business, when students submit their vaccination status they become eligible for a weekly drawing for prizes, including cash payments, gift cards, and autographed footballs.


HEC Paris’ Andrea Masini. File photo

In Europe, the top schools will not require vaccinations, per se, but they are planning to enforce severe restrictions that should convince all but the most intransigent to get their shots.

At HEC Paris, following strong urging by President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month, HEC Paris expects to require all students to attend classes in-person, says Andrea Masini, associate dean for MBA programs. “The HEC Paris MBA will strictly follow the recommendations issued by French authorities,” he tells P&Q. “Based on the most recent guidelines issued by the French Ministry of Higher Education, all MBA courses are expected to be delivered in-person, and participants will be required to attend classes in person.

“However, exceptions will be granted to participants who — for reasons of force majeure — will be unable to reach the HEC Paris campus or attend courses in person. For all these participants, we have put in place a continuity plan that will allow them to follow courses remotely, i.e. through a hybrid system. In that regard, and to maximize the quality of the MBA experience, our lecture theatres have been equipped with state-of-the-art technology to offer a seamless experience to these participants.”

Students will not be required to be vaccinated — but they will be strongly incentivized to do so, Masini says.

“In accordance with the most recent guidelines set by the French health protocol, a ‘Pass Sanitaire’ (vaccination certificate) will be required for all activities that take place in bars, restaurants, or hotels with a public area where people can gather in large groups,” he says. “Therefore, all students who wish to participate in activities organized in such spaces will be required to produce a certificate. While we are still awaiting further guidance regarding the possibility of requesting students to produce a vaccination certificate to access classrooms, all our students will be encouraged to get vaccinated.”

If a student refuses or is unable to be vaccinated, what contingencies are in place to deal with them?

“All participants who are unable to attend classes in person for reasons of force majeure will be given the possibility to follow classes remotely, in a synchronous manner, and will receive the recording of the sessions they attended.”

At IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, MBA classes will continue to be in-person in the fall after IESE was alone among top MBA programs in offering in-person classes from day one of the 2020-2021 academic year. “Due to the pandemic, students who could not access campus for health reasons could follow their classes online. That will remain an option in the coming school year,” says Billy Gray, IESE international communications and English content editor.

“We are strongly recommending to all MBA students that they get vaccinated, although it will not be a requirement,” Gray continues. “If they have been fully vaccinated, students will need to provide proof of that with an official certificate that will allow them permanent access to campus without completing a daily health questionnaire. If they have not been vaccinated, they will need to complete a daily health questionnaire, and periodically provide the results of an antigen test to show they are Covid-free.

“Students who are not vaccinated will have to complete the daily health questionnaire in order to access campus. And the entire IESE community will continue to comply with our campus health and safety protocols. IESE will do all that it can to arrange vaccinations in Barcelona for those students who are unable to be vaccinated in their home countries.”


Students at INSEAD during the pandemic

INSEAD will use much the same strategy as its European peer schools, says Chris Howells, communications director for the school with campuses in Fontainebleau, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and San Francisco. But the school is ready to pivot back to hybrid or remote if the pandemic worsens and circumstances require.

“Our plan for the fall is for in-person instruction to be the default with the appropriate classroom capacity limits in line with local safe distancing guidelines in our various jurisdictions,” Howells says. “INSEAD follows the national government guidelines for campus operations per country/campus: Europe (France), Asia (Singapore), Middle East (Abu Dhabi), North America (San Francisco). Throughout the past year, we have conducted classes in hybrid mode or fully virtual as the Covid-19 situation has shifted. We will not hesitate to pivot when necessary to hybrid or fully virtual again if the situation requires it. The health and safety of our entire community is our highest priority.”

INSEAD will not require vaccination from its students, he adds, but “we strongly encourage individuals who can to get the vaccine to protect themselves and those unable to vaccinate for underlying health reasons.” Regardless of whether students are vaccinated, a negative RT-PCR test is required for access to INSEAD’s Middle East Campus; for those entering its Europe Campus in Fontainebleau, “we offer testing at the campus for those who are not vaccinated or unable to get vaccinated and strongly encourage testing before entering the facilities. At our Asia Campus in Singapore, testing is not required for campus entry. Mask wearing and social distancing is mandatory indoors at all our facilities.”

Even if fully vaccinated, INSEAD will enforce strong social distancing rules, Howells says. Students “must continue to follow health and safety guidelines, as it is still possible to transmit the virus and infect others.” Among the guidelines — common among business schools in Europe and North America — are  safe distancing, avoiding large gatherings, mask wearing, and frequent hand washing.

See the next pages for a complete chart of more than 100 business schools and their stated policies on type of instruction this fall and whether students will be required to be vaccinated.

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