With the Alps, the Mediterranean, Rome, Florence, Venice, and Tuscany all within a three-hour drive, students at Milan’s SDA Bocconi School of Management will never be short of ideas for weekend excursions. More pertinently, the school also has a unique combination of world-class businesses nearby, being smack-bang in the middle of the Northern Italian industrial belt, in the heart of the country’s luxury goods industry cluster, and at the epicenter of its main financial hub.
As one of the best-established schools in continental Europe – it was the first university in Italy to offer an economics degree and has been educating executives since 1971 – SDA Bocconi is by far the best-ranked business school in Italy and is unsurprisingly a big draw for locals. Around 25% of its intake comes from Italy, with another 20% from other European countries. But this is not a parochial MBA, as Asians account for 18% and North Americans for 16% of the rest. Typically, the MBA course has more than 30 nationalities.
Reflecting the proximity of Italy’s industrial region, 28% of the 100 students who take the 12-month MBA come from industry, and 39% have engineering degrees. The school is ranked fourth in Europe by the Financial Times for salary increase in 2018 after three years, and fifth by Forbes for ROI among non-U.S. schools. In the last cohort, 79% changed either location, industry, or function, with 30% taking jobs in technology or e-business, just above the 28% who went into consulting. Amazon and Microsoft were the two biggest recruiters.
It’s not all heavy industry and tech, though. One of the Bocconi MBA’s five “concentrations” is in luxury business management, run in partnership with Gucci, Valentino, and LVMH. And just to underline the variety of businesses nearby, a recent field trip took in a visit to the Maserati car factory, while Italian insurance giant Generali organized a three-day hackathon with Bocconi MBAs to dream up innovative ideas for the insurance industry.
Of the MBA class, 84% take internships with local and international businesses, and the rest undertake an entrepreneurial project. Partners for international exchanges include top-flight schools such as Duke Fuqua, CEIBS, and HEC Paris. And it if all gets to be too much, there are plenty of extracurricular activities: the school organizes both a regatta in summer and a snow sports competition in winter.
Francesco Daveri, MBA Director, SDA Bocconi MBA Professor of Economics
“Our MBA aspires to be a game-changer, even for those who have already had an excellent career in a specific role within a company. Our students want to look beyond this, towards entrepreneurship or to go for a full-fledged career in general management.
“Our MBA aims to be a Triple-A program, for Aspirational and Ambitious leaders capable of achieving their goals acquiring full Awareness of how the external world will affect their businesses. That’s our AAA+ MBA: a vibrant and global environment where, each year, 100 students from 30-plus countries come to Milano, Italy’s entrepreneurial, financial, and industrial capital, and enjoy the best mix of style, innovation, leisure, people and places.”
Eric Bowler, USA, MBA 2018
“I am attempting a ‘triple jump,’ changing geography, industry and job function, and as part of that I want to move to Europe. I chose SDA Bocconi because it’s a top business school in Europe with a long history and therefore a very broad alumni network, who have been very receptive to me reaching out. That helps someone like me without a network here.
“The 12-month course length appealed because I want to minimize my time out of the workforce. The short length does make the MBA intense, which trains you to be efficient. The relatively small class also encourages participation, meaning you hear a lot of viewpoints.
“I was pleasantly surprised with how collaborative, friendly, and supportive the environment is. Also, I’ve learned the importance of learning the language; very few jobs in Europe are in English only, which has spurred me on to improve my Italian.”