The INSEAD growth engine through times of crisis
The highlight of the year was undoubtedly our return to the #1 spot in the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking in February 2021. The fact that we were able to participate in the rigorous process – while some top schools were unable to even gather data during the pandemic – is further proof of the resilience and flexibility of INSEAD.
The counter-cyclical nature of demand for our degree programmes brought some much-needed stability to the school after the previous year of economic turbulence. Although the number of MBA graduates in July 2021 was down – due to accepted candidates deferring to the next intake – the MBA’21D class was consequently slightly larger than usual. This cohort was finally able to experience the face-to-face teaching that so many students had been waiting for, and the MBA’22J intake was back to a normal size. To our great pleasure, we were also able to welcome the latter to campus in person in August 2021.
Also joining us in August 2021 were the 130 members of the second Master in Management (MIM) class. This number makes the MIM’22 cohort 40% bigger than the pioneer intake – which itself had been much larger than expected, thanks to the exceptional quality of the candidates. Applications remain buoyant in this important new market for INSEAD. Meanwhile, applications for our Executive MBA programmes, which remained relatively stable during the pandemic, are outperforming forecasts. We are delighted that the growth in quality and quantity of applications throughout 2020/2021 seems to be continuing across the portfolio.
One contributing factor to our continued growth is the increased investment in scholarships by both generous donors and the school itself. For the MBA’21D intake alone, we awarded a total of €4 million in scholarships, some 20% more than for the previous December graduates. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have also offered advice to all admitted candidates about financing, in recognition of the added challenges they now face, particularly in the case of our Executive Master participants.
2020/2021 ended on a note of great joy as we were once again able to host a physical MBA graduation ceremony for 262 students on our Europe Campus, combined with a simultaneous event for 31 classmates in Singapore and with an online attendance of an additional 64 around the world.
The innovative hybrid event was all the more inspiring thanks to a speech from Tidjane Thiam MBA’88J, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Freedom Acquisition Corporation, around the themes of friendship, dreaming big and renewal. Between the live broadcast in July and the end of October 2021, the event was viewed online a remarkable 20,000+ times. The previous MBA degree ceremony, in December 2020, was held entirely online and attended “live” by an enthusiastic online audience of 4,848.
Between the two MBA graduations of the year, we had the excitement of the first ever “Commencement Ceremonies” at INSEAD. These were for the Global Executive MBA (GEMBA’21) and MIM’21 classes which took place in January and June respectively. Technically, they were not graduation events, as the GEMBA participants subsequently had to complete their final dissertations and the MIM students moved on to the professional segment of the programme. However, these joyous occasions, both held online, marked the successful completion of coursework and a final opportunity to come together as a single class.
Further cause for celebration came in March 2021 with the launch of our “Limitless” campaign. This showcased the successes of 18 women leaders, all graduates from INSEAD Degree Programmes. The multimedia campaign continued throughout the year with videos, articles and podcasts featuring alumnae who have pushed beyond the constraints placed on them and used their time at INSEAD to reach exemplary career heights.
A few months later, we were able to celebrate INSEAD women once again, as our August MBA intake registered record numbers in women participants, at 39% of the class. Congratulations to the women of MBA’22J.
Congratulations are in fact due to all members of our Degree Programme community – recent graduates, current students, faculty and staff alike – for their extraordinary adaptability and resilience. We thank those who bore with us throughout the disruptions of 2020/2021 and who continue to adapt to travel and working restrictions, as they ripple around the world.
When our intrepid MIM’21 students enrolled as the programme’s “pioneers”, even they could not have envisaged the year of constant adaptation and innovation ahead of them. In February 2021, for example, they had to quarantine for two weeks to embark on the Singapore stage of their adventure. In Asia, their performance continued to surpass all expectations. By the end of their academic studies, it was no surprise that they all successfully secured placements for the final four-to-six-month professional exposure module.
The pioneers certainly set the bar high for the 130 members of the second MIM class, who had an even more intense start to the programme thanks to a new online preparation module and an even more action-packed welcome week in August 2021.
As the world emerges from crisis, the whirlwind 10-month INSEAD MBA format is proving a competitive advantage – both to the school and its outstanding participants. After months of lockdown and home working, the intensive, global model that INSEAD pioneered is more popular than ever.
At the beginning of 2021, the world began to open up and most MBA classes were able to resume in dual – online and in-person – mode. However, the ongoing rules about safe distancing and isolation meant that extensive re-scheduling efforts were required throughout the academic year.
Fortunately, we were able to hold the 9th and 10th editions of the Master Strategist Day as planned. In November 2020, MBA’21J students pooled their newfound skills to support Banlieue Santé, a non-profit organisation that supports communities in some of Paris’s poorest neighbourhoods to overcome health inequalities. This was followed in March 2021 by a day that saw 650 MBA’21D students use VR technology to help another NGO. Their strategic challenge was to scale up MiracleFeet’s mission of helping 100,000 children a year in 70 countries overcome clubfoot, an entirely curable birth defect that still blights lives in lowerincome countries.
Other highlights of the year included the two INSEAD Venture Competitions, both won by MBA’21J teams. Team SPATULA, the June winner, led by Ian Weng, is already providing gourmet frozen cuisine to the residents of Toronto. Meanwhile, within just two months of graduating, the December winners, Marcelo Lutz and Roberto Biselli, in the guise of Capim Credit, had helped more than 300 Brazilians access healthcare through an innovative buy-now-pay-later facility.
As usual, the Asia Section of the GEMBA’23 class embarked on their studies in August 2021 – to be joined by their Europe and Middle East Campus classmates in October. This September, the new Tsinghua- INSEAD Executive MBA (TIEMBA) class started on the Asia Campus, due to the heightened restrictions in China, with the option to attend virtually for those not able to travel to Singapore.
Dual-delivery mode has become the norm for our two Executive MBA programmes, but it was wonderful to see the annual summer electives return to Fontainebleau in 2021. The session brought together 219 participants face to face – not just current students, but also alumni from both programmes alongside Executive Master in Finance (EMFin) colleagues. They were joined by 62 classmates on the Asia Campus and 226 who attended virtually from locations around the world.
Hybrid delivery has also become standard practice for our two other Executive Master Programmes: the Executive Master in Finance and the Executive Master in Change (EMC). This mode of studying enables students to continue their learning journey, wherever they are in the world and regardless of travel restrictions.
Based on what we have learned from dual-mode teaching, the EMC curriculum is currently under review by the programme’s directors, faculty and managers. The goal is to maximise the benefits of online or hybrid sessions and minimise the disadvantages for this “high-touch” and emotionally intense learning experience, unique in the business school sector.
EMFin remains a small, elite programme, but is developing in several encouraging ways. The new EMFin’22 class, for example, has a higher proportion of women than ever before. The programme also has a customised “cousin” for ARAMCO managers, which is delivered by INSEAD faculty in Fontainebleau, and – inevitably – online. A future module has been planned for delivery in Saudi Arabia.
We are all too aware that INSEAD is not yet able to offer “business (school) as usual”, but we are both impressed and moved by the way in which our Degree Programme community has taken hardship in its stride and turned challenges into innovations – from embracing hybrid teaching to experimenting with virtual reality in the classroom. Thanks to this INSEAD can-do attitude, we can all be confident of a brighter post-pandemic future.
Designed for early to mid-career professionals, and featuring an accelerated 10-month curriculum, our MBA programme develops successful leaders and entrepreneurs.
Our Global Executive MBA programme is tailored for experienced professionals who wish to develop their leadership skills while they continue to advance their current careers.
This dual degree combines INSEAD’s global perspective and Tsinghua University’s in-depth expertise of business in China to produce highly successful business leaders and entrepreneurs.
The INSEAD Executive Master in Change takes participants deep into the basic drivers of human behaviour and the hidden dynamics of organisations.
Blending cutting-edge theory and best practice, the programme is for professionals with work experience in finance-related roles.
Aimed at young leaders with a clear sense of direction when they finish their undergraduate studies. Students want a deep dive into business theory and a complete set of management skills. The MIM programme also focuses on leadership in global business with international experience integrated into the course of study.
The smallest programme at INSEAD continues to be one of its biggest success stories, with a 100% placement record and perfect gender balance – both indicators of a bright future.
In June 2021, the PhD degree ceremony took our alumni community past the milestone of 250 members. Remarkably, despite hiring freezes by many business schools, all 12 of our new graduates secured academic positions and post-doctoral fellowships at top institutions across Europe and North America. Not only is our 100% placement record proof that INSEAD is punching far above its weight in the doctoral arena; it also promises an even greater reputation for INSEAD in the future, as our new graduates make their mark on management research.
This year, notably, two of our graduates chose to pursue research at healthcare institutions, thus making a direct contribution to a fitter future for humankind. On a more micro level, we are proud to report that Anna Szerb, one of our Strategy candidates, is volunteering as a mathematics tutor for Action Tutoring, a UK charity that helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds catch up on schooling missed during the pandemic. We are glad that our PhD students are, like INSEAD itself, a force for good in the world.
Anna is part of another phenomenon to be proud of, that is, the number of outstanding women who are choosing to join the INSEAD PhD programme. With a 53% women share of current students – and an extraordinary 60% in the September 2021 intake – there are signs that INSEAD is helping to make business-school academia a more inclusive profession.
Finally, we are pleased to announce that the PhD programme has a new Academic Director. Roderick Swaab, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, has taken over from Javier Gimeno, who stepped down to become Dean of Faculty in January 2021. Before joining INSEAD, Professor Swaab earned his PhD from the University of Amsterdam and pursued postdoctoral research at Northwestern University. His award-winning research focuses on negotiation, conflict resolution and social hierarchies in teams. He is also one of our most acclaimed teachers and holds the INSEAD Dutch Alumni Fellowship in Leadership, Diversity and Governance.
As well as publishing in some of the world’s leading academic journals, our students also won several awards and honours in 2020/2021, including the following:
15th INFORMS Virtual Workshop on Data Mining and Decision Analytics, Third Place, Data Mining Best Theoretical Paper
“Joint Bottom-Up Method for Hierarchical Time-Series: Application to Australian Tourism” Co-authors: Ville Satopaa, Shane Jensen
2021 Academy of Management OMT Division, Runner-up for Best Student Paper Award
“When Is Organizational Culture More Replicable?”
2021 Academy of Management Annals, Best Article Award
“The Attractiveness Advantage at Work: A Cross-disciplinary Integrative Review” Co-authors: Marko Pitesa, Stefan Thau
2020 Dissertation Grant by the Strategic Management Society
“Human-AI Collaboration for Business: Managing Knowledge Workers and Artificial Intelligence as Adaptive Systems”
2021 Academy of Management, 2021 STR Wiley Blackwell Outstanding Dissertation Award
“Organizational Culture and Firm Performance”
2020 Strategic Management Society Annual Meeting: Winner, Annual Conference PhD Paper Prize; Honorable Mention, Annual Conference Best Paper Prize; Best Proposal Award, Knowledge and Innovation Interest Group
“Learning What They Think vs. Learning What They Do: The Micro-foundations of Vicarious Learning” Co-author: Phanish Puranam
2021 Analytics for X, Institute of Operations Research and Analytics, National University of Singapore, Best Student Presentation Award
“Be The Match: Optimizing Capacity Allocation for Stem Cell Transplantation” Co-authors: Michael Freeman, Sameer Hasija and Harry Groenevelt
2020/2021 was a particularly busy year for the Career Development Centre. It continued to support MBA, Executive Degree participants and alumni, alongside an entirely new client group of MIM students, eager to take their first major career steps in a recovering global economy.
The best news of the year was that the job market in many world regions was resurgent. Some 92% of MBA students who graduated in 2020/2021 found work within three months of leaving INSEAD – equalling the record set in 2019.
Meanwhile, as a result of the MIM programme design for professional exposure, 100% of the MIM Class of 2021 secured roles following their Commencement Ceremony. Longer-term employment statistics will be measured six months after graduation, starting in May 2022 for our MIM pioneers.
Another “first” for the summer of 2021 was the inaugural publication of the INSEAD EMBA Employment Statistics. For this audience it is more appropriate to take a longer-term approach, hence our decision to start by surveying the careers of GEMBA’18 and TIEMBA’19 graduates. As INSEAD alumni of 18 months’ standing, they reported a very impressive 96% employment rate. Over half – 51% – had decided to remain with companies that supported them through their studies, either in more senior roles or in different locations, while 13% had launched their own new ventures – confirming the growing reputation of INSEAD as a school for entrepreneurs.
As INSEAD emerged from crisis, our Career Development Centre support and education followed the “digital first” approach that has proven effective in recent years. New advances for this year include:
We were also delighted to welcome our new Global Director, Rhoda Yap, who is based in Singapore. Rhoda brings her own wealth of career and international experience to INSEAD. Having worked as a lawyer in Malaysia and as a management consultant in the US, she holds an MBA from a top American school and an LLB from a leading UK institution.
In addition, she has worked in the fashion industry, and most recently, served as the inaugural career director and Chief Operating Officer at an Asia-US business school. In a year of innovation and change, we also built on our traditional strengths. For example, some 69% of our GEMBA, TIEMBA and EMFin programme participants took part in our Digital Networking Maps, allowing them to build new global networks. We also organised Virtual Career Treks to London, Amsterdam and the Middle East as well as holding an Energy Day and the inaugural China Tech Day to help broaden our students’ outlook and increase their career prospects.
There has been encouraging news over the past year regarding sustainable finance, social impact and sustainability. A growing number of companies and large institutions incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics into their investments. We continue to witness considerable interest from our students in engaging with companies in this area and help them to engage with the ESG ecosystem. During our most recent Global Company Engagement Day, we had a dedicated section for Social Impact. We also welcomed back Systemiq, Thirdway Africa, Gavi, Mirova and Clinton Health Access Initiative to our MBA recruitment events.