IESE: Business Education Bridges the Atlantic

The US has a wealth of business talent and some of the world’s best executive education institutions. It has been hard for Europe’s business schools to successfully crack the US market, but Spain’s IESE aims to change all that.

In business education, as in the commercial world, the US is a highly competitive market. Many US business schools pride themselves on the quality of their executive education programmes, and it has largely been a step too far for a European competitor to establish a presence in the country. IESE Business School in Spain (with campuses in Barcelona, Madrid and soon in New York), has nevertheless taken up the challenge.

IESE has successfully built bridges with business communities around the world, running programmes at locations in Germany, Poland, China, India, Brazil, Kenya and Nigeria. It also collaborates on courses with associate business schools throughout Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Russia. Driven by the strength of its existing relationships in the US, where it has a base of nearly 500 alumni, IESE now has a permanent office in New York.

Making the step

‘We are entering a land of business education where there is huge competition,’ says Mark Wuyten, IESE’s director of Short Focused Programmes.

‘Few European business schools have gone to the US, but we have. It makes sense because we want to be truly global, with a presence in every continent.’

Its MBA, Global Executive MBA, Executive MBA and PhD in Management courses are well established in Europe, and it has a successful track record in executive education programmes for senior executives and alumni, including short, focused programmes on topical business issues.

Furthermore, IESE already has exchange programmes for MBA students with North American schools. The school's postgraduate exchange programme, for instance, includes establishments such as UC Berkeley, Cornell University and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. IESE also has a longstanding relationship with Harvard Business School, and the Harvard-IESE Committee meets annually to study the future of business education for managers and executives. ‘Going to the US has been an obvious move, but we don’t want to have just a beachhead,’ Wuyten says. ‘We want a permanent presence through which we can strengthen our alumni relationships,’ says Wuyten.

Building the brand

Linking the US office to the rest of its international network and cementing alumni relationships are crucial to IESE’s development plan. Its annual global alumni reunion will be held in New York next year, and faculty members visit regularly to meet companies to better understand what they need from executive education.

IESE’s success will depend on how it can differentiate itself from the competition. So, what can it offer the US market?

Wuyten sees many factors working in IESE’s favour, not least the establishment of its global business research centre in New York. Focused on macro-level analysis of business trends around the world, it is hard to compare the centre with any other business school. He also believes that the first short programmes launching in September 2008 will attract significant interest, just as they have on the other side of the Atlantic. A number of collaborative projects, including three with the Institute of Media and Entertainment, and a total of seven short, focused programmes already under way, show that IESE is not just dipping its toe in the water.

The school is also launching a general management programme for senior executives to be held in Miami, focusing on Latin America, and is the academic sponsor of the World Business Forum. ‘We have been in the US for one year and we will continue to add to our campus, so the future looks promising. Being here also helps us to better serve our home market. The New York office helps our head office in Barcelona,’ says Wuyten.

‘Our vision is to be the most influential business school in the world, so we are here for the long term.’

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Mark Wuyten, IESE’s director of Short Focused Programmes.