IESE Business School Launches New Accelerated MBA Option

IESE Barcelona Headquarters By MrIrving Wikimedia Commons

MBA programs around the world are having a facelift. Teaching methods are changing as core and elective subjects begin to look a little different and program formats are upgraded. Just one example of this can be found at IESE Business School.

Founded in Barcelona in 1958, IESE Business School is the graduate business school of the University of Navarra. A few years later, IESE formed an alliance with Harvard Business School (HBS) in 1963 and launched the first two-year MBA program in Europe.

With more than 50 years in operation, IESE has recently made a decision to completely overhaul its traditional MBA offering – streamlining the program into a 15-month format.

Pascal Michels, Head of IESE MBA Admissions, spoke with TopMBA.com about the new MBA program format.

What factors led to launching the 15-month option?

For quite a while, IESE has been the only European school to stick to the traditional two-year MBA model, and for good reason: we believe that professional and personal transformation takes time. Leadership development is a slow process and a long format allows students to mature in a global setting.

On the other hand, one trend we’ve seen over the past year is towards more experienced candidates. Our latest intake brings an average work experience of more than five years, including some individuals with up to 10 years’ work experience. It would be understandable that some of the more senior students see less transformational value in a three-month internship than the classic MBA candidate with four or five years’ work experience.

This is why we decided to offer students, regardless of their profile, the option to forgo the internship and take classes over the summer instead. This new format may also be interesting for sponsored students or candidates with otherwise pre-agreed post-graduation plans (family businesses, entrepreneurship).

We’re simply adding a choice for students to make well into their first year of classes (March), and we feel this is a great way of creating more customization in the program.

Does undertaking a shorter MBA program work in the students favor in the long-term?

I don’t think so. If you think about it, we’re shortening the program by removing the only program component where the experience is independent of the institution. The amount of academic work will remain the same in our 15-month track as for the traditional 19-month model.

The summer internship is an extremely powerful career change tool and because many candidates choose IESE for that component, we expect the majority of students will still do one.

However, for some of our students this won’t be quite as necessary for their personal transition. In the long-term, what matters is your growth as a leader, your betterment as a person and the lasting bonds with your class. All these things can be achieved without the internship.

What sets this program apart from other programs at peer institutions?

IESE’s MBA is known to have a very high academic workload, especially in the first year. We are proud of our academic rigor and, indeed, see it as the “engine” behind the transformative journey our students embark on.

We believe that diversity in class for its own sake isn’t enough; what matters is what you do with this diversity. We use the classroom – the case-study specifically – to create interaction and friction between students, and this is how they grow.

By taking out the summer internship we make sure this mechanism keeps functioning. Some may even say that through this accelerated track we’ve created an even more academically intense version of the program, as it implies continuous full-time classroom learning for 15 months, something quite unique in the business education landscape.

What feedback have you received from prospective students?

The reactions have all been very positive. Although for many prospective students the traditional format remains the most appealing, everybody appreciates the increased flexibility this offers.

Because students will have until they are six months into their studies to decide on the definitive length of their program, it’s not something applicants need to invest a lot of time in thinking through.

Is the faculty excited about the program?

IESE Business School has been growing and modernizing at an impressive speed over the past 10 years. For all of us – students, staff, alumni and faculty – this is an exciting time for the institution. Everyone involved is thrilled each time something new happens.

Are there any more innovative changes on the horizon at IESE?

IESE is changing rapidly. We have a very active Learning Innovation Unit, which is doing ground-breaking work in the blended delivery space. We’re aware of how technology affects education, but we don’t see it as a threat, more an opportunity for our programs. Digital learning solutions will not displace but rather complement our programs. Stay tuned for more developments.

Why should prospective students’ study at IESE? What makes it special?

Without hesitation: our people. IESE is like a family. One of our first year students recently published a blog post about her first weeks here and she says studying here is like home. I think that beautifully captures who we are.

Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Assistant Editor of TopMBA.com, creating and editing content for an international MBA student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of the business world.  

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