Is a B-school with no U.S. campus really global?

July 11, 2011, 2:18 PM UTC

By Neelima Mahajan-Bansal, contributor

) — How can any educational institution lay claim to being “the business school for the world” when it lacks a real presence in the U.S., the world’s largest single economy?

It’s a good question for the new dean at INSEAD, which proudly claims to be the quintessential global business school but is headquartered in Fontainebleau, France, on the outskirts of Paris.

Of all the world’s industrialized countries, France is the nation where the hurly-burly of market capitalism has long been viewed with both suspicion and contempt. And while the prestigious school boasts campuses in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, it still lacks a physical campus in the Americas.

Dipak Jain, who became dean in March, doesn’t blink at the question. He insists that a physical presence in the U.S., or any specific market for that matter, isn’t a requirement for a global business school.

“You don’t have to be in every economy,” insists Jain. “Harvard is a global business school. Harvard is not in every country. Global means that you attract students from all over the world. Global means that your curriculum is international.”

To Jain, it’s mindset and diversity that counts. At INSEAD, he says, the faculty comes from 36 countries and MBA students in a typical class come from 70 different nations. With campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, and a research center in Israel, INSEAD spans three continents. The largest single proportion of this year’s incoming class of MBAs comes from India, the second largest from the U.S.

“Overall, I see people being more global in their views and thought process,” says Jain, who previously served as dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “We are going to do an executive program for a big bank in Russia and at INSEAD we have enough people of Russian origin who can teach the whole program in Russian. That could not have happened at Kellogg.”

After Jain stepped down as Kellogg’s dean in August 2009, he didn’t realize that he would be back at the helm of another leading business school in just over a year. Three months into his new job as dean of INSEAD (
no. 2 on Poets&Quants’ non-U.S. MBA rankings
) it’s déjà vu all over again as he learns the ins and outs of a new institution.

When Jain took over the reins from his predecessor Don Jacobs at Kellogg in September 2001, he had big shoes to fill and formidable challenges ahead.

For one, he became dean on Sept. 11, just as terrorists attacked the U.S. Anticipating a tough job market, Jain started reaching out to Kellogg alumni and prospective recruiters for help in placing new graduates. The move was harshly criticized by the media, particularly by then-CNN anchorman Lou Dobbs, who said, “business school deans are begging for jobs.” The move paid off, however, and Kellogg grads managed to find jobs despite an economy that fell into the tank.

INSEAD poses a completely different challenge. At Kellogg, Jain had the advantage of being an insider and he knew what he was in for — he had joined Kellogg as a marketing professor in 1986, and became associate dean in 1996, five years before he was picked for the top job. “This time, the challenge is more in terms of a different location and a different environment,” he says.

What has struck Jain the most is the diversity of both the students and the faculty. “In the U.S., most of the top schools have two-thirds American and one-third international students. Here, no particular nationality has more than a 10% representation, and so every class looks like a mini-United Nations,” says Jain.

Adding layers of complexity to this is the fact that INSEAD has three campuses — the original campus in Fontainebleau, France, and two others in Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

“This is a very different dean’s job. Here, I am not the dean for Fontainebleau, or dean for Abu Dhabi or Singapore. I am the dean for all three,” says Jain.

Traveling across campuses, allocating time for each, and building relationships with communities in every place is a formidable task. “Kellogg used to have a partnership with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. I used to go to Hong Kong just once a year for the graduation or maybe twice a year to talk about some new program,” he says. At INSEAD, he’s required to be in Singapore on a fairly regular basis.

“The U.S. is a big country, too, and somebody can say that the U.S. is also very complex. But still there is a unified culture. But here, if you go to Singapore or if you are in Fontainebleau, the type of people you are meeting are very different and their expectations are very different,” says Jain, quickly adding that despite the complexity, he is enjoying his work because it is “not like I am doing the same job again.”

A different approach to globalization

During his tenure at Kellogg, one of Jain’s major achievements was to make the school more global. Beginning in 1996, Kellogg set up joint executive MBA programs with established business schools in Israel, Hong Kong, Canada and Germany. Kellogg, Wharton and London Business School joined hands to create the Indian School of Business (ISB) in 2001.

For years, Jain believed that the best way for a school to globalize was through alliances with local partners across the world instead of setting up additional campuses. INSEAD uses a fundamentally different model from Kellogg and is a challenge to his long-held belief. “The learning part for me is how one can use different models to achieve the same outcome — which is to be global,” says Jain.

Setting up an additional campus is no simple feat. It is resource-intensive, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of faculty and administration. INSEAD’s own experience with its Asia campus, which was set up in Singapore in 2000, shows that replicating the same environment in a multi-location model is very difficult.

In the initial years, the Asia campus was viewed as a poor cousin of the parent campus in Fontainebleau. There were problems shuttling faculty between the two campuses and developing academic calendars that didn’t conflict. And faculty and students both preferred Fontainebleau to Singapore.

It took INSEAD many years to bring both campuses on the same plane and today, the efforts appear to have paid off. “Even though our approach is more resource-intensive, it may have a stronger impact in terms of brand building than other approaches,” says Jain.

Today, thanks to the Singapore campus, INSEAD is a well-known name in Asia and has strong ties with companies, governments and institutions in the region.

Today, INSEAD’s Singapore campus has 55 full-time faculty members in residence. “Even Chicago’s Booth School of Business has a campus in Singapore, but it’s more of what they call a ‘fly-in and fly-out’ model without resident faculty,” says Jain.

What’s next? Expansion in Asia, the Middle East

INSEAD’s Singapore campus is preparing for its next stage. Part of the plan is to use Singapore as a gateway to China and India, two economies on the growth path and fertile grounds for executive education. Plans are in the works for a physical expansion of the Singapore campus, with the help of the Economic Development Board of Singapore, a government agency that played a major role in getting INSEAD to build a campus in Singapore.

INSEAD is bringing its four-week Advanced Management Program targeted at senior executives to Singapore — so far it was available only in Fontainebleau. “We would like to attract people who will not come all the way to Fontainbleau…. Asia is growing and companies here need such programs,” says Jain.

Next on the list of priorities is the creation of more research centers. Jain is exploring the idea of creating an emerging markets research center in Singapore and perhaps one on social media or digitization in Abu Dhabi.

What about Abu Dhabi, the newest addition in the INSEAD clan? “By having a campus in the Middle East, which is a growth area no matter what people say, we are attracting people from different parts of the globe. That to me is a very important message,” says Jain.

Another issue on Jain’s list of priorities is increasing INSEAD’s endowment. At 135.6 million Euros, the school’s endowment is smaller than that of other comparable business schools.

“The basic issue is building a culture of philanthropy – that is a very U.S. type of phenomenon. My personal feeling is that this is a slightly long-term thing.”

Europe. Asia. Middle East. America?

Years ago, then INSEAD dean Gabriel Hawawini had talked of the possibility of setting up a campus in the U.S. But that plan never saw the light of the day. Instead, INSEAD has said it would take advantage of its alliance with the Wharton School. Jain is revisiting that plan.

“We do need to have some presence in the U.S. You can’t be a business school for the world unless you have a link to the U.S.,” he says. “What form that will take – setting up our own campus or creating an alliance – that’s what we are revisiting.”

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