This elite business school has its sights set on Asia

This elite business school has its sights set on Asia
The exterior of Insead Singapore campus located in Ayer Rajah Avenue, off Buona Vista Road.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

INSEAD might have roots in Fontainebleau, France, but the elite graduate business school has its sights set on Asia.

The school, which has campuses in France, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, was ranked as the world's top Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme by the Financial Times in both 2016 and 2017, pipping Harvard Business School.

"The interesting thing is that it's a global increasing demand for our MBA here because many of the Americans, Europeans, Latin Americans ... they want exposure to Asia," said Ilian Mihov, the institution's Singapore-based dean.

Mihov is INSEAD's first dean to be based beyond France's borders, perhaps indicative of the region's growing clout internationally.

Going forward, INSEAD has plans to expand in Singapore with an additional building in the next three to four years, Mihov told CNBC's "Managing Asia," adding that the move would result in the Singapore campus being of a similar size to the institution's campus in France.

"It is quite possible that within the next 10 years, Asia will be 50 per cent of our revenues of what we do in terms of executive education (and) MBAs. And probably will grow further," he said.

And while China might be the world's second-largest economy, INSEAD doesn't really have any plans to set up a new campus in the country for now. It is, however, exploring more activities and engaging companies in China, Mihov said.

"We are a bit afraid that if we set up a campus in China, it will be very Chinese," Mihov told CNBC, highlighting how that would run counter to how INSEAD was started as a "truly international school" with principles such as diversity and internationalism key to the school's DNA.

As for concerns about the increased popularity of protectionism, Mihov said global free trade wasn't dead just yet.

"Certainly, it's under threat ... and I think right now we have to watch what happens with Brexit ... we have to watch what happens between China and the United States," he said, adding that even with the focus on trade barriers by the US administration, it would be impossible for everything to be produced by the United States.

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