Bernardo M. Villegas
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The Best Business School

            In late 2006 when I told my friends that I would be taking a sabbatical leave to teach and do research at the IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, the frequent reaction was “IESE what?”  Unknown to them, the IESE Business School was already ranked by the The Economist in 2006 as offering the best MBA program among all the business schools in the world.

            In 2007, IESE obtained the same accolade. This year, the same thing has happened. The Economist ranked IESE Number One among the business schools all over the world offering an MBA program. My alma mater, Harvard, ranked only number 5. Among the other top five were IMD in Switzerland (2), University of California at Berkeley in the U.S. (3) and the University of Chicago in the U.S. (4). The Economist ranked a total of 100 business schools all over the world. The highest-ranking Asian business school was Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (30).

            As I reflect on the two academic years I spent at IESE in 2007-2008, I can explain why the prestigious magazine The Economist ranked the IESE Business School as offering the best MBA program in the world. The first thing I can say is that the graduates of IESE’s MBA program do not receive the highest salary offers among the European business schools. In fact, other European business schools have graduates receiving higher salaries than those from IESE. That is why, in the 2009 ranking of the Financial Times—which gives high importance to starting salaries—IESE ranks only number 6. What impressed me most in the corporate culture of IESE is the emphasis on business ethics and the social responsibility of business. The students are taught to focus on what they can do for society, while making reasonable profit, and not on obtaining the highest salaries and bonuses possible.

            The more than 100 full-time faculty members, 99 percent with doctoral degrees, spend a lot of time mentoring the students individually and helping them not only to be competent business managers but also virtuous leaders. As a visiting professor, I myself spent much time chatting individually with the MBA students, especially those coming from Asia, to help them improve their professional skills and to acquire human virtues, especially those that are directly relevant to the business world such as prudence, justice and benevolence.

            I was also very much impressed with the untiring efforts that the administration and faculty spend on the continuing education of the more than 30,000 alumni of the various programs of the school. IESE’s professors are constantly traveling all over the world to update the alumni on the theories and practices of business management. I myself had to travel all over Europe, Latin America and Asia giving lectures to IESE alumni on global economics, social ethics and emerging markets. This sterling service to alumni is what makes IESE stand out among all the business schools all over the world. From what I know, alumni activities of most business schools are limited to fund raising and socializing or networking.

            It is about time that young Filipino professionals planning to get an MBA degree abroad should redirect their attention away from the traditional U.S. schools and consider the European business schools such as IESE. Those interested in the program of IESE may consult the website www.iese.edu. For comments, my address is bvillegas@uap.edu.ph.