Eiso Kant was one of 50 students who walked through IE Business School’s doors back in 2009, part of the inaugural class of the institution’s new English-language Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program. To a typical undergraduate, that may have seemed a bold move. The Spanish university, known for it stellar MBA program, had never before offered an undergraduate BBA degree, but that didn’t phase Kant, a Dutch native and teenage entrepreneur looking for a business education with a modern spin.
During a visit to the school’s Madrid campus earlier that year, he found himself impressed by the school’s cutting-edge approach to education, exceptionally diverse student body, and strong commitment to entrepreneurship.
“Even though we were part of the very first intake, it felt like there was hardly any risk,” says Kant, who co-founded Tyba, an online job recruitment platform that matches jobseekers with startups looking for young talent, while at IE. Kant, who now manages about 40 employees in Tyba’s Madrid office, is one of a growing number of successful young entrepreneurs who have emerged from IE’s BBA program, which has quickly gained a strong reputation.
UNDERGRAD APPLICATIONS ARE UP 50%
The school’s strong focus on entrepreneurship is just one element that distinguishes it in a crowded undergraduate marketplace in Europe and beyond. The program, with campuses in Madrid and Segovia, is now in its eighth year, and has quickly grown, from about 50 students in 2009 to 528 students today. Interest in the four-year program has been strong so far, especially with recent changes to Spanish legislation that has eliminated the Spanish university entrance exam for foreign students. Applications increased 40% in 2013 and 2014 respectively, and 50% in the most recent application cycle, the school said.
From the start, administrators at IE, known for its market-driven and innovative programing, were looking to create a unique BBA program that would create an experience for students that would be hard to replicate elsewhere, explains Martin Boehm, dean of programs at IE Business School, who oversees the BBA program as part of his role. The school decided to offer its BBA entirely in English, a move almost unheard of in Continental Europe, where classes are typically offered mostly in the language of the respective school’s native country, or in a mix of the native language and English.
“Our institution has always been quite daring in terms of trying new things and challenging the status quo,” says Boehm. “What we really try to do within the legal boundaries is push the limits.”
THE MOST INTERNATIONAL BBA PROGRAM IN THE WORLD?
IE’s focus on diversity is a strategy that has paid off handsomely for the school. IE’s BBA may very well be the most international BBA program not just in Europe, but in the world, administrators said. There are 81 nationalities represented within the BBA student body, and 70% of the students come from outside of Spain, hailing from destinations as far-flung as Zimbabwe to Nepal. The international student population at most other schools in continental Europe hovers, at most, between 10% to 20%, Boehm says.
The school has achieved this breadth of diversity by being proactive in reaching out to students who might be interested in this type of international business program, namely high school seniors taking part in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, the standard curriculum offered at many prestigious international schools around the world. IE admission staff visit these high schools and make students a compelling pitch: Continue their international education experience in a program that will be even more diverse than the one they received in high school, and provide them with valuable global business skills.
“There’s a significant amount of students in the market that are interested in getting an international experience,” Boehm said. “What we try to do is try to recreate that very diverse international environment on campus, but offer them as well plenty of opportunities to gain international experience outside of Spain.”
USING SCHOLARSHIPS TO LURE STUDENTS
Another way that IE has been able to attract students of so many different nationalities is by offering a wide and aggressive range of scholarships and financial aid to help students cover the cost of an education abroad, from grants for students from the International Baccalaureate system to scholarships for students who have their sights set on being entrepreneurs.
Perhaps the most unusual scholarship the school offers is one called the Young Talented Leaders Scholarship, sponsored by AJE, the multinational beverage company. The scholarship is used to recruit students from Indonesia and Thailand to the university for several of its four-year bachelor degrees, including the BBA, and covers tuition, fees, transportation and accommodations. AJE provides the students with internship and project opportunities with the company for the duration of the scholarship.
Josua Handoko, an Indonesian BBA student from Jakarta, was awarded the Young Talented Leaders Scholarship last year, and says it has changed the trajectory of his college career. He’d been considering schools in Canada and the U.S., but the full-ride scholarship from AJE was hard to turn down.