17 Jan 2012
Central European University (CEU) Business School aims to be differentiated and relevant. Compared to some it is relatively small, but it focuses on big challenges. It is independent, but also extremely collaborative. As an institution it is run in a realistic and pragmatic fashion, although it remains committed to an overarching set of management standards that emphasise integrity and ethics in corporate governance. Entrepreneurship and innovation are embraced across the board, but not at the expense of long-held principles. Being both a US and Hungarian institution, it is rooted in the economies of the North America and Europe, but sees its strategic future in serving the emerging world.
CEU Business School offers a fast-track and intensive full-time MBA, which starts in September and ends in July. This programme is extremely competitive and highly diverse, with over 20 nationalities represented. The school also offers a growing 22-month EMBA, which is given in an alternate-weekend format. New MS programmes in IT Management and in Finance will start in 2012 and 2013 respectively. The school also conducts a limited number of carefully tailored public and company-specific non-degree executive education programmes. The school possesses approximately 1,500 extremely loyal alumni, who now constitute an ever-growing cadre of influential professional managers and entrepreneurs in the CEE region and beyond.
CEU Business School has always been associated with a special mission. Since its founding in 1988, the Budapest-based institution has served as a high-level portal for introducing world-class professionalism, leading management ideas and modern innovation to transition and emerging regions. The school has functioned, therefore, as an academic engine for stimulating economic growth across the globe.
Through its efforts over nearly a quarter of a century, a large number of well-managed and competitive large firms and, more recently, successful entrepreneurial start-ups now exist in the CEE and elsewhere in the emerging world. The school’s focus is now shifting toward understanding and developing advanced ways for large global enterprises to operate in and to tap into new centres of dynamism and knowledge.
CEU Business School’s mission does not end simply at being excellent at education. It aims to generate relevant and distinctive academic content, including curriculum development material and relevant research. For two consecutive years the school received first prize in the CEEMAN contest for developing innovative teaching material or original cases. As its Dean, Mel Horwitch, commented: “We take pride in covering the entire value chain that comprises a quality academic institution. We have a distinguished and productive scholarly faculty. They develop cases and simulations and conduct outstanding research. We also are proud of our accomplished practice faculty. They bring to the school’s classes a wealth of high-level professional and entrepreneurial experience.”
A core characteristic of CEU Business School is its commitment to the professional success of each student. As Dean Horwitch observed, “Our students do not simply comprise a class. They are also aspiring professionals, entrepreneurs and leaders in their own right. We want to make sure that we do everything we can to help each student stretch, and we thereby give that student the best chance of reaching one’s highest career objectives.”
Therefore, from the moment students are admitted, their unique attributes and goals are identified. They are assigned to the most appropriate faculty advisor. Throughout their time in the CEU MBA Programme, careful attention and support is given to their progress and professional development.
As a matter of explicit strategy, CEU Business School decided it would not be all things to all people. Instead, the school is designed to be excellent in those areas that it deems important for managers and entrepreneurs in the 21st century. In that sense it views its Central European location as a major asset. It is practically in the school’s DNA to provide those ideas, methods and skills that allow the creation of value anywhere in world and the dissemination of such exciting products and services to other parts of the globe. Dean Horwitch explains, “Being based in Budapest and then linking up with colleagues and activities, say, in China or Brazil, gives us a major advantage in today’s competitive arena.
Increasingly, growth and new ideas are not limited to the so-called advanced centres of North America or Western Europe. We are at the crossroads of east and west and north and south. We are in sync with the present and future, and we have designed an MBA curriculum to educate managers and entrepreneurs to be effective leaders in this new world.”
An ongoing campaign of change
A major characteristic of CEU Business School is its broad embrace of innovation. As Dean Horwitch observes, “We constantly ask ourselves how we can improve. It’s a permanent campaign on our part.” Examples of recent innovation efforts at the school include:
– Expanding and integrating ethics, corporate social responsibility, integrity and sustainability into the MBA curriculum with expanded, redesigned and new courses. This activity is supported by two research centres and a $3m grant from Siemens for developing state-of-the-art educational material and programmes dealing with integrity issues.
– Shifting the geographic focus of its curriculum from advanced economies and toward emerging economies with new ‘transnational leader’ and emerging-market strategy courses.
– Giving prominence to ‘action learning’ and field-based experiential education in its MBA programme, with on-site student consulting assignments and with the placement of students in start-ups — all providing academic credit for students.
– Incorporating modern learning technology into its MBA with prize-winning role-playing simulations, the open-source ‘Moodle’ course management system and, most recently, the provision of iPad2s.
– Introducing a for-credit international course on ‘Leading and Enterprise in a Global City’ in which MBA students travel to NYC for a blend of classes and site visits – all focusing on changing managerial imperatives in an increasingly entrepreneurial major city.
The most recent transformational development at CEU Business School is its decision to make entrepreneurship and innovation a significant component of its core mission. Dean Horwitch commented: “Ultimately, for most countries and firms, human talent, creativity and the ability to introduce new and improved value are key sources of competitive success. We believe that we can significantly participate and contribute to a global innovation ecosystem.”
This new initiative is backed by a recent $7.55m grant by CEU founder and philanthropist George Soros. The school has launched the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which hosts round tables, funds-targeted curriculum development, sponsors research, holds specially designed executive education, and operates a new Business Accelerator Lab for nurturing regional start-ups and for educating aspiring entrepreneurs.
At the broadest level, CEU Business School is assuming a holistic and mutually reinforcing stance in developing and implementing its key strategic initiatives. As Dean Horwitch said, “To a large extent, we attribute whatever success we have achieved so far to the creation of a ‘virtuous circle.’ All our individual efforts are pacesetting and excellent.Taken together, they result in self-reinforcing forces and activities that promote continuous major change at our school, wise risk taking, experimentation and on-going improvement.” CEU Business School now aims to build on this school-wide culture of continuous innovation for developing larger-scale efforts that will have even greater influence on its region and beyond, on its students and on management education as a whole.