B-Schools Should Do More To Teach Students Global Politics — This Is Why

Understanding the geopolitical climate will give MBAs an edge in the recruitment process

Given the current mass, global political instability now is good time to launch a public policy degree. And it is no coincidence that with the global political order destabilized by Brexit, the election of US president Donald Trump and the rise of populism across Europe, that HEC Paris, one of the Continent’s top business schools, has done so.

HEC Paris has partnered Sciences Po, a leading French political science university, to create a dual MBA and Master of Public Administration.

The two-year program targets business graduates and those who wish to work in public administration or management consulting. It expects to enrol up to 20 students, who start in 2018.

At a time when graduates must navigate through the choppy waters of political change, it is an advantage to show employers that you are not only reactive to policy, but can influence the conversation.

That’s according to HEC Paris associate dean Andrea Masini, who we interviewed below:

Q. Should business schools be doing more to teach students global politics? 

We believe so, and it’s obviously not a coincidence that we launched this program at a time of political instability. Businesses are heavily influenced by political decisions. Our students need to have the right tools to understand the evolution of geopolitical contexts. We have on the MBA program a few courses which dive into these topics. These are some of the most popular courses, given the turbulent time we are going through. 

Q. Do you think that business schools have operated in silos, teaching marketing and accounting, ect, separately? 

HEC is independent, and that gives us the flexibility to integrate courses in a tighter way. Historically business schools and MBA programs have taught accounting, marketing, and operations separately, but you can no longer survive if you do that. We have designed our courses in conjunction with different disciplines. We have tried to break down the walls between disciplines. This teaches our students core skills but also a mind-set; we want them to learn to problem-solve in a broader context.

Q. Is there a need for managers who can work at the interface between both the public and the private sectors?

There’s a very strong need, and it’s coming from consulting companies. Take McKinsey or Bain: They have, sometimes, clients in public administration. When they hire consultants to send to these projects, the consultants need to understand very well the geopolitical context and how businesses can operate within it.

There is also a demand from public administrations that in the past have hired candidates with a background in political science, but now hires candidates who also understand business. Traditional MBA candidates can add additional value to a company if they can demonstrate that they understand the geopolitical context in which they operate.

Q. What benefits will the partnership with Sciences Po bring to the program? 

We realized each program had fundamental courses that didn’t have to be duplicated. We optimized the organization of the program; we have not watered down the content or made the curriculum any more intense. 

Q. What influence do political systems — and politicians —  carry in business? 

You clearly see the impact of Brexit on the banking sector; the rumours we hear about banks moving operations from London to Frankfurt or Paris. Clearly, banks are feeling the impact of political decisions on demand for certain services. At a time of political insatiability, in which graduates are having to navigate through turbulent waters, it’s a tremendous advantage to be able to show employers that you are not only reactive to policy, but can influence the conversation.

Q. Who is the program targeting and where do you anticipate they will work thereafter? 

It’s targeting two populations: primarily, business graduates or students who want to develop a career in consulting and have a particular interest in projects that deal with regulation and public affairs. The second audience is graduates who want to target public administrations or governmental agencies, but who need to demonstrate that they understand the language of business. The MBA will be the icing on the cake for them; it will enhance their credibility. I expect graduates to be working for the EU, and I expect graduates to work for consulting companies. 

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