Learning in the sun the Harvard way

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The Independent Culture
Nestling in the leafy, residential suburbs of Barcelona lies IESE, the International Graduate School of Management of the University of Navarra. Like many other Continental business schools it has no conventional campus, but it compensates by having sunshine, a view of the Mediterranean and giving students a couple of years in a fascinating European city.

Described as one of the leading and most interesting European business schools by the guide "Which MBA?", it is thought to be the only school on the Continent offering a two-year programme taught almost exclusively by the case method. That reflects its Harvard roots: the original Spanish- speaking MBA was set up with the help of Harvard business school. The school is also closely connected to the Roman Catholic organisation, Opus Dei, which may explain its emphasis on ethical and moral considerations.

Today the MBA is bilingual, conducted in English and Spanish together and costs pounds 8,400 a year. In the first year you take all courses in English but you attend an intensive Spanish course, initially to help you survive in Barcelona. In addition, non-Spanish speaking students study one hour of Spanish four days a week. During the summer many of the non-Spanish speakers do their summer internship in a Spanish-speaking company. In the second year, when the courses are optional, they may choose to take them in either Spanish or English. At the end of the programme students are able to conduct business in English and Spanish, according to MBA director Eduardo Martinez-Abascal. "We believe this is an important advantage because you open the doors to Latin America, a region expected to grow rapidly."

Students hail from 40 countries and one half comes from outside Spain. The exchange programme is a vital feature. Students can spend a term in another internationally-renowned business school. "The aim is for students to develop themselves as managers," says Mr Abascal. "You need not only knowledge but to know what to do, and you need values. We are interested in the students getting the habit of taking decisions even with incomplete information because a manager never has the total picture."