Business Schools are Constructing Unprecedentedly Upscale Buildings

An increasing number of MBA students request new university facilities to be sustainable, collaborative and digitalized

Business schools across the world have joined the competition to collect funds and build unprecedentedly grand campuses for their schools in recent years. The IE Tower, which is technologically sophisticated in the vertical form but also sustainable, was built in September 2021 by IE Business Schools located in Madrid. This facility has the capacity to hold students with 180 high and 35 floors that encompass 50,000 square meters, plus 7,000 square meters of green areas.

Columbia Business School also plans to build its own premium facility, having raised $75m to the newly build Manhattan campus. The two facilities, which were due to be completed by early January 2022 for students’ access, will add multiple the square footage of the school.

Director MBA programs, Rhoda Davidson, at Emlyon Business School in France emphasizes the significance of spatial organization based on the existing studies, saying “These studies interestingly demonstrate the extent to which one’s creativity can be affected by the space arrangement”. Echoing this statement, Business schools are committed to opening varying kinds of buildings that include airy and bright areas which can help students improve their capability of collaborative learning.

After its 50 years of relocation in the outskirts of the city, Emlyon Business School itself is due to be moved to a new campus in the urban area by 2024 where it was originally established 150 years ago. The new facilities are aimed to provide students with approximate 30,000 square meters, involving 7,000 square meters of areas designed to stimulate students’ collaboration and experience.

Davidson emphasizes that being located close to large-scaled corporations merits their students in terms of professional opportunities, saying that MBA students would be able to join the strategic consulting projects and demonstrate their aptitude to the senior management.


Providing both online and offline sessions

Davidson implies the necessity of having a tangible space despite the ongoing digital innovation

Given the dramatically growing online educational platforms, particularly due to the COVID-related circumstances, it seems questionable why the physical facilities are being developed rather than online technologies.

Davidson finds the answer in the necessity of having a tangible space despite the ongoing digital innovation, underlying that “a physical dimension, human contact, and in-person meetings are essential components to higher education and research [therefore] We still need a campus to learn, discuss, share and collaborate”.

Despite the relatively low budgets as an outcome of the extended lockdowns, business schools can afford the construction of their luxurious new buildings because of the increased tuition fee income. During the Covid pandemic, according to schools, the demands of MBA degrees have been multiplied and accordingly enlarged budgets, coming from the tuition fees, made their new building projects financially feasible.

On the other side, the funds from affluent donors take large parts of the budget for the constructions. For instance, the Tepper School of Business has collected cash over a decade for its $201m campus facilities from 1,250 alumni and wealthy entrepreneur, David Tepper.

The construction of technologically sophisticated buildings is to meet the MBA students’ needs. For instance, IE Tower provides students with learning areas set up with technological tools that are designed to give both in-person and digital lectures. The president of IE University, Santiago Iñiguez, ensures that IE Tower will enrich the students’ experience not only within the institution but also outside of it.

This way of digitally connecting students is aimed to combine the tangible and digital learning experiences, simultaneously having some students attended in a physical classroom and others in a digital space, as well as asynchronous programs to support individual work.


Recently-built facilities allow interdisciplinary ways of learning

The new campus of Columbia is currently in use for improving partnerships with the school, the New York tech community, in the same university. This reflects business schools’ purpose in opening up new teaching areas that is to stress collaborations between the schools of different disciplines.

The dean of Columbia Business School, Costis Maaglaras, emphasizes that “Modern business is predicated on the expanded adoption of technology, data, and advanced analytics alongside the fundamentals of traditional business education”.

For the same reason, the new facilities of the Tepper School of Business will allow the active collaborations open to the other six Carnegie Mellon colleges and schools. Former dean of the Tepper, Robert Dammon, who was one of the figures leading the innovation of school buildings, highlights “Today’s business leaders must address challenges with creative and interdisciplinary approaches”.

Behind the popularity of new buildings, there are also the demands for eco-friendly facilities that can reduce carbon impact caused by business schools. Emlyon’s new facilities with a 9,000 square meter landscape, for instance, which will be built on its currently brownfield land, are expected to contribute to restoring the environment and biological diversity.

Furthermore, these environmentally sustainable buildings will achieve the optimization of the energy consumption of the campus. Yet, the ultimate goal of schools is to foster the enrolment of new students and subsequently to increase tuition fee income.

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