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In this interview, Prof. Dr. Stefan Schmid, responsible for the Executive MBA and General Management Programme at ESCP Berlin and holder of the Chair of International Management and Strategic Management, talks about studying an EMBA during a pandemic, how teaching methods and content have changed since and how interaction levels have continued with online classes.

COVID-19 has brought on a lot of disruption to many industries and studying is also not the same. Many factors would suggest that studying an MBA or Executive MBA should be postponed. What justifies studying an Executive MBA at ESCP now in these circumstances? The world will probably not look the same again, how are the old practices that are taught going to be applicable in the changed world?

Every manager who opts for an Executive MBA programme should reflect upon the question when the ideal moment has come to devote 18 to 30 months to their professional development. Currently, some managers have more flexibility at work than during the pre-COVID-19 period. Hence, in comparison to a non-pandemic period, they can more easily combine the requirements of an Executive MBA programme with the challenges in their job. Many managers also know that an Executive MBA programme prepares them in an optimal way for their professional future – it provides them with new knowledge, new skills and new networks. This helps them to perform better in their current job as well as be ideally prepared for future positions they may want to take after having completed their Executive MBA programme. The recent Financial Times Ranking placed our programme 7th worldwide and 1st in the German-speaking countries. For instance, our Alumni ranked ESCP No.1 worldwide for “Aims achieved” and “Career progress”. It therefore seems that we have developed the appropriate programme for our participants, helping them to boost their career.      

So many changes have taken place at a high acceleration due to COVID-19, how is ESCP ensuring that the latest trends of the now are being covered and the same chances for students to expand their networks are present?

With its unique curriculum, ESCP makes sure to have the ideal combination of diverse contents in the curriculum. While the core courses cover all essential topics in business and management, such as Strategy, Finance, Marketing or Accounting, our electives have a different impetus. In electives, our participants can either deepen or extend knowledge acquired in core courses, or they can choose courses about the latest trends, such as Artificial Intelligence, Industry 4.0 or Virtual Leadership. In addition, our seminars allow participants to not only network, but also be confronted with best practices from industry as well as thought-provoking speeches from academics – and all this in an extremely international environment.  

When it comes to online classes, how have the levels of interaction between the professor and students changed? Do you feel online classes are able to uphold the same quality like interpersonal contact in offline classes?

When COVID-19 hit Europe, starting mainly in March 2020, we at ESCP immediately changed our lecturing in the Executive MBA programme. Depending on the country (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK) and depending on the period in question, we offered online teaching or hybrid teaching. Hybrid teaching allowed those participants who were able to come to campus enjoy our courses face-to-face. Those participants who were not able to travel were invited to connect online. All our professors made sure to allow interaction between our participants, for instance with group work organised in dedicated chat rooms, or with new software tools that foster active participation. In addition, if a participant wants to attend any online course again in traditional format after the COVID-19 period, they are more than welcome to do so. For instance, all participants can take classes a second time, and, this way, even expand their network by also studying with participants of one of the next cohorts.   

The international consultancy projects (ICP) provides some of the most meaningful experiences and learning take-aways for EMBA participants. Are these still up and running?

Our International consultancy projects are an extremely important pillar of the curriculum. Our participants work on real-life projects for companies. Mainly in groups of 4 or 5, our participants use the knowledge and skills they acquire in our programme to transfer them into concrete recommendations for the company in question. Each group is tutored by a professor who can either be met on campus or via all other communication means, such as telephone or videoconferencing.  As in the past, our ICPs also help our participants to develop their intercultural awareness, their abilities to work in teams and their leadership and decision-making style.     

You can learn more about Prof. Dr. Stefan Schmid and his professional development and work here.


More info about the Executive MBA at ESCP