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Barcelona business schools braced for fallout from Catalan crisis

Michael Wurth, 28, an American MBA student, was not put out with Spain’s Catalan crisis when he entered IESE Business School. He was unfazed by both the Barcelona terrorist attack and the referendum for Catalan independence.

Still, he talks about the ‘hostile’ atmosphere in Barcelonian streets. Spanish companies and finance organizations were pretty much shaken up by the recent events. Those businesses headquartered in the Catalonia region have already moved to other Spanish territories. Two best Barcelonian business schools, IESE and Esade, are concerned with the events and are afraid that the Catalonian independence vote will damage the business education in Spain, much the same as Donald Trump becoming president reflected negatively on US business schools or Brexit influenced admissions at UK universities.

Will the Catalonian Crisis Affect Barcelona Business Education Badly?

Every year, Esade business school prepares a report on its new international MBA students – this year the number of total Barcelonian international students was 942 – more than in the Silicon Valley and as many as in Toronto. According to Esade, the Catalonian event could reflect on Spanish schools as negatively as Brexit did on the British ones. Esade’s former dean, Alfons Sauquet, is worried that newly admitted students won’t come to Barcelona after what happened. Still, Sauquet remains optimistic and says that the Barcelonian schools’ brands are not as weak as to just fall apart like this. He believes that if the damage doesn’t last, everything will just go back to normal.

At IESE, all students showed up in class on time. However, when the term started, the Catalonia crisis was just beginning. Eric Weber, IESE associate dean, thinks that it’s too early yet to talk about long-term consequences. The true damaging effect will be seen in December, when full-time students start applying for the next year.

EMBAs Already Experiencing Drawbacks From Catalonian Events

What Eric Weber is mostly bothered with is that the local companies stopped financing individual business education for their managers. For IESE, the executive MBA program was a very lucrative part of their curriculum. Some eight or nine per cent of EMBAs came from Catalan companies. Still, the school remains global, with its foreign campuses in both Europe and New York. They also have joint programs with Chinese business schools.

For Esade, the biggest concern is that undergraduate business students will stop applying, although they are mostly Spanish. At this school, most full-time MBAs (94%) are international students and are mostly not scared by the civil unrest in Spain, as their native countries have had experience of this lately.

According to the American student Michael Wurth, despite having several Catalonians and other Spanish student in his class, he never noticed any tension between them. That’s why he hopes that the crisis will be resolved peacefully and without long-lasting damage for Barcelona’s business schools.

Learn more about European business schools on MBA25 event in Sofia.

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