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This elite business school has its sights set on Asia

  • Graduate business school INSEAD's Singapore campus could be as large as its campus in France within the next three to four years
  • The institution is focused on retaining its focus on internationalism as it responds to growing demand for MBAs from students who want an exposure to Asia

INSEAD might have roots in Fontainebleau, France, but the elite graduate business school has its sights set on Asia.

The school, which has campuses in France, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, was ranked as the world's top Master of Business Administration (MBA) program by the Financial Times in both 2016 and 2017, pipping Harvard Business School.

"The interesting thing is that it's a global increasing demand for our MBA here because many of the Americans, Europeans, Latin Americans ... they want exposure to Asia," said Ilian Mihov, the institution's Singapore-based dean.

Mihov is INSEAD's first dean to be based beyond France's borders, perhaps indicative of the region's growing clout internationally.

Going forward, INSEAD has plans to expand in Singapore with an additional building in the next three to four years, Mihov told CNBC's "Managing Asia," adding that the move would result in the Singapore campus being of a similar size to the institution's campus in France.

"It is quite possible that within the next 10 years, Asia will be 50 percent of our revenues of what we do in terms of executive education (and) MBAs. And probably will grow further," he said.

The INSEAD campus in Fontainebleau, France.
Courtesy: INSEAD
The INSEAD campus in Fontainebleau, France.

And while China might be the world's second-largest economy, INSEAD doesn't really have any plans to set up a new campus in the country for now. It is, however, exploring more activities and engaging companies in China, Mihov said.

"Here in Singapore, we feel (it's) a very global environment, very international. We are a bit afraid that if we set up a campus in China, it will be very Chinese," Mihov told CNBC.

He said INSEAD sees diversity and internationalism as key to the school's DNA.

As for concerns about the increased popularity of protectionism, Mihov said global free trade wasn't dead just yet.

"Certainly, it's under threat ... and I think right now we have to watch what happens with Brexit ... we have to watch what happens between China and the Unite States," he said, adding that even with the focus on trade barriers by the U.S. administration, it would be impossible for everything to be produced by the United States.