1980s - From Institute to Institution

INSEAD entered the 1980s with a highly regarded MBA programme, an impressive faculty body, a robust infrastructure, a reputation for excellent teaching and credibility that spanned European and US business communities.


The next challenge was to evolve from a ground-breaking business school into a world-changing, comprehensive management institution. Such a challenge raised several questions.

How would INSEAD balance teaching and research while continually generating relevance to business? How would INSEAD continue to spread knowledge while becoming a leading-edge creator of that knowledge? How would INSEAD grow in a world that was increasingly connected?

The solutions were distinctively INSEAD.

These solutions required structural change. Joint executive responsibility was given to two co-deans, integrating academics and financial decision making. Tenure was introduced to attract and retain talented faculty.

The addition of the second intake for the MBA programme in 1983 helped the school grow and provided distinct benefits. Potential students had more choice, professors had more flexibility, and class size was able to scale up to meet demand.

In 1984, President of France François Mitterrand hosted the European Summit at the Château de Fontainebleau. Mitterrand asked INSEAD to host the press corps and the school agreed, offering facilities for press conferences and events. At a press conference in Amphi A, leaders announced the date for the Single European Market and unveiled the first European passport. This put a spotlight on growth in Europe and generated significant interest in INSEAD.

Throughout the decade, the connection to Asia grew stronger. INSEAD decided to erect a new building for the Euro-Asia Centre, which became a base of operations for expanding executive education in Asia.

Demand for company-specific executive education also exploded, increasing the number of case studies produced and positioning INSEAD as a leader in research on multinational companies.

In 1988, the INSEAD Board of Directors voted to launch a doctoral programme and the first six PhD candidates, each representing a different nationality, enrolled the following year.

Investment in infrastructure and innovation was a commitment to diversity and internationalism. The changes paralleled a shifting identity of INSEAD – from a European school with an international outlook to an international school with a European emphasis.