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Switzerland is consistently rated as one of the top ten places to live and work in the world. With a stable economy and low crime rate, it has quickly become a desirable destination, with 22% of the population comprising of immigrants from around the world.
And it’s not just working there that’s appealing: education in Switzerland has been long-renowned in Europe for its high quality. In fact, in the International Student Satisfaction Awards 2014, students ranked Swiss schools at an impressive average of 8.9 out of 10.
St. Gallen’s Executive School is no different. Ranked fourth in Europe by the Financial Times in 2018 for business education, the school focuses on lifelong learning and building long-lasting relationships with its alumni, ensuring that they are prepared for life after business school and continuing to enhance their skillsets.
The executive school offers a diverse range of executive courses in both English and German language, from short seminars such as ‘Control of Projects and Investments’ to an MBA and an International Executive MBA.
We spoke to Winfried Ruigrok, dean of the Executive School of Management, Technology & Law at the University of St. Gallen since January 2011, to find out more about the benefits of studying in Switzerland.
Winfried has enjoyed an international career, studying and working in the Netherlands, the UK, and the European Commission in Brussels. However, he found his fit at St. Gallen. “I’ve stayed here because I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve been here since 1996,” he smiles.
An International Atmosphere
Winfried outlines four major benefits to studying executive education in Switzerland: international atmosphere, strong research facilities, a diverse economy, and a strong learning environment.
“We have a very international work force in Switzerland,” Winfried explains.
In fact, approximately one quarter of the entire Swiss population are international, according to the Federal Statistical Office, and the country boasts 26 confederal states and four national languages.
This international atmosphere translates to the classroom too, where there are 84 nationalities among St. Gallen’s MBA course alumni alone.
“We are extremely well-networked, not just with recruiters but with the top of organizations, which is a tremendous help,” Winfried smiles. However, despite joining an alumni network of over 27,000 members, students at St. Gallen Executive School needn’t fear getting lost in the crowd.
“Our classes are smaller than at many other competing schools, we know our students by name,” Winfried considers, explaining why he chose not to make the classroom larger. “The quality of a program depends on the scope and depth of interaction inside and outside of the classroom with faculty, coaches, and executives. This is more difficult to achieve with large classes.”
A diverse economy
Whilst Switzerland is traditionally associated with finance, Winfried explains that Switzerland goes far beyond that. “I could talk about the watch industry, pharmaceuticals, engineering, food and beverages… in each of those industries you have very internationally-orientated, high-end Swiss companies.”
Switzerland has the highest density of Fortune 500 head offices in the world, with fourteen Fortune 500 companies headquartered there in 2018. These include Nestlé, the Adecco Group, and Glencore International.
By studying in Switzerland, students on the University of St.Gallen’s MBA or Executive MBA programs have access to top companies in a variety of industries. “They come to us for recruiting,” Winfried continues, “they are keen to work with us, perhaps because we have a strong practice orientation.”
You can find St. Gallen alumni in almost 80% of the board of directors and executive boards of the largest Swiss companies. And, every year, board members from the world’s largest companies come to the campus to attend the St.Gallen Board Retreat.
With the opportunity to participate in business partnership projects and an emphasis on soft as well as technical skills for well-rounded leadership, St. Gallen graduates can enter careers in business with confidence and join a diverse and connected group of alumni.
Strong Research Facilities
Studying in Switzerland also gives students access to the high quality of education and research that the country has to offer. “Care and attention to detail in research institutions is really high in Switzerland,” Winfried explains.
As a country, Switzerland heavily invests in research and development, spending 2.2% of its GDP annually, compared to the EU average of 1.1%. Such investment naturally places Swiss institutions highly in global university rankings and gives students ample opportunity to access cutting-edge research.
But Switzerland’s diverse economy is not the only draw for students.
Throughout the year, Switzerland has plenty to offer to holiday-makers and MBA students alike, whether it’s skiing in the winter or hiking in the summer.
“It’s gorgeous,” Winfried says, emphasizing the ease of which people can access these activities: “the railway system in this country is second to none,” he laughs.
St. Gallen is well-placed to take advantage of these activities, as it is located in north-eastern Switzerland. The historic town emerged from the seventh century hermitage St. Gall and is home to the St. Gallen Executive School.
Nowadays, it’s a top destination for ambitious MBAs, and whether it’s the high density of multinational companies, its top research facilities, or its diverse cohort, Switzerland’s reputation speaks for itself when it comes to business education programs.