Milan’s MBA powerhouse trains sights on alumni in London

Private, entrepreneurial Bocconi University sets ambitious €120m fundraising target at glitzy global forum

April 16, 2015

Source: Bocconi Alumni Association

Mario Monti took part in the forum

Italy’s highest-ranked business school has launched a major fund-raising campaign intended to “advance the frontiers of knowledge in the social sciences”, position its programmes of study “at the cutting edge of knowledge” and enhance its campus in Milan.

Bocconi University, said Stefano Caselli, vice-rector for international affairs, is “proudly Italian, but private, independent and founded by an entrepreneur – really a unique combination”.

It now has some 14,000 students in economics, law and most areas of business and management, and plans to expand into political science. It is also highly research-active and currently the largest recipient of grants from the European Research Council in economics, finance and management.

Bocconi has already been successful in securing funding for chairs and associated conference programmes from companies such as the French investment bank AXA, Deutsche Bank and EY (formerly Ernst and Young) in cooperation with the Italian Association of Family Firms.

However, it has been far less successful at raising money from alumni, a practice that is not common in continental Europe and until recently was almost unknown in Italy.

Since so many of its graduates go into merchant banking, London seemed a natural choice as the venue for last month’s glitzy, high-powered third annual Bocconi Alumni Global Conference, at which the institution launched a campaign to raise €120 million (£88 million) by 2020.

It hopes to use the funds for a strategic plan focused on international recruitment of the best students and faculty, “international exposure of students” and “international placement of graduates”.

The conference, at the London Hilton on Park Lane, featured sessions on leadership, global competition, finance and growth,“restarting the European growth engine” and “UK: leaving Europe or pushing it to become a real union?”

All featured prominent business leaders and politicians, and the last took the form of a discussion between Mario Monti, Bocconi’s president and the former prime minister of Italy, and Lord Mandelson, the Labour former Cabinet minister.

“We have quite a large community of alumni in London,” the rector, Andrea Sironi, told Times Higher Education. Events such as the alumni conference are “important for networking, making clear we are looking after them, updating them on university projects and results, creating a sense of belonging”, he said.

Tuition fees at Bocconi are several thousand euros a year for its bachelor’s and master’s programmes, but Professor Caselli noted that the university has already invested €25 million a year in merit awards “to recognise people with incredible CVs, no matter what background” and tuition waivers for “students who are super-skilled but don’t have the money”.

It is in areas such as these that Bocconi hopes to persuade alumni to “give something back”, he said.

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