Business schools steer a hard course on carbon.

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Before moving from Singapore to Paris this summer to become dean of ESSEC’s Pre-Experience Programs, Professor Aarti Ramaswamy weighed the pros and cons of moving her family and belongings between two continents. Spreadsheet.

She ultimately took the plane, but she wants her students to think about it, too: weighing options and carbon footprints before making their travel choices.

Essec has committed to reducing student travel on Masters (MM) programs by 30 percent over three years.

“While part of the student experience and travel is an international experience, student travel and activity is one of the sources of the school’s highest carbon footprint,” says Ramaswamy. “We are making a very conscious effort to reduce this.”

Those efforts include a “climate fresco” workshop that most students complete early in their programs. In addition, Ramaswamy plans to encourage students to choose more local destinations for field trips, exchanges and internships, giving larger budgets to students who choose places that require less travel.

But something that cannot be changed, says Ramaswamy, is the option of spending study time at another campus – Essec has two in France, one in Morocco and one in Singapore. “This is why many students choose to come to Essex; So we can’t put a straitjacket on them,” she said.

Pressure on business schools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from travel is coming from all directions. There are national climate targets, universities and schools have their own sustainability strategies and there is a “grassroots” movement of student climate clubs. Faculty are examining their own flight experiences before registering for an academic conference.

But the suspension of foreign travel during the outbreak led to a surge in demand after the ban was lifted – the so-called “revenge travel”.

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That creates a dilemma for all higher education institutions that present their programs as “international” but must demonstrate a commitment to carbon neutrality. A survey of 44 UK universities earlier this year found that 53 per cent did not intend to change student access to external studies and work placements, while 46 per cent said they had already made or were considering a change.

The story is the same in business schools. At ESCP, which has six campuses across Europe, Leon Lausa, dean of academic and international affairs, said MiM students will continue to have the opportunity to work abroad for the internship phase of the program, as there is still a strong demand for international experience. In the year By 2021, 90 percent of ESCP students have taken an internship outside their home country — up from 81 percent in 2020, and more significantly, even higher than pre-pandemic numbers.

“We’ve noticed that students today are very eager to go somewhere far away,” Laulusa says. We have never asked for so many exchange programs outside of Europe – to Asia, America and South America.

Some schools lean toward high demand. At Neoma in France, dean Delphine Manceau said her school “continues to defend its commitment to international experience.” This year, Neoma has added another 18 academic partners to nearly 400 universities and schools around the world that MIM students can visit for academic exchanges. It is also giving Master’s students access to an international network of entrepreneurs, giving young entrepreneurs the opportunity to pursue their business idea abroad for an additional six months. Neoma encourages students to travel by train instead of planes if possible, and organizes events to raise awareness about the issue.

“The desire to study abroad is still there,” says Céline Foss, program director of the Grenoble Ecole de Management. “The attraction of international study trips is high and an important inclusion in MiM for both academic and cultural reasons,” she says. However, in Grenoble, field trips must be taken regionally and flights are only permitted if the train is not practical.

According to Anna Cockroff, Director of Master’s Programs at Isade in Barcelona, ​​travel is an important part of the educational journey. “For international thinking and skills, students need to explore different cultures and study abroad to gather at different levels,” she said. “Employers continue to value profiles that can easily adapt to different environments, travel and communicate around the world.”

International study trips are optional but popular with students who see them as the highlight of the year, she added.

Back at ISEC, Ramaswamy said she believes that multiplying student travel needs with carbon commitments is less of a problem than a cost-effective exercise. “Every school is grappling with the challenge of balancing educational goals, cultural experience and sustainable solutions,” she says. But it is important to be constantly challenged by our students, alumni, business partners and employees. It is what keeps us relevant.

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