Rector Arno Almann explains that the focus does not lie on the maximum increase in the number of foreign students. Instead, their proportion must create the optimum environment for networking and contact-making. Contacts are very important in future business.
While at the beginning of the 2000s, EBS was ambitious to expand to China and India, and bring students to EBS, the focus now lies close to Estonia.
Arno Almann explains: “When selecting foreign students, we focus on regions serving as potential business destinations for Estonia. We do not seek foreign students in distant and exotic countries, as their main motivation might not lie in studying, but rather in entering the European Union. Therefore, Finnish students make up a bulk of our foreign students. But we also have students from old Europe: Italy, France, Germany – these are the countries where Estonian entrepreneurs operate in.”
EBS is weighing the option of expanding to the EU Neighbourhood Policy countries: a project is currently being pursued in Ukraine. A delegation of the rectors of Ukrainian universities visited Estonia and EBS in 2014. Arno Almann recalls the Rector of the Ternopil National Economic University (TNEU) being very fond of the EBS model. This fondness was a beginning of a relationship.
In 2015, a modern-day management and business school was established under TNEU with the help of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It is a business school with an independent programme and the right to choose lecturers and implement study methods. In this respect, TNEU differs from the over-regulated and poor-quality national higher education model of Ukraine,” Almann points out the competitive edge of EBS and TNEU.
The first nine graduates of the master’s programme in business innovation received TNEU’s diplomas in the spring of 2019. In turn, EBS complemented the diploma with a certificate declaring that the studies were completed based on the EBS business innovation curriculum. “The award of a double diploma would be a very time-consuming process in the Ukrainian bureaucracy,”Arno Almann explained the certificate issued.
In addition, EBS trains lecturers for the universities in the Ternopil region, so that they would be able to teach entrepreneurship as an optional subject or integrated with existing subjects, regardless of the specialty (even if technical or medical).
The plan is to expand the cooperation further: EBS is also planning to start training lecturers for other universities in Western Ukraine. A business and innovation counselling centre is planned to be established under the Ternopil university, providing advice to both start-ups and operating companies.
International projects also play an important role. One of the more exciting projects was the cooperation with Volkswagen Financial Services. In 2017, 12 students of EBS and 6 students of EBS’s partner university Hong Kong Polytechnic University were given the opportunity to develop business advancement projects for the Chinese market. As a result of nine weeks of brainstorming, 20 business ideas made the cut, and were presented to Volkswagen in Beijing.
Another exciting project was the participation of the students of the EBS master’s programme in business innovation in the product development project of CERN, one of the leading research centres of the world. During the week in Geneva in 2016, the students of Stanford and other top universities in the world, together with the students of EBS, developed technology products, from concept to prototype.
One of the participants, Eglit Väli, could not hold herself back: “The week spent in CERN building robots exceeded all of my wildest expectations. If anyone had previously told me that I could build a robot within a week, I never would have believed it! The week challenged personal limitations and taught me extremely exciting things about prototype creation, robot building and electronics. It also taught me a lot about project management and teamwork. The week reminded me that I can do anything, if I put my mind to it – this is quite easy to forget, as we tend to set our own limitations.