The Advantages of Alliances

What makes a global alliance of schools work? A look at how one growing network of business schools supports the delivery of double-degree programs and international exchanges across 13 institutions.

Advantages of Alliances

FOR BUSINESS SCHOOLS, the term internationalization encompasses global student recruitment, research connections, curricular design, and mobility opportunities. But while internationalization is an integral element—if not a major driver—of most b-school strategies, it often requires business schools to operate in unfamiliar territory. As they engage with institutions and organizations far from their own campuses, their students and faculty must interact with unfamiliar cultural and regulatory environments, as well as coordinate with institutional schedules and policies that are different from their own.

However, by working together in large-scale alliances, business schools can help each other cross borders with less difficulty. That’s the spirit behind the International Partnership of Business Schools (IPBS), an alliance “dedicated to the development of a lifelong cross-cultural international community of business and management students, alumni, professors, researchers and staff.”

IPBS was established 40 years ago as the European Partnership of Business Schools. At that time, its primary objective was to create a European network of business schools that offered joint undergraduate degrees that integrated internship opportunities. While the network originally included six European schools, it has evolved into a consortium of 13 business schools located in Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and the United States. (See a list of member schools below.)

IPBS Partner Schools

  • Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy
  • Dublin City University Business School, Ireland
  • ESB Business School at Reutlingen University, Germany
  • ICADE Business School at Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Spain
  • Lancaster University Management School, United Kingdom
  • NEOMA Business School–Reims Campus, France
  • D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University, United States
  • Universidad de las Américas Puebla, Mexico
  • Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo at Fundação Getulio Vargas, Brazil
  • Goodman School of Business at Brock University, Canada
  • Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University, United States
  • University of San Diego School of Business, United States
  • Martha and Spencer Love School of Business at Elon University, United States 

IPBS seeks to foster a strong, collaborative group partnership that cannot be replicated through standalone bilateral relationships or agreements. By sharing knowledge and resources, member schools equip their graduates with the experience and resilience to flourish in an exponentially changing and global world.


The IPBS network facilitates ongoing faculty exchanges, semester- and yearlong student exchanges, and summer schools in other countries. But the alliance goes one step further to offer undergraduate double-degree programs that incorporate business education, language study, and work placements in two countries. Member schools also offer combined master’s in international management programs. Each year, around 630 students participate in IPBS programs.

Undergraduates who earn double degrees through the alliance study two years each on two different campuses. During this time, they complete an internship at each location, become part of two alumni networks, and can develop fluency in a second language.

Not surprisingly, most IPBS graduates go on to apply their skills in positions that require multicultural competence. For example, Sorcha Killian, who graduated in 2019 with degrees from Dublin City University (DCU) Business School in Ireland and the Goodman School of Business at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, is currently employed as a growth manager for Web Summit, a global technology conference. Barry O’Driscoll is a 2001 alumnus who studied at DCU and NEOMA in France; during his studies, he completed an internship at Eurosport Paris. The experience, says O’Driscoll, led him to his current position with Education in Ireland, part of the government agency Enterprise Ireland; he now serves as the regional manager for India, Sri Lanka, Mexico, and Colombia.

The organization is offering more opportunities for students to strengthen connections and collaborate on a larger scale across the network. Most recently, a student team from the Business Consultancy Society at Lancaster University Management School in the U.K. organized the IPBS network’s first International Consulting Symposium. Held in February in Madrid, the event attracted 130 students who attended expert panel discussions and workshops.

In the future, member schools might introduce global challenges for IPBS students to address collaboratively across schools, says Andrew Gaudes, IPBS president and dean of the Goodman School of Business. “I’d also like to start discussion regarding a representative student body spanning the 13 schools for student leadership and advocacy regarding their experience within IPBS programs.”


Students can pursue double degrees at IPBS schools fairly seamlessly, largely due to ongoing coordination among all partner schools. Using an agreed-upon module structure, the two schools in each bilateral agreement include the same core elements in their curricula. The partner schools determine which semester students should take certain courses or pursue internships. This coordination aligns academic content across both programs, even when the degrees themselves might be designated differently. For example, a student might earn a BA in global business from DCU and a BSc in international business from Northeastern University in the U.S.

Before two schools launch a new double degree program, they collaborate to create a detailed curriculum map and program schedule to ensure that degree requirements at each institution are met. The schools review their curriculum map each year and make mutually agreed-upon modifications as needed.

Each partner school recruits and admits students at the institutional level. Their admission requirements will vary—schools in some countries might base their admissions solely on academic merit, while schools in other countries might take a broader, holistic approach. Each set of partners bilaterally agrees on the size of each student cohort.


At semiannual meetings hosted on a rotating basis by participating institutions, the deans of each school come together to discuss the future of the consortium, plan new initiatives, and explore operational improvements.

One of the greatest benefits of taking part in IPBS is the ability to share best practices in teaching, research, curricular design, and market studies, says Céline Davesne, associate dean for programs at NEOMA Business School in Reims, France. The meetings enable administrators “to quickly process and implement the observed opportunities, since the key decision makers are at the table.”

Each meeting tends to focus on a particular wide-reaching topic. For instance, last October, school representatives met at NEOMA Business School to discuss career placement. Career center directors at IPBS schools gave presentations on effective practices, so “we could maximize our students’ internship and job opportunities and experiences,” says Davesne.

As a result of this discussion, member schools have added compulsory modules designed to assist students as they arrange work placements. For example, students from DCU who are studying at Brock University now take a module titled “Co-op Learning and Integration.” DCU is currently developing an online module for students to take during their work placements that will be delivered in the language of their study program—either French, German, or Spanish.

“We recently assigned academics from the partner universities the task of collecting core syllabi across the disciplines of accounting, finance, marketing, and quantitative methods,” says Marty Reilly, IPBS coordinator at DCU Business School. At their next meeting, he adds, member schools will conduct a poster session to spark greater discussion about learning objectives and best practices in module development.

New schools are admitted to the alliance by the vote of existing members; to be considered, schools must complete and submit an application accompanied by at least two letters of support from current IPBS members. They also must have programs that fit with IPBS values and that demonstrate consistency with the alliance’s vision and strategy.

IPBS is especially interested in how applicant schools deliver central pieces of the student experience, such as innovations in academic programming and learner services. To become members, and to maintain membership, schools must have robust internship programs. In addition, they must have students who are prepared and willing to work in other countries, as well as existing double-degree programs with one or more schools in the network.


Staff and faculty can teach at partner universities under the Erasmus+ Teaching Mobility Agreement, a document developed by the European Commission to facilitate and set parameters for faculty exchanges. Such enhanced faculty mobility results in “the creation of research networks to generate intellectual contributions, including multicultural studies,” says Ingrid Kirschning, dean for global education at Universidad de las Américas Puebla in Mexico.

Faculty from across the alliance organize annual events open to all IPBS students. This was to include a Summer Institute on Entrepreneurship & Innovation planned for June at ICADE Business School in Spain. However, those plans will likely be affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

In their latest joint effort, members have developed a new master’s-level double-degree program focused on global management. The program, which will follow the same protocols as the undergraduate program, will accept its first intake of students in September 2020.

Not surprisingly, IPBS’s overall model has been altered by COVID-19. We have leveraged the resources of individual institutions’ safeguards and policies to minimize disruption and ensure the best outcomes for our global learners during this critical period in their study. In addition to moving course delivery and final exams online, we have assisted students in completing their co-op/internship placements remotely, including those who returned to their home countries.

Educators from across the network are currently developing solutions to maintain academic continuity into the summer semester and even possibly the fall. At the time of this publication, we had begun to collect information from each IPBS member on online course offerings available to all students in the consortium—particularly courses that were distinctive to each region’s strengths. Our goal is to generate a portfolio of unique learning opportunities that students can undertake remotely.

Throughout this emergency—and through their overall collaboration— IPBS member schools have deepened their relationships based on their shared values, accreditations, and commitment to continuous improvement. Yes, it is possible for business schools to achieve internationalization via bilateral agreements alone. However, within multi-school consortia, they can share a wider range of expertise, design more innovative programs, achieve greater scale, and better prepare students to work in global, multicultural environments.

Caroline Enright is senior communications officer of Dublin City University Business School in Ireland. This article was written in collaboration with IPBS partner schools.

This article originally appeared in BizEd's May/June 2020 issue. Please send questions, comments, or letters to the editor to [email protected].