How to develop a five-year strategic plan, according to a leading business school

Caroline Roussel, Dean at IÉSEG

Like many academic institutions recovering from a turbulent few years, IÉSEG School of Management is currently undergoing a significant period of change.  

To ignite and solidify the institution’s values and vision after this unsettled time, in July 2022, IÉSEG’s new Dean, Caroline Roussel, announced a five-year strategic plan.

IÉSEG’s five-step plan, INSPIRE – CONNECT – TRANSFORM, was the result of a collaboration involving the entire IÉSEG community: academic and administrative teams, students, graduates and partners.

The plan, which IÉSEG hopes to achieve by 2027, has five aims: 

> To propose an engaging student learning experience
> To become an interdisciplinary hub, integrating AI and humanities
> To develop an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem
> To be an intercultural, diverse and inclusive community
> To reinforce the systemic and global approach to sustainability 

QS spoke to Professor Roussel about the details of the plan, including striving for academic excellence and developing a innovative pedagogical strategy, as well as her advice for other institutions planning to implement their own strategic visions. 

Professor Roussel has been a professor at IÉSEG since 2002, before becoming Vice Dean in 2020 and finally Dean in 2022. She holds a PhD in management sciences, a master’s in management control accountancy and financial management and an Accreditation to Supervise Research. 

Congratulations on the recent development and initiation of IÉSEG’s five-year plan. What advice would you give to universities and business schools in how to approach the scoping and consultation stage for developing a new strategy?  

“When developing a new strategy you involve most of the stakeholders of your institution: companies, international partners, staff and professors, and students. We know that our students and colleagues need to understand why we are doing things. It’s really a question of being aligned with our values, mission and what we do.  

The most important part is not so much the outcome, but the process. You have to be open to listening people’s ideas. When you listen to people’s ideas they feel much more engaged because they are participating from the very beginning. As a leader of the institution, it’s up to you to then evaluate the idea and decide whether or not it’s feasible.” 

Do you have any advice for organisations who are finding it difficult to bring everyone on board with a new strategic vision? 

“When implementing a new vision, leaders are often met with risk aversion from institutions. The accreditation bodies often have very strict standards which have led to homogenisation in some institutions. 

“However, the strategic direction is also affected by the vision of the management and the Dean, with some willing to take a higher degree of risk in the development of the institution.  

“IÉSEG is a profit-making institution funded by stakeholders, so we cannot take huge risks (although the shareholders know there is always a risk to a degree). This doesn’t stop us from being innovative, trying new things and having an entrepreneurial mindset. There is a balance between managing the institution in terms of financial stability, but also being innovative and entrepreneurial.” 

What are the most important traits you look for when appointing faculty and staff who will help to implement the school’s strategy? 

“I’ve worked as Vice Dean for the past decade and, over the last ten years, I’ve interviewed many applicants for faculty positions. IÉSEG has developed so much over the last 15 years and it’s thanks to the type of professors who have joined us. I think it’s really important in an institution to hire the faculty members you would like to see in your team. We’re looking for an applicant’s profile which is aligned with our strategy. 

“We need to develop faculty members to deliver high-quality teaching and high-quality research. We’re looking for faculty members who have high achievements in research, but also professors who will share their research and expertise through their teaching to our students. We want people who are team players and will make good colleagues; people who would like to contribute to the design of the school’s five-year strategy and the development process.  

“For example, let’s say we decide to launch a new MSc Cyber Security, while the programme director will launch this new product, we would like to have the faculty involved in the development process of this degree.” 

As part of the plan, you aim to create an ‘engaging student learning experience’. Do you think it’s possible to fully replicate the classroom learning experiences in a virtual teaching environment? 

“I was speaking to a group of student representatives the other day and the first thing they said was that it was so nice to have the meeting face-to-face. Students have really suffered from the pandemic. Students who missed out their academic exchange abroad will never get the opportunity to do again. We provided psychological and academic support for students, which we have seen was really useful.  

“Now we’re back to normal, students are happy to be back to face-to-face teaching – they’re not looking to go back to online learning. We have had requests for more physical spaces available for group work, as students want better interactions with their classmates.

“During the pandemic, we learnt to work with technology much more and use it when it’s efficient. We still continue to teach online courses and I think it really is a question of using online resources when it brings value to the situation. For example, we recently organised a presentation with the CEO of an international company and we were glad for the technology to able to host this online.” 

In the strategic plan, IÉSEG says it will be encouraging the ‘integration of humanities and AI’. What would you say are the main benefits of students being able to take a more interdisciplinary approach to their studies?  

“It’s important to implement an interdisciplinary approach because it better prepares students for professional careers.  

“Each semester of each year, we have implemented a compulsory interdisciplinary group project. Most of the time we work with companies, and each project is focused on a specific topic.  

“We have created the solidarity project where students work with a non-profit organisation to find new ideas and propose new ways of doing research. For example, last year students worked with UNICEF on how to promote education for children. We’ve found that students are much more engaged when working in real situations. They know that they are contributing to something that will be used at the end by the organisation. Our students were really committed and engaged over on the project and the project was very interdisciplinary, covering project management, economics, strategic goals and finance. The project is evaluated and assessed by professors from each discipline, which gives professors the opportunity to collaborate across disciplines.” 

A key part of your five-year strategic plan is ‘to be an intercultural, diverse and inclusive community’. How will you know when you have achieved this goal?  

“We took steps to hire more international faculty members and welcomed more international students to our campuses. However, we realised we need to learn how to better understand each other when we work in teams. We have a pool of professors who are specialise in international management and are part of the international research networks. They have created a proposal to create an intercultural hotspot for students and create training for staff on how to encourage diversity. Our approach is not just focused on the diversity of different nationalities, but also on different personalities, the way you communicate and the way you learn.  

“We want to raise awareness of academic exchange and international travel. It’s now compulsory for students to spend at least one semester in an international institution. We think it’s important to prepare students for working outside of France – insuring they are well integrated and raising awareness of international differences.  

“For IÉSEG’s faculty, we are implementing diversity training. Our faculty are incredibly diverse. For example, recently organised a meeting of 25 professors, who were of 15 different nationalities.” 

One of the pillars of the five-year plan focusses on sustainability. How is IÉSEG working to respond to the climate crisis and reduce its carbon footprint?  

“In the strategic plan we work on sustainability both at an academic level and school level addressing sustainability in our programmes and in the school’s finance and marketing. It’s important for us to address the environmental topic of sustainability, as well as the social and economic dimension of it. We’re therefore implementing training on climate change and how we can address the topic.  

“In terms of travelling, the school’s policy is to use as much public transport as possible. We will continue with this policy and look around to reduce flights for short stay trips. While our students will continue to go on an exchange abroad, they will go for a full semester or six months. They will be encouraged not to go back and forth and use just one flight. We’ll give them information about their carbon footprint, so they can make informed decisions. The next step will be to ask whether we should be more constraining and reduce travel by 20%. However, we need to bear in mind that if we stopped travelling, we might lose some of our students’ open mindedness and the ability to adapt to diversity and different cultures – we might even lose creativity and innovation. Therefore we need to find a balance between reducing our carbon footprint and keeping vital international travel. 

“As you can see, questions related to sustainability are complex and we cannot address sustainability solely from an environmental point of view. There is also a social and geopolitical point of view we must consider.” 


Looking for more business-school related insights and commentary? Check out our previous articles: 

Why are hospitality graduates out-performing business graduates in soft skills? 

How important is the ‘student voice’ in business school marketing and recruitment? 

How important are choice and flexibility to the future of graduate management education? 


Related QS Insights

Sign up for industry insights

Receive the latest insights, expertise and commentary on the topics which matter most in higher education, straight to your inbox.

Sign up
This site is registered on as a development site. Switch to a production site key to remove this banner.