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School Visit to Nova Portugal

I recently had my first school visit since March of 2020!  Though there are visits around Europe planned to start in August, I was excited to have my first visit closer to home to Nova Portugal. In fact, it was a mere 15-minute drive from our apartment!

I do not fall in love with every school I visit. I first visited universities in Portugal back in 2018. There were not any blogs about this trip, as nothing I saw especially blew me away. My biggest hesitations were around the international student resources, and small international student numbers.  Portugal has done a great job at positioning itself as a wonderful place for expats and has created several initiatives to lure people to move to the country.  So, it is surprising that this isn’t done at the higher education level yet.

Photo by Francisco Nogueira

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into my visit at Nova School of Business and Economics. This school is actually a department of Nova University Lisbon university-a public university. Given the economic history in Portugal, public universities do not have a ton of surplus funds so you can imagine my surprise when I pulled up here.

As noted, my visit was specifically with Nova School of Business and Economics (Nova SBE) is n Carcavelos, which is about 20 minutes by train to the city center in Lisbon.  The recent history of this school is quite fascinating!  Just over a decade ago, the dean of the school- Alfredo de Sousa-decided he wanted to turn the school into one of the premiere business schools in Europe, with unique offerings and features. He first went to the government for funding, and they said they could offer moral support, but not financial (this was during the Portuguese financial crisis). This did not prevent Mr. de Sousa from pursuing his goal and he spent the next 7 years raising 56 million euros for the project from donors all around the world. A foundation was created that funded the new campus and continues continue to exist with the sole purpose of supporting campus maintenance and scientific endeavors.

I must take a minute to talk about the campus as this is one of the unique aspects introduced.  When I tell you that this school is right on the ocean, I mean that it literally right there! You walk through a campus underpass and there it is! The Carcavelos beach is known as a surfing hotspot in the country, and I must tell you, I think the weather in this part of Portugal is as close to perfect as it gets. Photo by Francisco Nogueira

The new Nova SBE facilities were completed in 2018 and are breathtaking. The campus includes 55 classroom (many with an ocean view), 26 amphitheaters, 24-hour study spaces, a food court, postal delivery service area, medical center, and on campus housing.  The on-campus housing is limited (122 rooms) but there are other student housing providers in the area. This is much more extensive than what is often provided at the departmental level at most European universities.

As impressive as the facilities is the fact that the school has triple crown accreditation. Let me take a minute to explain what that means. All of the schools we list in our database are fully accredited.  Business schools can also seek these “extra” international accreditations through AACSB, EQUIS, and AMBA.  AMBA accredits only the MBA program, while AACSB and EQUIS accredit the entire business school. These accreditations look at things that I think really matter about the educational experience.  Factors assessed include engagement among students and faculty; mission statement; instruction quality; teaching effectiveness; curriculum development, content, and review; corporate connections; internationalization; personal and professional development opportunities for students; and balance of emphasis on knowledge and skills.  Unlike global rankings, which are based entirely on research related criteria, these factors really have an impact on the student’s experience and outcomes! To have any of these accreditations is notable, but to have all three is extremely rare (less than 1% of business schools around the world have it) and is referred to as triple crown accreditation. Given that Nova SBE has the accreditation you can know that the agencies vetted them thoroughly for these factors.

All of the programs at the business school are taught in English and have been since 2010.  There are three bachelor’s programs (Management, Economics, and Portuguese and Business), seven master’s (Business Analytics, Economics, Finance, Management, International Management, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, International Development and Public Policy), one joint management program and one joint MBA program. SBE bachelor’s degree programs take three years to complete and cost 7500 euros per year. Except for the joint degrees, master’s at SBE cost 11,900 per year.

Experiential leaning is a key feature and work with companies is integrated in the curriculum. Additionally, sustainability themes are included in all the programs.  Students do not have a ton of time for surfing as the programs are extremely demanding and the management and economics bachelors are especially math heavy. That said, international student surveys note that students are extremely pleased with how accessible professors are for help outside the classroom.

Professors are not the only ones providing support. The SBE is self-contained (even more so than most European departments are) so students can get all their administrative/student life type needs met without leaving campus. There are offices that provide academic services, career services, counseling, first year mentoring programs, peer tutoring, academic skills workshops, assistance with housing, visa, and other non-academic matters, and more.  Further, there are over 30 active student clubs including topics like investments, entrepreneurship, cooking, and-of course-surfing. Given that the entire business school is English speaking, and the international student body is 40% (which does not even include the 500 or so exchange students hosted every year), accessing resources and student life opportunities is much easier for student than it can be in less internationalized schools.

Portugal is not an ideal place to start one’s career in business, due to lower salaries.  Graduates often seek (and find) employment elsewhere. Nova SBE alumni can be found in 65 different countries around the world, working at companies including Deloitte, EY, McKinsey, Amazon, L’Oréal, Google, and Unilever. In fact, 84% of students are employed within 3 months of gradating and 97% are employed with six months of graduating.

These are the types of school visits that excite me! Ones in which I have no “buts” or caveats to include.  Ones that are strong in academics, international student resources, outcomes, and overall experience.  I walked out thinking about students I know who this could be a good fit for. If you are interested in studying business in a beautiful setting, at a school invested in your success, I highly suggest you check it out!