Bocconi in the Digital Century. Opening Ceremony of the Academic Year

, by Fabio Todesco
The Rector, Gianmario Verona, focused on innovation in his speech during the ceremony. President Mario Monti and the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, also spoke, and Vice President Luigi Guatri and Chief Executive Officer Bruno Pavesi were in attendance

A Bocconi that innovates in research, dissemination of knowledge, teaching and the ability to dialogue with companies institutions and citizens. This is the image of the University that emerged during the speech by the Rector, Gianmario Verona, at the Opening Ceremony of the Academic Year 2017-2018 – the 115th since the foundation of Bocconi – this morning in the Aula Magna. After hearing from the President of Bocconi, Mario Monti, the event's keynote speaker was the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager. Other important attendees at the event included the Vice President, Luigi Guatri, and the Chief Executive Officer, Bruno Pavesi.

"We live during a time that is characterized by nationalism and populism," said the President of Bocconi, Mario Monti. "They share a distrust in competence, in public authority and in Europe. Today Bocconi would like to send a message of trust. The 'digital century' should not be feared, but rather faced and guided. This is a challenge for universities as well and must be managed, as Rector Verona describes. Our keynote speaker, Margrethe Vestager, provides a testament of credibility and efficacy of public authority. When action can be completed at the appropriate level, the European level; when powers are truly supranational; when the relevant European authority can intervene at the same level of authority as the United States, then a respected figure such as Margarethe Vestager can truly be seen by citizens, consumers and companies as the embodiment of a trustworthy, competent and impartial public authority. A power that protects them from mistreatments by dominating companies and also from the sophisticated systems of tax evasion and avoidance of certain multinational companies that increase the fiscal pressure of loyal taxpayers."

The Rector, whose speech was entitled, Innovation as a Source of Organic Growth in the Digital Age, focused on digital technology's role in accelerating innovation in businesses and schools. "The age we are living in is the seedling of a blossoming in technological innovation that promises developments more extraordinary than at any other time in the history of mankind," said Verona. Digital technology is disruptive because, unlike past innovation, it is versatile (it involves every sector of the economy), evolutive (moving from the introduction of the internet to apps and then artificial intelligence has been an evolutionary process), global (the international flow of data and information is increasing dizzily, even while the trade of goods and services is slowing down), widespread (it even reaches small businesses) and it is strongly linked to demand.

Innovation at Bocconi shares these same features.


The University has recently introduced a course on the Python programming language in all Bachelor of Science programs, because, Verona said, "that today coding is the equivalent of English thirty years ago: an unavoidable factor of literacy, not only for the world of work or for academic research, but for living fully in our times." The same opportunity is also offered to Law and Master of Science students, in the form of an extracurricular course. In addition to the Python course, 28 compulsory and elective courses on subjects ranging from macroeconomics to demographics, finance to marketing, have been updated so that they use coding. This allows students to pass from the familiarization phase to daily use of big data.


Thanks to technologies, teaching methods are continuously evolving, as is the center that focuses on these issues. BUILT, Bocconi University Innovations in Learning and Teaching, was founded this year, which is the consolidation of the startup BETA. The center is redesigning the classroom experience and developing a series of innovative teaching formats using modern and effective methods. Bocconi's 7 MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on the US platform Coursera rank in the top spots for user satisfaction.


Bocconi's internationalization process is progressing rapidly, regarding both students and professors/researchers. Over the past 4 years, the number of international students applying has increased by 105%, reaching a total of 4,781. There are 1,040 international enrollees for the academic year opening today, making up 19.4% of total enrollees. In 2016, there were 1,807 students on exchange from international universities (an increase of 51.7% over 2012). The €28.6m in scholarships and other financial aid, 74% of which is provided by the University, contributes to attracting quality students from all over the world and every kind of social background. In addition, there are 1,800 beds available on campus, which will increase to 2,100 next September after the new residence hall in the former Central del Latte area has been completed. Of the 354 faculty members that make up the core faculty, 16.4% are international (compared to 12.8% in 2014) and 37.9% hold an international PhD (compared to 31.8% in 2014). In the past year alone, the faculty added 23 new professors (including 8 Full Professors, 1 Associate Professor and 14 Assistant Professors).


Digital technologies and a conscientious effort to adapt the language used allows for a widespread dissemination of research results. Bocconi, in the words of Verona, is one of the institutions "called upon to make a further commitment to social responsibility, by finding new solutions and promoting their comprehension, acceptance and dissemination." All this while maintaining the rigor of the scientific method, which is proven through the following data: between 2008 and 2016, Bocconi author citations in research, according to Web of Science, increased by 335% and the h-index average (the most widespread measurement of scientific impact of research) increased by 115%. The European Research Council (ERC), the organization that allocates the most important European research funding, also recognizes the quality of the studies completed at Bocconi. During the ERC's 10 years of existence, the University has hosted 29 grants. In the "Economics, Finance, and Management" division, Bocconi is in second place in Europe, with 19 grants awarded valued at €22m. Dissemination efforts have been supported by experimenting with new formats, with visual aspects of scientific communication being used more often, reaching new audiences, especially those in Generation Z.


New educational needs have led Bocconi to introduce changes to the educational offer. The Rector announced the launch of two new Master of Science programs in 2018-2019 in the areas of political science and data science, as a continuation of the programs launched at the undergraduate level: the Master of Science in Politics and Policy Analysis and the Master of Science in Data Science and Business Analytics. In addition, the first LLM in Law of Internet Technology was launched this year. It is a 12-month Master of Law that projects our School of Law onto the international education market. There are also many innovative initiatives at the SDA Bocconi School of Management. The most important was the launch of the first Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA), with 19 participants from 14 countries, who occupy high positions in important multinational firms and aim to acquire analytical decision-making skills based on the scientific method. Furthermore, there was also the successful launch of the executive MBA course dedicated to the luxury sector (EMiLUX), in partnership with ESSEC, which includes lessons on the universities' five campuses: Paris, Milan, Dubai, Mumbai and Singapore.


Rector Gianmario Verona's Inaugural Address

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager's keynote speech