Bocconi: A Year Focused on Society, Europe and the Future

, by Andrea Celauro
The 2020/2021 academic year was inaugurated with guest speaker Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. While also dealing with the current emergency, the University is redesigning the future by focusing on human capital, innovation and sustainability. Now more than ever

"Society, Europe, Future." Bocconi University has chosen these three words, in the annus horribilis of the pandemic, for the Opening Ceremony of the 2020-2021 Academic Year. The event was held today in digital form, with a speech by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Talks by President Mario Monti and Rector Gianmario Verona outlined the goals achieved by the University this year at the event, with Bocconi Vice President Andrea Sironi and Managing Director Riccardo Taranto in attendance.

"After months that have put us to the test, as institutions and as individuals," said President Monti, "we have chosen to open the new academic year with a message of confidence in the future. President von der Leyen's attendance in streaming is a testament to the European Union's central role in tackling the pandemic, exercised in a tangible, timely and forward-looking manner, and to the Commission's commitment to youth, sustainability and in general to the great challenges of our time. Finally, it is an acknowledgement of our University – and its European vocation – that we are very proud of, for Bocconi and for Italy."

"What we are inaugurating today is an academic year driven by profound transformation," said Rector Verona. "Every crisis also carries within it the seed of innovation and new growth, for those who know how to guide it and can leverage the skills, spirit of service and creativity of the entire community. Since the beginning of the health crisis, which quickly also became an economic crisis, at Bocconi we have worked to ensure continuity, quality of teaching and services and financial support for our students. The innovations developed and introduced in times of crisis have thus become the basis of the new teaching model that Bocconi is designing for its future and which represents one of the objectives of the Strategic Plan 2021-2025. The new model will integrate in-person and digital activities, creating an enhanced new way of teaching and learning, in which professors will increasingly act as 'coaches,' guiding students through subjects and media, with a strong focus on interaction and exchange of experiences."

Human capital, digital transformation and sustainability – now more than ever, as the University's recent motto goes. Bocconi aims to focus on these priorities when looking towards the future and society.

Human capital
On the human capital front, the faculty is made up of 376 professors, 20% of whom are international (+36% compared to five years ago) and over 31% are women. This is including the latest new entries, 22 professors in the 2020-2021 academic year. The number of women Full Professors has grown by 113% in the last 5 years, from 7% to 14.9%. This demonstrates a focus on policies supporting the promotion of cultural and gender diversity, which are strongly rooted at Bocconi, and today find new momentum with the appointment of Catherine De Vries as Dean for Diversity and Inclusion.

"With the new entrants and their distribution by gender, age and passport," explains Rector Verona, "we have reached the objectives of the Strategic Plan 2016-2020. We are now preparing to undertake the even more ambitious goals from the Strategic Plan 2021-2025, which will increase the faculty to 470 members in 2025."

Among the indicators that attest to the quality of researchers, the ability to attract and be awarded important international grants is particularly significant. There have been 37 European Research Council grants hosted since 2007, which places Bocconi in third place in the panel of its most immediate expertise, relating to Economics, Finance and Management. Today 20 active grants are hosted at Bocconi, an increase of 300% since 2010, when there were only five.

But the human capital of a university is also its students. Bocconi has around 14,900 students, 23% of whom are international. In the last five years, Bocconi's attractiveness has steadily increased, with +50% applications and an increase in the interest from international students of 154.7%. At the same time, the employment rate of graduates has also constantly increased, reaching 95.7%, with a current record for international placement of 31.1%.

The quality of human capital and therefore the University's relative strength is certified by leading international rankings. In 2020, the University was confirmed 4th in Europe and 16th worldwide in Social Sciences in the QS Ranking and, for the first time, 5th in Europe and 18th worldwide by US News. Bocconi also stepped on the podium in the ranking of the best business schools in Europe for the first time, with SDA Bocconi School of Management in 3rd place in the Financial Times ranking.

Digital transformation
At Bocconi, the digital challenge is twofold: both in terms of subject matter and in terms of teaching methods and channels to enhance teaching and learning processes. Regarding course content, Bocconi has consolidated its path in the field of computer and data science by launching the new Bachelor of Science in Mathematical and Computing Sciences for Artificial Intelligence, the fifth program established in this area over a period of 4 years.
Regarding digital innovation, the great challenge of the year has been distance learning. This led to a new blended teaching model being set up, capable of enhancing in-person teaching by leveraging the power of digital technologies. And again on the subject of education, SDA Bocconi's offer of excutive on-demand courses is growing: there are now 17 courses in the catalogue, which has been completely redesigned over the last year. This is in part thanks to new partnerships with the most important international platforms for the distribution of on-demand courses (Emeritus and GetSmarter) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on the Coursera platform, which have increased to 12.

This year was also the year in which our accelerator B4i, Bocconi for Innovation, began its activities. Despite the pandemic, 12 startups have been included in its acceleration program, with 35 in the pre-acceleration program, while a third call is now open and will close on 7 January. Finally, starting from this academic year, along with SDA Bocconi School of Management, B4i has launched a new initiative to complete a project in this area: the Innovation and Corporate Entrepreneurship Center (ICE). The new center aims to promote the development of innovation opportunities in public and private companies and institutions, supporting them with personalized research and training courses.

Lastly, the issue of sustainability. There have also been many steps forward on this front: the most significant in terms of social sustainability include the almost €36 million in the preliminary budget dedicated to supporting students for 2020-2021 (ten years ago the amount was €23.5 million), as well as all the activities related to making the Bocconi campus safe in response to the emergency due to the pandemic, with an investment of more than €3 million.

In terms of environmental sustainability, the figures in the recent Sustainability Report speak for themselves: campus energy consumption decreased by 7% between 2017 and 2019, emissions decreased by 10%, waste production decreased by 66% and water consumption decreased by 10%. In the area of economic sustainability, the Within Our Reach fundraising campaign met its goal in October, which aimed to raise €120 million by 2020. This goal was achieved thanks to 3,350 donors, including individuals, institutions and companies. Among other things, this aid has allowed us, despite the lockdown, to found the Covid Crisis Lab, which studies the effects of the pandemic, and to establish the AXA Lab in Gender Equality, the European Studies Institute, and the Research Lab in Sustainable Urban Regeneration.

A message from Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel on the occasion of the Opening of the Academic Year of Bocconi University

The speech of the President of Bocconi University, Mario Monti

Address for the Academic Year Opening Ceremony 2020/2021 of the rector Gianmario Verona

The videos of the speeches of President Monti, Rector Verona and of the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen