How CUOA Business School in Northern Italy Responded to COVID-19 and What’s Next

Italy, and in particular Northern Italy, was hit early on by the COVID-19 pandemic and Business Schools in that region had to respond and adapt quickly. As one of the first countries to be impacted, it didn’t have the benefit of learning from how other schools had, or were currently responding.  CUOA Business School, a recent PRME Signatory located near Venice was one of the Schools impacted early on. I spoke with Paolo Bellamoli about what the school did and what’s next.

Introduce us to your School

CUOA Business School is a leading business school and one of the most active centers in Italy for the development and promotion of managerial and entrepreneurial skills in the private and public sectors. CUOA Business School is established as a private, not-for-profit foundation, whose members include universities, industrialist associations, public bodies and a number of private companies. Its strength lies in the constant attention to the value of people, to the role of national and international institutions, to the ethical dimension of every economic action, to the importance of merit in economic and social life. We are strongly rooted in one of the regions with the highest entrepreneurship rate in Europe and have strong collaborations with thousands of businesses. CUOA is ranked among the top business schools in Italy by recruiters.

How has university your school responded to COVID-19?

CUOA Business School progressively but quickly adapted and responded to the evolving and disruptive crisis brought by the COVID-19 outbreak undertaking different steps. Since the beginning of the crisis, the School’s foremost concern has been safety of staff and students, as well as the School has felt the compelling responsibility to contribute as much as possible to the containment of the epidemic. To this end, the School promptly advised students and staff on health and prevention measures, as well as thoroughly complied with all directives issued by the relevant national and regional authorities. Heavy lockdown measures in Italy shortly followed, and all onsite academic activities were discontinued. Consequently, staff was promptly (re)trained to all relevant IT tools already available, and initiated working remotely from home. After the first experimentation phase, a large number of classes – for both ongoing programs and for programs due to start in the near future – have been converted from onsite delivery to online, synchronous delivery with Zoom.

Have your offerings changed?

The School started experimenting online provision of several lectures already scheduled for different Master’s and executive programs. Building on the above experimentation and transformation of courses from onsite to online delivery, a totally new catalog of short online executive courses (4 to 10 hours courses) has been developed and is being promoted and implemented.  These courses include communications, marketing and sales, finance as well as project management.

The School had already started a process to engage with a technological partner for developing fully-fledged asynchronous WebLearning products. Such a process is now being accelerated, and a consistent Web-Learning medium-term strategy for entering new online markets is being developed.

What additional measures did the School put in place to support its community?

A group of about 100 companies are institutional members of CUOA Business School (gathered under the name “Club Member”). The school board, jointly with the above companies, and aiming to support families under the current difficult COVID-19 circumstances, have decided to reroute part of the funds collected as school membership to scholarships for the next editions of some masters’ programs. The total value of the scholarships amount to Euro 100,000.

We have also moved our free professional orientation service online for those looking at career advice. Those interested send us a CV and we arrange an online meeting.

What’s next?

We have quite a few sustainability focused initiatives planned that we are moving online. A new webinar on business and sustainability is being organized for May, 7th. We have organized a larger event, called “Finance Days” focused on “finance and sustainability”. It is being organized for the CFOs and banking community. The event will take place at the end of June and will feature three online sessions on three different days. Specific information will be shared as soon as details are available.

Any advice for other signatories?

As we enter the so called “Phase Two” of the COVID-19 crisis, with a gradual easing of lockdown measures in many countries, business schools need to move on from tackling the emergency to reviewing business processes and swiftly developing sound short and medium-term strategies and plans. In the emergency phase, some factors such as communications aimed to strengthen linkages with all external stakeholders and transparent and engaging internal communication with the staff proved to be critical to ensure business continuity. The above factors will continue to be key in phase two, as well as plans will have to be developed starting from a reinforced role that will be played by drivers such as sustainability, security and safety, innovation and technology, internationalization processes and alliances. In particular, it will be key to prioritize and embed in all school strategies and operations a strengthened commitment to sustainability.

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