Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics – a great place to start a career

 In Business, News, Universities

I am late for the interview. I had almost arrived at Lisbon’s Católica School of Business and Economics to interview its dean, only to discover I had forgotten my questions and had to return with lighting rapidity.

On this occasion, I shouldn’t have worried. Arriving flustered, I was informed by Filipe Santos’ communications assistant that he would be 10 minutes late. There was a reason for this which was eminently better than mine!

It had just been announced that he had made it to the Stanford University’s ranking of the ‘World’s Top 2% of Scientists 2022’ out of 195,000 from all over the world, from 22 areas and 176 disciplines whose published works have most contributed to progress in their respective areas, and who have most influenced the scientific research of other researchers. I realise I will be taking to a man whose IQ is off the scale.

I am immediately put at my ease. Large, saucer-brown eyes reveal the penetrating depth of corridors of knowledge from a myriad of online libraries. I ask him how he finds the time to run the first and most prestigious business and economics school in the country – alongside Nova SBE with which it cooperates in many key areas in what Filipe Santos calls a ‘spirit of coopetition’ – and undertake such monumental research.

“I don’t sleep much” says the expert in strategy, innovation and social impact who has advanced knowledge on how entrepreneurs create markets, the reasons why established companies fail to innovate, and the way social entrepreneurs construct new firms and markets, and on the scaling up of ventures that maximise economic and social impact.

Heading Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics since 2019, Filipe Santos’ research has been published in top journals, received several international awards, and has been cited more than 7500 times. (Google Scholar)

Filipe Santos tells me that 40% of the faculty is international and lectures are mostly delivered in English. “Most of our professors are hired in the international market. There was a period in the 1980s when excellent academics were sponsored by Católica to do their PhDs and return to Portugal. Since 2005 we started building an international faculty with professors who either had careers abroad and brought them to Portugal or overseas academics”, he says adding that two out of every three professors are international.

Santos says that one reason why the Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics attracts so many overseas research academics and lecturers is “we have a very strong research culture at the school, investing in scientific development and encouraging junior academics to do their research. We are known for being a great place to start a career”.

The recipient of the Lieberman Fellowship at Stanford University, an award recognising outstanding scholarship and institutional contributions, adds that the Non-Habitual Tax (NHR) regime has also been “an attractive feature for overseas professors” since they pay a flat rate of 20% tax, which makes the compensation net more attractive.

The other element, he says, is Portugal’s meritocratic culture. “If you are good at Católica, you are appreciated and pushed forward. We like people to excel and reward it with fast-track promotion”.

One example he gives is Professor Miguel Godinho Matos whose focus on studying how digitisation changes consumer behaviour and firms’ product distribution strategies who In 2019 Miguel won two early career award distinctions from the Informations Systems Society and the Association of Information System, respectively.

Another is Joana Silva Santos, a senior economist who spent much of her career at the World Bank and has expertise in applied microeconomics, with a particular focus on development, labour markets, international trade, firm dynamics, and policy evaluation – particularly in the public policy area.

Joana has setup ‘Prosper – the Centre of Economics for Prosperity’ at Católica which was created for students who wish to acquire skills needed to become good economists and who have a great record for excellent theses.

“In Portugal and other counties around the world there is too much public policy built around ideology and politics, and we think policy should be based on evidence and effectiveness”.

“Having a minimum wage should not be an issue for the left or right; it is a scientific question that can be asked ‘if raising the minimum wage has good benefits for employment and competitiveness, or not’. The outcome of such a policy can be demonstrated through scientific models, not ideology, and that is what Joana is doing”, explains Filipe Santos.

Santos says he believes that business schools should serve as a benchmark for their independence and science-based approach on important societal issues, and as a convener of companies and public institutions in engaging on these issues.

One such example is ‘Pact for Water’, an initiative with the goal of placing the topic of water at the centre of the Portuguese national agenda. This is pressing at a time when the country has been suffering intense and prolonged periods of drought which has had implications for agriculture and on hydro-electric power generation. ‘Pact for Water seeks to promote the efficient use of water by companies in their value chains and in society in terms of recycling.

The Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics is also making strides in researching mental health issues and promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace. One of its most famous ex-students and alma mater is the Portuguese international economist and banker Sir António Horta Osório who received his knighthood for raising stress and mental health issues in the working environment as well as saving Lloyd’s Banking Group.

Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics’ Masters programme has 550 students enrolled of which 75% are international, with a particularly strong showing by German, French, Italian and Scandinavian students who like to study in Portugal because of the attractive aspects the country has to offer.

“We are enjoying increasing demand with very high-quality students” says Filipe Santos adding that fees are competitive compared to France or the UK, and although further education is free in Germany “the quality is not as high”.

In two areas Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics has teamed up with MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)  to run, as a joint venture, the Executives MBA. (In the FT’s 100 ranking as one of the best MBAs in the world). The other area is research partnerships.

Católica is fully-funded by tuition (€6,000 per annum), competing in a market when its competitor (Nova SBE) get 90% of its funding from State grants. “The quality-price ratio is very attractive because the quality of the tuition we offer is international but the costs are reasonable, even by national standards”.

The Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics has three stands to its strategy for the future. The first, to be a hub to attract the best talent globally and continue to internationalise both the masters and undergraduate programs, and provide scholarships to make the school even more attractive.

Second, the idea that you only build a great school if you have a great faculty, and to do that you have to provide compensation incentives for lecturers and researchers, and give them ample research time; all this to attract the best talent worldwide.

Third, improving the physical infrastructure with a move to a new purpose-built building to house the school.

“The current building, which is 30 years old, served when the school was smaller and mostly national. Now, as we have grown and become more successful, we are at overcapacity, and we are at the final stages of planning with the city council for a new campus and academic building with over twice the current capacity”, concludes Filipe Santos, Dean of Universidade Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics.