Double degrees – Swiss and British university degrees- an education that will prepare you for a global career. Interview with Eric Willumsen, president and founder of the International University on Geneva.

It’s a well-known educational institution in Geneva, and each year the University’s international recognition as well as its world rank has risen. We had a chance to meet with Eric Willumsen recently to learn more about their mission and vision, their new programmes and hear what they have to offer to their students. So now we will leave the floor to him.

Q: Could you please tell us a little about how it all started?

Our five founding members wanted to provide an international education in Geneva and to establish a network of quality educational institutions. Our first partners were the Institut Superieur de Commerce in Paris and Fordham University in New York.

Over the years we have expanded our network, so, now we have 25 partners. We just renewed our agreement with Boston University for another two years and we added Shanghai Jiao Tong University two years ago. The students have the possibility of studying in different places, and we also welcome students from partner institutions, from Mexico to China, from Africa to Europe… Casablanca to Helsinki…

In 2003, we became a Swiss not-for-profit foundation. That was also in line with our mission and vision, for we wanted to provide the best of education but also send a responsible message to parents.

Last year, we achieved a benchmark, completing accreditation by the Britain Accreditations Council, and we also reinforced our partnership with the University of Plymouth one of the largest public institution in the UK. Now, since September 2018, we have been providing double degrees at the bachelor level.

As of September 2019, all our bachelor degrees will be double degrees with Plymouth in four different areas. So, over the years we have moved more and more over to the British higher education system. It’s in line with our vision, and it represents a sign of quality. It’s also known around the world, and we try to provide the best of the two worlds.

Q: What kind of studies do you offer?

We are active in four areas – digital media, business, international relations, and computer science at the bachelor and master level. We also offer since 2012 for working professionals two doctorates programs from the University of Plymouth – they are the ones who award the degree – in Business Administration and Public Administration. New courses such as digital diplomacy will be taught for the first time this summer.

We have faculty members form different international organizations like UNCTAD, UNECE, ITU, WHO… They bring their knowledge and experience from their respective areas, and we are fortunate to have really top-level faculty. In addition, we also have visiting professors.

Q: We are living in a digitalized world. How do you prepare the students to face these challenges?

We have recently overhauled our programmes and introduced more digital courses. We have  several new courses such as Digital Transformation and Digital Diplomacy at the master level. All our programs prepare prepares students to learn and lead in an increasingly digital environment.

New faculty members have been recruited and we organized a visit to Silicon Valley in March and the students had the opportunity to listen to presentations at famous tech companies such as Apple and Google.

Q; How many doctorates have you had up to now?

We have had six students completing their doctorates, and then we have 28 who are “waiting” to finish theirs. As you might be aware, it takes about three to four years to complete a doctorate on a part-time basis. Each year there are about six to eight persons who are admitted.

Q: How is the selection made?

We co-select the candidates with the University of Plymouth. The candidates submit their applications, which are then evaluated. The whole programme is carried on here, at our premises, and when they have finished, they defend their thesis at the University of Plymouth.

Q: What about Alumni?

We have chapters around the world in order to be in contact with our alumni who work in 102 countries and in 334 cities. We will have our annual event for the Swiss chapter soon. We report the statistics every year, and it’s really a global network. After 22 years, some of them have made very interesting and important careers, and it’s always a source of pride and joy to see that our alumni are doing well.

Q: You seems to be very well connected to International Geneva.

I think this is mainly because we have so many talented professors from International Geneva, and then also some from the multinationals.


Leaving Mr Willumsen in this office in the ICC, we can only wish him and his students all the best in all their endeavours.