A challenging, questioning and eye-opening experience

5 minute read

Oxford Saïd in conversation with Tobias Gräs, February 2023.

We sat down with current Executive Diploma in Global Business student Tobias Gräs to hear his perspective on module one.

How did you hear about the programme and what was your pathway in?

My background in politics and political science is grounded in a European and Scandinavian perspective, having studied at the College of Europe in Natolin, the University of Copenhagen, and the Technical University of Denmark, where I gained my Diploma in Organisational Leadership.

I work for the Danish Agriculture and Food Council as a Senior Policy Advisor which involves representing the interests of Danish farmers and major European cooperative businesses at EU level, including the European Parliament, Council and Commission, in areas such as climate, agriculture and environment, as well as energy, trade and research policy. Over the 10 years I have been in post, the world has changed dramatically. This in turn has shaped and changed the way we work. The outlook has shifted from a mostly ideological and regulatory view to a more private sector and corporate perspective. Global business frameworks and growth models are increasingly looked to in order to explain the changes and challenges we are seeing on the world stage, and how we can work to overcome those challenges.

In many ways, it’s a new age of politics that goes beyond the ‘older fashioned’ political differences that we once had. Working as a lobbyist in Brussels, the topics on both my plate and my peers are universal, like climate change, supply chains, fleet challenges, trade routes for exports and food system transformation. We are all involved in the grand global debates of our time.

Naturally, I am representing a Scandinavian and European viewpoint in these debates and have been doing so for a long time. I wanted to step outside of this perspective, shift my mindset and broaden my outlook on global issues

Why did you choose to study this diploma?

I chose this Diploma because I felt that it would really force me to connect with and understand different viewpoints. The interdisciplinary approach is truly global, covering a wide range of perspectives and markets, which is also represented by both the faculty and the other cohort participants in the room.

Why should someone study the Executive Diploma in Global Business?

If you’re involved in politics and policy, you’ll recognise how much the outlook has changed over the past 10 years. There’s been a shift towards a more business-oriented perspective. Despite this shift, it is essential for policymakers and advisors to still maintain the political dimension. We are not jumping to the other side completely. We are responsible for bridging the gap between both the private and public sectors. To do this successfully involves political science, understanding a broad range of global perspectives and challenging your own views. The Diploma will support you with exactly that. And the good news is, it doesn’t involve getting too bogged down in the numbers like you might do when studying a common business degree. This is a postgraduate qualification with an interdisciplinary approach, in content, faculty and cohort representation, that enables you to step outside your own context and explore global issues from an entirely new viewpoint. In doing so, the programme equips you with the frameworks to put this new knowledge into practice.

What three words would you use to describe the programme and why?

Challenging, questioning and eye-opening. It challenges you to debate ideas out of context. It’s ‘politically incorrect’, in the most positive and finest sense of the phrase, as you are pushed to challenge orthodoxies, explore global perspectives and create new ones. You aren’t just presented with different views, you are encouraged to question them and proactively dissect them through real, meaningful debate with classmates from all walks of life and all around the world. And that’s why this diploma is truly eye-opening.

How have you found the first module?

I’ve just completed module one, Global Strategy, and it was excellent. Even though my expectations were high, I was still positively surprised at how much value I got from those first four days. The compressed and part-time format helps to accelerate your learning on many of the dynamics and concepts covered. The professors were excellent, and my peers are inspiring, from all sorts of backgrounds and across global divides. It was energising, and tiring, but very rewarding.

What surprised me the most, and that I hadn’t really considered before, was just how much this was a real university experience. I expected to be challenged, it’s Oxford after all and the professors did this brilliantly, but what I didn’t expect was to really feel part of this great university. When you are at Oxford studying the programme, you are washed with this ‘Oxford mood’, inspired to make the most of all the opportunities available to you in the wider university ecosystem, and to fully immerse yourself in the Oxford experience. I’ve become a member of the Oxford Union which means I can attend special speaker sessions, debates and social events, as well as access the member’s bar, The Old Library (dating back to 1857) and additional study areas. As I’m based in Brussels, I’m not too far from Oxford and so these extra benefits are of value on top of the programme. It’s a great chance to catch up with my classmates too, and some of us have already meet up before the next module!

What do you hope to gain from studying the programme?

Looking ahead, by the end of the programme I hope to have gained an extended view of the world, a multi-faceted perspective on global issues and a community of peers from across the globe. And I can already see that emerging, after only four days on the programme.

I’m also looking forward to putting down some roots and establishing lifelong ties with Oxford. Becoming an associate member of Jesus College, a member of the Oxford Union and the Oxford experience on the programme, are all a huge part of creating that reference point that I can always venture back to.

Oxford Executive Diploma in Global Business