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Top-ranking French business schools

Six of the top 10 Masters in Management programs come from French business schools, according to Financial Times rankings. Why is France so far out in front of the rest of the Euro zone, asks ANN GRAHAM.


HEC School of Management, ESCP-EAP European School of Management, Essec Business School, EM LYON, Grenoble Graduate School of Business, Audencia Nantes School of Management - much like the French rugby team, it's a formidable line up. And as the Financial Times rankings show, these heavy weights of Europe's business schools continue to top league tables for their Masters in Management programs.

The Financial Times ranking assesses Masters in Management degrees, which differ from MBA programs in that most students join the courses directly after their undergraduate degree; more often than not an MBA requires several years of work experience.

One of the main criteria of the ranking is an evaluation of the careers that alumni enjoy three years after graduating from the programs, which includes a survey of salaries.

So, just who are these top players and what unique attributes do they possess that are putting them so far out in front of the rest of their academic competitors?

HEC School of Management

Based in Paris, the HEC School of Management has topped the Financial Times ranking for the last three years. With a faculty of over 100 full-time professors, the school caters for a wide range of interests from the 20-year-old student to the international senior executive. HEC holds the triple crown accreditation from the Association of MBAs (AMBA), the European accreditation EQUIS from EFMD, and the American accreditation AACSB. The school offers an 18-month Masters of Science (MSc) in Management designed for candidates with no background in management and a 12-month MSc in different disciplines such as international business, finance, economics, and sustainable development. Three years after graduation, alumni are earning in excess of €70,000.

ESCP-EAP School of Management

Made up of five campuses in London, Madrid, Paris, Torino and Berlin, ESCP-EAP is ranked 4th in the Financial Times Masters in Management ranking, behind HEC, Cems (Community of European Management School and International Companies) and the London School of Economics. Founded in Paris in 1819, ESCP-EAP now has 3,500 students representing 90 different nationalities currently studying at the school, which boasts accreditations from AMBA, EQUIS and AACSB. The Masters in Management program consists of core and elective courses, a specialization, language course, research project and internship. Students enrolled in the Masters can study in two or three of the five locations ESCP-EAP operates in. Three years after graduation, alumni are earning more than €50,000.

Essec Business School

Number five in the Financial Times Masters in Management ranking, Essec has 3,700 full-time students studying across 35 programs at campuses in Paris and Singapore. Students interested in Essec's Masters in Management can choose from a range of specializations including: marketing management, financial techniques, and international supply management. All Masters programs are taught in French. There is one Masters program taught in English - the Masters in Management with a specialization in strategy and management of international business. Essec's specialized Masters degrees are accredited by the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles. Three years after graduation, alumni are earning around €45,000.


This prestigious French business school is ranked number six by the Financial Times for its Masters in Management programs. Another triple crown accredited French business school (AMBA, EQUIS, AACSB), EM LYON is also ranked highly throughout Europe for its executive education and MBA programs. In September 2007, the Financial Times also ranked EM LYON as number one in entrepreneurship and the best in international course experience rank. EM LYON's main campus is just ten minutes from the centre of Lyon in France. The school also has a campus in Shanghai. Three years after graduation, alumni are earning over €40,000.

Grenoble Graduate School of Business

As with its French counterparts, Grenoble Graduate School of Business, number seven on the Financial Times ranking of Masters in Management, boasts the triple crown accreditation - AMBA, EQUIS, AACSB. Over 4,000 students study at Grenoble, either on campus or via the school's distance learning programs. It has 159 partner institutions, and 10 sites outside of France, allowing students to experience an international element during their time studying at the school. With Masters programs in finance, marketing, and innovation and technology management, Grenoble offers students a range of qualifications taught in both French and English. Three years after graduation, alumni are earning more than €45,000.

Audencia Nantes School of Management

At number eight on the Financial Times ranking for its Masters in Management program (up from seventh place in 2006), Audencia is the smallest of the French schools making its name known with just 2,000 students. Audencia was the first school in France to make a period of study abroad obligatory for students on its Masters in Management (Grande Ecole) program and as such as been a leader in the internationalization of the postgraduate education sector. Audencia's Masters in Management program is taught in both French and English and no experience is required. The school holds the triple crown accreditation from AMBA, EQUIS and AACSB. Three years after graduation, alumni are earning almost €40,000.

The emerging European masters market

Gordon Shenton, emeritus professor at EM LYON Business School and associate director of accreditation body EFMD's Quality Services Department says many European business schools are in a much better position to compete in world education markets than was the case ten years ago.

In an article published in Global Focus, EFMD's business magazine, entitled 'The Bologna effect: the emerging European masters market', (co-authored with Patrice Houdayer, dean of academic programs at EM-LYON Business School), both Shenton and Houdayer highlight the gradual emergence of a European market for management education that has impelled schools and universities to internationalize their activities beyond the border of their home countries. "Being in the top 10 (or 15 or 25) in Europe has become a popular strategic objective among business school deans as a first step towards establishing an international brand," writes Shenton and Houdayer.

The two authors also put the emergence of these top ranked Masters programs down to rankings such as that by the Financial Times raising schools' awareness of their externally perceived positioning within international markets; the arrival of accreditation ten years ago which has transformed the competitive environment in Europe; and the impact of the Bologna reforms in higher education where 45 European countries have committed themselves to creating a more coherent European Higher Education Area by 2010.

Hervé Crès, associate dean of HEC, puts his school's performance in the Financial Times rankings, and the performance of his fellow French counterparts, down to what he refers to as France's 'know-how' attitude to teaching management. "Here in France, and at HEC, we know how to teach management to students who don't have any work experience, and we advertise that 'know-how'."

Recipe for success

With a combination of international accreditation, world-renowned researchers and faculty, and an impressive network of alumni, it seems the French business schools have the recipe for success. By studying a Masters in Management from one of France's top business schools, students gain a recognized qualification, a significant salary three years after graduation and already have contacts in some of Europe's most successful companies.

If the last three years are anything to go by, France is well and truly in the lead when it comes to offering top ranking Masters in Management programs. The challenge for other countries is to train harder to beat them at their own game.


Ann Graham  - journalist - TOPGRADSCHOOL
Published on 2008.11.05

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