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French MBA Programs

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French MBA Programs [#permalink] New post 01 Apr 2010, 16:14
Can anybody comment on HEC, ESSEC, Grenoble, and EDHEC?

I've heard HEC and ESSEC are the gold standard amongst the French. EDHEC and Grenoble seem to be a great fit for me, but both seem to have less global recognition.

I'm an American and would ultimately want to return to the U.S., but I would like the option to work abroad (in France, if I can learn the language well enough in a year otherwise the U.K. would suffice). However, I've heard that many of the French programs (even those taught in English), with the exception of INSEAD are not very friendly to foreign students with respect to career counseling, recruiting and placement. I've also heard that foreign students are somewhat ostracized by the native French, especially at ESSEC.

I'm not sure how valid these claims are. I've heard all of the above on MBA forums. Of course the schools marketing materials make it sound like they roll out the red carpet for international students -- so they are no help in figuring out what it's really like on the ground as a international student.

Can anybody offer any insight with respect to the best French programs for Finance, Consulting, Entrepreneurship? What about recruiting and placement in France/other EU countries for international graduates? How much does not being a French native positively/negatively impact the educational/personal experience?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: French MBA Programs [#permalink] New post 01 Apr 2010, 23:53
Well, I have not attended a French b-school but I am an American who has worked in France for the last 5 years.

HEC is the top school of those you have listed and the only one that will get much recognition abroad (thanks to its #1 Financial Times ranking, strong alumni network and dominant position within France). With EDHEC and Grenoble you won't be getting a "name" MBA outside of France, but you will be doing it in some amazing cities and the simple fact that you did your MBA in France will have some cachet back in the states. But given that your US network will be next to nil I think you'd have to consider them as well below the top-20 US schools.

Within France, on the other hand, all these schools have good alumni networks and are viewed positively. Whether you can spin that to a job will probably depend a lot on you. France may be in Western Europe, but unlike England or Ireland it is a very different culture--more so than many Americans appreciate. Think of it like moving to Japan: you will really have to learn new ways of interacting, both socially and in business, and embrace these norms in order to be accepted. This means learning French, of course, but all sorts of other things as well, from how you hold your silverware to how you present yourself. I actually was fired from my first job here because in the morning it is the norm to go around the whole office and shake all the men's hands and kiss all the women. I didn't know this, so I didn't do it, with the result that everyone thought I was a stuck-up asshole!

So in sum, I think that the reputation that circulates that the career services of these schools are not good for internationals stems from them not working the way international students are used to. In France, though, if you don't do things the French way you won't get anywhere, and no school can change that.

Hopefully others can chime in with more specifics about recruiting and placement.
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Re: French MBA Programs [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2010, 06:11
Last fall I spoke to a Norwegian lady who was wrapping up a part-time EMBA at ESSEC. It consisted of modules in France and all work was carried out in study groups formed at the beginning of the study. Her group consisted of only French men and she said her greatest challenge was to appear credible to these men. Guess that aligns with what you mentioned about trouble between foreign students and native French people. Otherwise she really recommended ESSEC as a school for those needing an EMBA, especially in hospital management.
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Re: French MBA Programs [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2010, 11:09
Marlow, thank you! It's so hard to get thoughtful responses to questions here. I really appreciate your response.

How, did you get set up in France? Did you speak French before you moved their, and if no, how long did it take you become fluent?

Lastly, how receptive are European firms, particularly French firms, to hiring Americans?

With respect to networking. I have a solid network in the city I want to live in. I also believe it possible to network effectively from France with people in the other places I'm interested in calling home. I also suspect that there will be decent networking opportunities at lesser known schools too -- it'll just take more effort, which I have no shortage of.

Thanks again. If you have any more information or opinions you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them.


Thanks for your response. I wonder if your acquaintance was in the program taught in English or French. I really like ESSECs curriculum, but I have not heard many positive things about student life there.
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Re: French MBA Programs [#permalink] New post 04 Apr 2010, 08:17
I've got an admit from HEC and have done some research on the school (including campus visit), so my comments will be based mainly on the information about this school.

I agree that HEC is the top French school (considering INSEAD is an international school), ESSEC's rating is lower.

Career service in HEC has always been called a weak point, but the school seems to work on this, this year they have hired 3 more people, now there will be 8 career consultants for about 200 students. In addition, there are professional clubs, led by students (like consulting, finance...), that can also help you to find a good place in the target industry.
Ostracizing of foreign students.. well, I think it can be true about programs with majority of French students. For example, I've heard something similar about HEC's Masters program, where about 80% of students are French. And it seems to be exactly the case of ESSEC: according to their web site, only about 20% of students are foreigners..
In HEC less than 20% of students are from France, so I can imagine only an opposite

Regarding the language level.. If you future responsibilities will include direct contact with clients (e.g. consulting), you will need almost a fluent level. Inside the companies, middle level will be sufficient. I have heard from students who had done internships, that though job descriptions often required intermediate level of French, in fact there was no such necessity.

I think, your choice should depend on your future plans and what you want. If you have an admit from a top American school and manage to learn French on your own, it will open you as many (if not more) doors in Europe in most industries, and an American degree will surely be more helpful to return to the US. Anyway, MBA in France won't give you much more possibilities to study the language (here I agree with Marlow and have heard the same from students), you have to learn it before coming to the country. By the way, if you will be fluent in Spanish, it will be even more easier (French, Spanish and Italian languages are not far from each other).
So, I think that the main reason for studying in France is your wish to study in France.
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Re: French MBA Programs [#permalink] New post 27 Feb 2012, 12:46
marlow4 wrote:
I actually was fired from my first job here because in the morning it is the norm to go around the whole office and shake all the men's hands and kiss all the women. I didn't know this, so I didn't do it, with the result that everyone thought I was a stuck-up asshole!

Sorry, but I had to laugh. Don't know how it is working in the US, but here in Europe you say "good morning" to everyone. :roll: It has something to do with a kind of respect. :lol:
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Re: French MBA Programs [#permalink] New post 28 Feb 2012, 17:09
As an alternative to France, you can still be exposed to the French language in Quebec at a francophone school. HEC Montreal is a francophone school with both an english and a french program. You can even mix your classes between english and french if you so choose. They also offer french language courses in conjunction with the english MBA if you choose to take them.
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Re: French MBA Programs [#permalink] New post 28 Feb 2012, 23:10
Isn't HEC's Masters program and not its MBA program that's ranked #1 in the FT? I've heard great things about the former; I wish I'd applied straight out of college, though. I think there's a cut-off age (27?) for the super highly rated Grande Ecole programs.

As for the French ostracizing international students -- I think you'll encounter cross cultural differences in any country that isn't your own, it's just a question of learning from them and, if you want to work in France, going out of your way to assimilate. I find being fluent in French really helps with this process. At my first job, I had to work with a French colleague; she was pretty rude to me until she found out I'm fluent in French and had grown up in Paris. This has actually happened a few times to me over the years (going from foe to friend after learning you know French) but I've personally never had any problems with them just because I'm non-French.

I'm also interested in working in Europe before moving to the States so I'm applying to INSEAD and HEC. I'm thinking that if I get an awesome job after HEC, I can just transfer to a North American office after a few years.

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Re: French MBA Programs [#permalink] New post 29 Feb 2012, 19:18
I have a big dilemma. Will HEC be the ticket that can take me to where I want to go?

I'm not going to go too much into my profile, but it does include French education and a respectable level of linguistic ability. It's also probably sufficient to gain entry into most top-15 schools (but it's not a HBS/SGSB-level profile). For me, European programmes are an imperative, due to being 1 year long and good value (except IMD, priced in CHF). I view Europe as a wonderfully diverse, cultural society, but an aging, disfunctional economy. I also cannot justify work in Europe when American and Asian salaries are 1.5x to 2x higher, and taxes are lower. HEC's post-graduation salaries are chronically low. I've taken jobs for personal growth in the past, but I have financial responsibilities that mean it's time to earn some serious money for a while.

For international mobility and clout, it seems that Insead and British (LBS, Oxford, Cambridge) programmes have what it takes: large networks, alums in high-powered jobs, and a library of "graduates like you go into [a job which earns a decent wage]" stories. My perception of HEC is that graduates tend go on to work in France (lovely place to retire, but I wouldn't want to work there), or skip over to London and be hired as analysts and quants in financial firms (and I am not doing an MBA to become a quant).

So then my question: are prospects of HEC graduates who want to work in the USA, London, or Asia in finance or management inferior to graduates of the British/Insead business schools? Or is it just a boutique for those destined for a life in French management? Sure, certain things might be possible, but I do not wish to aim for the possible when the probable is within reach and I believe the outcome is the same or better.
Re: French MBA Programs   [#permalink] 29 Feb 2012, 19:18
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