Europe is Competitive

Interview with Richard Perrin, Corporate Communications Director, HEC School of Management

Born in America one hundred years ago, the MBA is the most internationally recognised postgraduate qualification. It is also highly praised within the global recruitment market. How do American and European Business schools distinguish themselves?

Are American Business schools afraid of the European programmes?

One hundred and twenty years after the creation of the first MBA at the University of Pennsylvania, a fierce competition has started between the American MBAs - which tend to be more general in their content - and the best European programmes.

If the old continent has started to offer MBAs later than the USA (Insead Fontainebleau built in 1959, Iese Barcelona in 1963 and the HEC MBA in 1969), the American academic environment is now looking very attentively to the European offer and is a bit worried for its historical leadership. Indeed, the reflex of imitation lasted a short time and very quickly the schools have offered a different MBA model and have created good reasons to be preferred.

So, what makes European programmes so different from a standard MBA?

This European alternative model is built upon the shared acceptance to satisfy the needs of companies to recruit 27- to 30- year-old managers able to develop in a complex multicultural environment.

As an example, the HEC MBA focuses not only on a "core" - which is an acquisition of knowledge and the command of theoretical tools - but also on the multicultural and international experience of the participants and the reinforcement of "soft skills" (leadership, creativity, team-building, and so on). And we can count other competitive advantages of the old continent. The European schools offer the shorter length of one year for the MBA, whereas the US MBA is two years long in general. Also, fees for European institutions tend to be less expensive, so the ratio of the return on investment is more cost-effective.

Is internationalisation the same in the USA and in Europe?

When we count 75% of international students at HEC, or 85% at the London Business School, the MBAs of Stanford or Harvard count only 30% of international students.

Also, the content of the European courses is developed through a pedagogical approach within company case studies that take into consideration the cultural diversity in the practice of the management.

On the other hand, Americans follow a "systemic" approach. The classroom is American, the overseas professor holds a PhD from Berkeley or Princeton…and the case studies are presented from an American point of view.

Programs jointly delivered within transatlantic alliances are on offer, such as the TRIUM MBA (HEC, New York University, London School of Economics), the first Executive MBA to provide open-mindedness, relevance and real global recruitment. This TRIUM MBA is offered to companies on the different continents to prepare high-flying managers for chairman positions in a changing world. This program has gathered more than 20 nationalities on four continents.

American schools are taking notice of European schools' advancement, but a big gap still exists when it comes to means. How do you think European business schools will compete with the American ones?

With a $266 million budget, Harvard Business School is largely financed by a sizeable alumni network and company donations through resounding fund-raising campaigns. If the full-time generalist MBA is the 'premium programme' of the American business schools, the variety of the offer, the diversity of the contents and the pedagogical innovation are definitely European. And to let the world know, European business schools have to develop and diversify their financial resources.


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