Christophe Mazurier: French MBA programs expanding abroad is nation’s economic silver lining

In a recent report from the Financial Times about European business schools, the newspaper noted that the most successful postgraduate institutions were succeeding by looking abroad to develop partnerships, establish campuses and attract international students.

According to the piece, this move overseas has been directed by the increased economic footprint of countries like the United Kingdom and France in other countries, especially in Asia.

French institutions, in particular, have long been lauded for their willingness to go global. Schools like IE Business School and Grenoble Graduate School of Business already have campuses abroad, both in Singapore, and as a result found themselves in the top 12 worldwide for pre-experience MBA programs. Even more recently, two more schools, Audencia and ESCP Europe, announced “alliances” with universities in Beijing.

Christophe Mazurier, a French financier who has spent his career in European business, celebrated France’s elite standing in this category in a recent editorial for Les Echos. Considering the dire economic status of the country — record unemployment, flagging GDP and constant in-fighting between economic and political systems — France’s financial institutions represented a rare stable point for a nation undergoing an identity crisis.
Mazurier thinks that French institutions’ embrace of the wider world to achieve scale, profitability, and esteem can also provide a template for the nation’s larger economic policy. First and foremost, these graduate programs exist outside of the French educational system, which recently slipped out of the top 20 worldwide as it struggles to keep pace with the fast-evolving dynamics of the classroom. This autonomy allows the institutions to be more flexible and pivot with the changing tides more easily.

The institutions have also attached themselves to Asia, where markets like China and Singapore are emerging at meteoric rates. By embracing international students, multilingual curricula, and distance learning, students are employable at exchanges and banks from New York City to London to Beijing. By adopting an international flair, students see an education at a French school as an opportunity for fluid and lucrative employment.

In these fundamental ways, Mazurier said, France as a whole can learn from its financial institutions. It must also realize that though schools like HEC Paris, which ranked No. 1 in the FT ranking for pre-experience Master’s in finance programs, has welcomed international students, there are also many French students walking these same halls. For Mazurier, this is a sign that despite the rhetoric in France that business is the bogeyman; many young people are not discouraged from a career in finance. In that sense, France has all the talent it needs to turn its economic situation around sitting in its backyard.

The downside to the globalization at these schools, according to Mazurier, is that students often flee the Hexagonal as soon as they receive their diploma. There simply isn’t the same quality of employment in Paris as there is in more robust and friendly markets. The dean of Audencia admitted to Financial Times that many alumni take advantage of the relationship with China by securing jobs there after graduation.

For France, then, the challenge is two-pronged: adopt principles set out by your post-graduate financial educators, and endeavor to foster an environment that keeps those bright students in France. For Mazurier, at least, these challenges overlap nicely. If France can allow business and finance more autonomy to expand within the country and outside its borders, as its educational institutions have, then that will encourage students to stick around longer.

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