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“We are one school with five doors,” says Jérôme Couturier, associate professor of strategy at ESCP Europe. The professor is making the point that while ESCP has grown from its Parisian roots to teach students at campuses in Berlin, London, Madrid and Turin, it is now a unified – if highly international – business school.
The French capital remains the administrative and symbolic heart of the school, but ESCP is much less of a hub-and-spoke organisation than it once was, agrees his colleague Patrick Gougeon, director of the London campus.
Although a majority of ESCP’s full-time faculty are French nationals, more than 20 nationalities are represented across the campuses. “We are experts in cross-cultural management as we practise it every day,” says Dr Gougeon.
The school’s international character is reflected in the contrasting architecture of the campus buildings themselves, ranging from a red-brick Victorian home in London to a low-set modernist structure in Madrid.
These multiple bases mean that students’ exposure to the continent’s business culture is unrivalled, says Dr Gougeon. “For non-Europeans, study at ESCP provides a great springboard into European business.”
In line with the international approach, there is a stress on studying languages as well as business. Those on ESCP’s flagship masters in management degree – currently ranked second in the world – are expected to speak three languages by graduation.
While English is the lingua franca of international business, other languages remain relevant and are worth the “huge expense” of teaching, says Prof Couturier. Languages not only improve graduates’ employment prospects, he says, but are also a way of enriching cultural understanding.
“The Harvard textbook may not necessarily fit all cultures,” says Frédéric Fréry, dean of the European Executive MBA. “We promote a European view of management [that] there are different ways to reach goals.”
ESCP’s mission to immerse students in transnational European business culture is illustrated by the annual launch of its masters in management programme at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. A dedicated high-speed train carries students from Paris for the three-day forum before they begin studies at their home campus.
Beyond its five campuses, ESCP is developing plans for a “digital sixth campus”. The school is “moving fast” to meet head on the challenge of technological disruption of business education, says Dr Gougeon. However, he insists that the plans involve more engagement with the students, unlike much distance learning, which he dismisses as “just delivery at a different location”.
Prof Couterier says that one of ESCP’s greatest strategic opportunities lies in executive education, in particular for global companies looking at doing business across the region. “Uniquely, we don’t need to find venues or source local faculty to provide tailored courses for companies looking at Europe as a whole,” he says.
The school’s European Executive MBA attracts a cosmopolitan intake. Of 57 students who enrolled last year, 22 countries were represented. “If you join our programme it’s because you are interested in different national approaches to business,” says Prof Fréry.
EMBA students complete core courses at their “home” campus, but for elective courses travel to ESCP’s other locations, which have expertise in particular subjects. Except for a small number of courses taught in Paris, tuition is in English.
Participants also attend five seminars during the 18-month programme, during which students are brought together en masse. “I felt that I was living in my suitcase at times … but it was a great experience,” says Télémaque Argyriou, a manager at BNP Paribas who graduated in 2007.
The school’s EMBA has consistently featured in the upper reaches of the FT’s ranking. For the 10 years running, the degree has been ranked among the world’s top 40 EMBA programmes, and is placed 25th in the 2013 FT ranking.