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The year 2010 will be a special year for Edhec Business School. That is when it will move to its new parkland campus on the outskirts of Lille and leave behind its city centre buildings. But then, the past 15 years have seen Edhec change more than most business schools in Europe.

When the Eurostar train service between London, Paris and Brussels opened in 1994, it put Edhec’s hometown of Lille on the map.

Then, a decade later, in 2004, Edhec acquired Theseus, the Nice-based business school noted for its MBA and its corporate client list. (The school had already opened its own Nice campus in 1991.) Olivier Oger, dean of the school, concedes the deal may have been struck “a bit too late”, leaving the Grande École with €1m of accrued debts to pay. Nonetheless, Edhec has proven surprisingly nimble for a school that celebrated its centenary last year.

As well as being one of France’s oldest business schools, Edhec is also its biggest in terms of enrolled degree students – 4,700 in total. Two-thirds of those students, and of the 104 faculty, are based in Lille, while one third are based in Nice. The school also recently opened an office in Paris.

The changes will not stop there, says Prof Oger. “We need to change everything: research, faculty, executive education, the profile of our students.”

By 2009, Edhec’s Grande École masters programme, the flagship programme of every French business school, will be taught completely in English as part of the school’s push to attract international students and faculty. Edhec’s MSc is ranked 12 in the world this year by the FT (see rankings).

As befits its size, Edhec has a range of degree and non-degree programmes. As well as the MSc the school has a four-year bachelor programme – the Espeme-BBA – a range of one-year masters programmes in marketing, finance, asset management, strategy and European business and the Theseus MBA, which is taught in Nice.

Under the executive education remit comes the executive MBA and a 20-month certificate programme as well as a selection of short programmes designed for corporate clients. (Edhec does not teach open enrolment programmes.) Some 3,000 participants each year attend these customised programmes, and the unit has an annual income of around €3.2m, largely from French companies such as Air France.

The philosophy for both the 18-month EMBA and the customised programmes is to focus on innovative design, says Pierre-Guy Hourquet, the associate dean for executive education. “We have to make the most of each person who comes here. Even if we don’t have management gurus we have senior professors who can deliver excellent courses.”

For the non-degree programmes participants coaching is one of the hallmarks of the development work. The EMBA, which has recently been re-designed from scratch, also works a lot at the individual level with coaching and career development. Edhec’s location plays well in the EMBA market: students travel from both Paris and Brussels to study in Lille.

The redesign of the EMBA programme will now be used as a template to re-design the Theseus MBA.

As well as academic programmes and the executive programmes, Prof Oger has set up a third unit for research and development.

This year the school will spend €7.5m on research, with a third of that money coming from corporations. Frédéric Ducoulombier, deputy director for research at Edhec, says the school hopes to increase that to €10m, with 50 per cent coming from business.

The school has decided to concentrate on a limited number of topics so that it can invest enough resources in each to have an impact.

The most influential of these so far has been the Edhec Risk and Asset Management Research Centre. The institution has been quoted in some 50 articles in the FT, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and the Economist in the past three years. That, says Prof Ducoulombier, makes Edhec the third most cited academic institution in those four publications in Europe – London Business School and the London School of Economics taking the top two slots.

The school has also established research centres in marketing and consumer behaviour, accounting and financial analysis and economics. Two more are in the pipeline: governance and leadership, and legal management. As well as increasing visibility, this approach to research has helped recruit international faculty, says Prof Oger.

By 2010 the dean is planning to increase the faculty size to 125, the number of students to 6,000 and the budget to €65,000.

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