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Think Stanford, think entrepreneurship. Think Insead, think global business. In an increasingly competitive environment, more and more business schools are trying to find their own specialisation, a strategy that has left many deans scrabbling to find the one thing that distinguishes their school from the rest.

Stéphan Bourcieu has had no such problems.

He is dean of the Burgundy School of Business — the name alone is enough to conjure up ideas of a glass of chilled Chablis or a fruity Côte de Beaune.

And it is on the business of wine that Prof Bourcieu intends to build the school’s international reputation. “If we want to attract international students, we have to focus our resources and expertise on a specific sector — the wine and spirits business,” he says.

Prof Bourcieu launched the School of Wine and Spirits Business at the end of 2013 and is investing €10m to build a new home for the school, to be opened by the end of 2015. The school already has 12 professors and other academics dedicated to teaching and researching in the subject area.

“We have a brand and we are credible,” believes Prof Bourcieu. “At the end of 2017 we want to be considered one of the leaders in the wine and spirits business.”

The school already teaches three masters degrees dedicated to the alcohol business, enrolling 130 students a year, but “we want to increase from 130 participants to 200 and then up to 300 participants,” says the dean.

Those students will be taught on the existing masters degrees — the two programmes for experienced professionals, taught in French and English and the English language MSc in Wine Management for those with little or no managerial experience. The school is now also considering a bachelors degree in wine tourism, taught in English, and to be launched in September 2015.

The big consumer markets for wine in the future will be in China and India, believes the dean. “It is a huge market because China is a young market and India will be the market of the future,” he says. “It is a niche market, but it is a global market with growth of 5 to 8 per cent a year. [The question is] how can we educate all the actors in this market?”

One step has been to sign a partnership with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University for wine and spirits programmes. “This is one way to open the doors and to reinforce the internationalisation of the schools,” believes Prof Bourcieu.

For the business school it is very much a tale of two markets, with the French domestic market presenting a very different scenario from the international one, and a very different set of challenges for the dean.

To begin with, even the name of the school is different — in France it is known as ESC Groupe Dijon. “In the French market we are a generalist business school, with no element of differentiation,” explains the dean.

This may seem problematic, but for many involved with the school, Prof Bourcieu’s appointment as dean in 2006 provided a real turning point. “The Burgundy School of Business was a real nightmare in France,” he says. “Between 1995 and 2006 it had nine deans.”

He agreed to take on the role as dean only if the local chamber of commerce agreed to take a back seat. The dean compares the situation in 2006 to that of a football club, in which the chairman of the board intervenes in the decisions taken by the coach. “The challenge [for me] was to stay, because we needed stability to build the school,” Prof Bourcieu.

Nine years later he seems to have proven his point.

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