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The Provençal city of Marseille in the south of France is home to one of the four campuses of Kedge Business School. With two of the other centres in Bordeaux and Paris, at first glance Kedge’s fourth campus, 9,000km away in Shanghai, would appear to be out on a limb

But appearances can be deceptive. Despite the distance, Marseille and Shanghai have a surprising amount in common. Both cities have their historical roots in their bustling ports and in the past decade both have experienced remarkable regeneration. In 2012, they celebrated their 25-year partnership as twin cities.

It was this twinning that first prompted the collaboration between what was then Euromed Management School and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Both were running executive MBAs, explains Michel Gutsatz, director of MBA and DBA programmes, so it seemed a natural step to join forces.

“Over the past four years we have unified completely these two programmes,” adds Prof Gutsatz. The result is the Global MBA programme – an executive MBA for working managers – placed joint 43rd in the 2013 Financial Times EMBA rankings.

Kedge Business School itself was formed this year when Euromed Management School merged with Bordeaux Ecole de Management. The marriage has strengthened the school’s reach and extended the profile of its flagship degree programme.

With an eye on the global market, Kedge has designed the programme so that participants can begin their degree in one city and if necessary complete it in another. The largest proportion of students – approximately 85 – is studying in Shanghai, with a further 30 in Marseille. “Our plan is to double that by 2017,” says Prof Gutsatz. He anticipates having 100 participants in each city and is optimistic that in time both Bordeaux and Paris will attract a sizeable number of Global MBA students.

There are no electives. A series of core courses are complemented by major specialisations, allowing participants to tailor the programme to their careers or company’s needs. Each campus focuses on certain areas. Shanghai is the go-to centre for finance and global management. Marseille draws on its Mediterranean heritage with a specialisation in maritime management, and – given the large number of family-owned businesses in the region – another in entrepreneurship. Bordeaux brings an expertise in wine and spirits, while the strengths of Paris lie in supply chain management.

“This develops the international dimension [of the programme] because it allows another opportunity for students to move around,” says Prof Gutsatz.

The final pieces in the Global MBA jigsaw are the international business seminars. These combine consultancy, academic study and networking. They are held in several locations including India, China and Brazil, and participants can attend the two required seminars in locations useful for their future careers.

“It is a way for us to get people from all over the world to come together for networking. Business opportunities come from these meetings,” says Prof Gutsatz.

Alumnus Daniel Huang, customer marketing director at Pfizer, was one of the class of 2006. He studied for his MBA in Shanghai, but took advantage of the Marseille connection to live and study in France. Understanding another culture and meeting a wide range of nationalities have stood him in good stead in his professional life, he says.

Kedge offers bachelor degrees, masters in management, MScs and executive education, and has introduced life-long learning, allowing alumni to take one MBA course a year for the rest of their professional lives.

“We really want to break traditional frontiers,” says Françoise Lassalle-Cottin, director of executive education. “We think the future for schools is creating new ways, new services for alumni . . . We have to adapt and anticipate.”

Philip McLaughlin, associate dean and executive director, is well aware of the challenges facing both his school and the business education market. While he will not be drawn on detail, an MBA is being considered – necessary if the school is to continue as a heavyweight on the international stage. “It is a question of branding,” he says.

But McLaughlin is confident. Both Marseille and Shanghai hold the promise of growth in the coming years. Moreover, Shanghai’s appeal to those eager to understand how to do business in China will help ensure that Kedge will continue to attract executives eager to broaden their professional skills.

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