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At Ceram business school, located inside the Sophia Antipolis technology park close to the Mediterranean resort of Antibes, the aromatic smell of pine trees and the chirrup of crickets make for a pleasant backdrop to the school, which celebrates its 44th birthday this year.
Yet the school has more than just its birthday to celebrate. Ceram recently announced a merger with ESC Lille, another of France’s grandes écoles, in a move that will create the largest business school in the country. With more than 5,000 students, it is hoped the merged – and as-yet unnamed – school will compete with high-profile international rivals.
Current Ceram director, Alice Guilhon, who has also been appointed head of the merged institution, wants to create a business school for the knowledge economy, focusing on globalisation, innovation and technology. “The merger does not change the strategy in any way,” she says.
Ceram’s Sophia Antipolis home has been donated to the school by the French Riviera Chamber of Commerce. The combined school will also have campuses in Lille and Paris, where the MBA programme will be based, and Suzhou in China. Another campus is planned for the US.
Its location inside one of Europe’s leading science and technology parks helps underpin Ceram’s partnership with the Department for Research on Innovation and Competition (DRIC), part of the OFCE, one of France’s leading economic research organisations.
Ceram and DRIC will soon offer an MSc and a PhD programme in applied economics. “It is a huge opportunity to connect two disciplines in economics and business,” says Jean-Luc Gaffard, director of DRIC and professor of economics at nearby University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.
The combined school will offer a range of bachelors and masters programmes and a modular MBA. A second MBA programme, focusing on the knowledge economy, will be developed within the coming year. Prof Guilhon believes this “can become a flagship programme for the school in the future”.
The only major change Prof Guilhon envisages is the merger of the masters in management, the flagship programme of most French business schools. The plan is for the merged Lille and Ceram programme to be taught in English at both Sophia Antipolis and Lille.
Other French business schools will be watching their progress with interest.
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