Fillon announces five more centres of excellence

Both Insead and HEC included in successful higher education ‘clusters’

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François Fillon, France’s prime minister, on Friday announced the names of a second wave of higher education groupings that would be awarded funding under the Initiative d’Excellence (Idex) scheme.

The five ‘Idex2’ clusters – Sorbonne Université, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Saclay, Aix-Marseille and Toulouse – join three existing Idexes, Paris Sciences et Lettres, Bordeaux and Strasbourg.

The Idex scheme is representative of France’s efforts to create a smaller group of world-class, highly visible universities to slowly replace the traditionally more fragmented – and complicated – higher education system. Reform is being led by Laurent Wauquiez, the country’s minister for higher education and research.

Business schools such as Insead and grandes écoles such as HEC are all getting involved in clusters, working alongside universities.

For Insead, which is part of the Sorbonne Université (or Sorbonne University) group, the announcement is particularly significant as it will enable the autonomous business school to draw on the expertise of other university departments, such as law, medicine and humanities. This is an increasing trend among university-based business schools in both the US and Europe.

“There are lots of opportunities to develop (inter-disciplinary) research and programmes,” says Hubert Gatignon, the Insead marketing professor who is heading up the schools relationship with the Idex.

Indeed, Insead and the former Paris 2, now both part of the Sorbonne University Idex, will launch a masters level law degree, or LLM, this month, in Paris and Singapore. The first eight courses will be legal topics, the second eight will be about business. The degree will be taught in English. “It’s already agreed that to be international you have to teach in English,” says Prof Gatignon.

Furthermore, two groups of faculty and students from Insead are already working with academics and students from the Sorbonne medical school on projects relating to nutrition and the neurosciences.

Two of the big advantages of the group is that there is no overlap between the different university departments in terms of subjects covered and, coincidentally, several of the groups in the Sorbonne University have set up operations in Singapore and Abu Dhabi - as has Insead.

Although Insead was a founding partner in the Idex, and has representation at every level of governance, Insead will remain an independent business school, says Prof Gatignon. He likens the relationship to that which Insead already enjoys with two other business schools, the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania, and Tsinghua University, in Beijing. Insead is also a founding member of the Global Network for Advanced Management, recently launched by the Yale school of Management.

HEC Paris is part of the Saclay cluster, which also received the green light.

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