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Essec Business School’s strategy, says its dean, Pierre Tapie, is to be “one of the 20 most influential business schools in the world”.

It is an ambitious goal, given the intensifying global competition. But Essec, which is already a leader among France’s elite business schools, is working hard to reinforce its international reputation.

The most striking change, implemented in September 2011, was the introduction of a one-year full-time international MBA. With a first cohort numbering just 24 students, possessing highly competitive GMAT scores, the Global MBA is designed to be “an absolutely elite programme”, says Prof Tapie. “We want people who are exceptionally talented, and who dare to think with originality.”

Ultimately expected to welcome 40-50 managers a year, having four to six years’ professional experience, this course can be benchmarked against the star programmes of other leading schools.

Previously, Essec’s flagship general MBA was its pre-experience grand école programme, now renamed the MSc in management.

The ability of Essec to carry out such a manoeuvre is a reflection of the strength built up over more than a century and revenues in the latest fiscal year of €99m.

Its three campuses, at Cergy-Pontoise, a satellite town 30km north-west of Paris, at La Défense in Paris and in Singapore cater for roughly 10,000 students, of whom 4,400 are studying full time.

Its bachelors in business administration attracts 20 applicants for every place, and graduates are expected to master four languages. The masters in management graduates around 560 students a year.

A series of 12 advanced masters courses, sought after by doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals, offers specialised qualifications.

Essec has raised 48 per cent of the €150m it is seeking by 2015 to develop its ambitions, and is poised to build a new, larger, Singapore campus.

The school already has 134 permanent faculty, of whom 45 per cent originate outside France. Close links with more than 200 companies facilitate research and help the school organise internships, and its graduates find jobs.

These links also aid its specialised courses. Essec offers a renowned MBA in international luxury brand management and one in hospitality management. It runs a part-time executive MBA jointly with Mannheim Business School in Germany, making for a total annual MBA intake of 200.

A PhD programme launched in 1974 offers 15 places a year. “Research is of the highest importance,” says Prof Tapie. “The world is asking for new models.” So with Mannheim, the Tuck School at Dartmouth (US), Fudan University (Shanghai) and Keio Business School (Tokyo), Essec has launched the Council on Business and Society to investigate critical issues where these themes interact.

“If I were to identify three features that set Essec apart,” says Prof Tapie, “they would be the personalisation of our teaching; our belief in working for the common good; and our commitment to innovation, because innovation with companies is really at the core of our values and our principles.”

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