Ranked 18th by the Financial Times in the newspaper’s 2008 world MBA rankings, enrolment for the fall semester at HEC Paris is 140. The majority of new students will come from abroad, hungry for international experience and drawn by Paris’s charms.
While HEC has been successful in coaxing international students to its 300-acre campus southwest of the city center, the MBA program has also been sending its fair share of students to other countries, as they pursue dual-degrees with one of HEC’s 50 partner institutions.
Claire Lecoq, executive director of HEC Paris’s MBA program talked with CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW about her school’s relationship with Beijing-based Tsinghua University and how her school teaches business ethics to a diverse student body.
Q: How has your MBA applicant pool evolved over the years?
A: Finance, consulting, entrepreneurship and non-profit industries are where [members of] the latest applicant pool are coming from. Since 2001, we have had more applications from international students than domestic students. North America and India are currently the areas where we have seen the largest growth in applications. HEC MBA applications from China have remained quite stable over the past years. Given our exchange and dual-degree partnerships, we have seen an increase in interest in HEC because of the opportunity of gaining experience abroad and the associated networking opportunities.
Q: How do HEC’s regional dual-degree programs and exchange program work?
A: Dual-degree programs imply pro-rata tu ition for dual experiences at HEC and one of HEC’s partner schools. Exchange programs consist of one term – three to four months – abroad at a partner school during the total 16-month MBA program. For the dual-degree program, successful graduates will be awarded the HEC MBA degree and the equivalent MBA from the partner institution. Participants may begin at either institution, and those beginning at HEC will complete their core studies normally from mid-September to mid-May. They then complete the equivalent second year at the partner institution. Conversely, those completing the second portion of their studies at HEC enter directly into a more personalized curriculum, normally from September to mid-May or from mid-May to the end of December.
Q: What is HEC’s relationship with Tsinghua University?
A: Since 2001, the HEC group and Tsinghua University have had a close relationship in terms of student exchanges, a dual-degree policy, faculty exchange, a joint research program on the strategy of Chinese multinationals and common projects in executive education.
Q: What are some general strengths and weaknesses of Chinese applicants?
A: Overall, Chinese applicants to HEC are quite well-rounded. They have solid experience in many forms of business, particularly finance, consulting and luxury-brand marketing. Some applicants from China tend to lack some of the international experience we see from other applicants, however they largely make up for this in overall professional and managerial experience.
Q: What does HEC look for in an MBA applicant?
A: Some of our main criteria for admission include leadership potential, career diversity, international exposure, interpersonal skills and recruitment potential. Participants traditionally have around five years of professional experience and aim for both a professional and personal development experience.
Q: What trends are you seeing from graduates?
A: Graduates have more and more understanding of global business, and 92% of their positions have an international focus. Of our graduates, 64% work outside of France, 55% of non-Europeans work in Europe and 63% work outside their home country.
Q: What are some of HEC’s most popular elective courses?
A: Popular elective courses correspond to our four tracks of study: finance, entrepreneurship, marketing and strategy. As always, finance electives are highly popular, as well as entrepreneurial ones such as “Managing the Growing Company” and “Business Plan Design and Funding.” A star strategy course is taught by Alexandre Lot, called “Case Cracking.”
Q: HEC’s credo stresses ethical awareness and corporate social responsibility. How do you go about teaching these elements?
A: In order to teach these elements, it is critical to start out the program with a mandatory module called Sustainable Business Strategy. [This] sensitizes our student population from diverse cultures to crucial issues at the start of their MBA. Students then integrate these lessons across the more classic disciplines. Awareness is the first step. In their second year, MBA participants host the Sustainable Conference for their peers. This conference is a testament to the seriousness with which our international students take the elements of ethical awareness and social responsibility.
Q: What advice would you give prospective students deciding between pursuing a full-time MBA and a part-time MBA?
A: Our full-time 16-month program attracts candidates who are aiming for a career change and, for the most part, are engaged in a post-MBA professional project outside of their home country. When considering an MBA, candidates should look at the length and at the structure of the programs as well as at the openings into the job market that the schools provide. Candidates applying to the HEC MBA part-time program usually find themselves in a situation where they have reached a plateau in their companies but are unready for a radical change of careers. Their main aim through the part-time program is to acquire specific sets of management skills which they are lacking today and which prevent them from taking on new increased responsibilities within their companies in the future.