ROUEN BUSINESS SCHOOL French business schools are determined to usurp their dominant English-speaking rivals, writes Michael Prest
Arnaud Langlois-Meurinne may look amused, but his goal is deadly serious. "We aim to be among the top 25 business schools in Europe by 2012," says the dean of the Rouen Business School. Climbing up the rankings is just one part of a strategic plan, echoed by other French business schools, to put itself on an international map still largely dominated by Anglo-Saxon institutions. Rouen is an hour north of Paris by train, and is famous for its medieval centre and cathedral. The city is an old port and commercial centre but has a provincial feel. So in 2007 the school, which was founded in 1871, began to reinvent itself through an amicable divorce from the Rouen Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It now has legal autonomy as a non- profit organisation and last year changed its name from Groupe ESC Rouen. "We needed a more international name," says Langlois- Meurinne with a smile.
But how can you compete in so crowded a field? Part of the answer is that Rouen is already one of France's leading business schools. With more than 3,000 students and more than 80 full-time professors, it offers an English-language MBA, a PhD programme, four English- language MSc degrees, including the prestigious Master in Management Grand Ecole, several MSc degrees in French, one MSc half in French and half in English (Management du Developpement International de l'Enterprise), and a clutch of Bachelors degrees.
About 40 per cent of the faculty are international and there are more than 50 different nationalities among the students. The school has added more than 20 teaching and research faculty members in the past three years. With a renovated and attractive campus just outside Rouen city and an executive campus in Paris, shared with Reims Management School, there is scope for expansion. The school has links with more than 170 academic institutions worldwide. Of these, seven are in the UK, one being Aston Business School with which Rouen provides a double diploma in the MSc Grande Ecole. Rouen is Equis and Amba accredited and hopes to add AACSB to the list in 2011.
Another part of the answer is to offer courses with a twist. An example is the one-year MSc in Marketing French Excellence. The twist is that selling France is taught in English and run by a Scotsman. Ewan Ormiston has a background in marketing in industry and is an unapologetic cheerleader for France, having lived in the country for almost 20 years and being married to a French woman. "I wanted to differentiate us. Many schools have marketing courses in English. I thought that France is good at lots of stuff, but people don't realise how good it is," he says.
That stuff includes the obvious, such as fashion, and also the less obvious such as high-speed trains, aerospace, nuclear power, the hypermarket (invented by the French global retail giant Carrefour) and hospitality (Accor, a French group, is one of the world's biggest hotel chains). …