A French Twist for INSEAD's EMBA

The venerable European B-school is a latecomer to the executive MBA fray, but its unusual format may be different enough to succeed

Like any good business-school professor, Dominique Hèau knows the consequences of entering a market late. That's why when he was charged with spearheading French business-school INSEAD's new executive MBA (EMBA) program, the business-policy professor set out to create something different. He says he had to confront a simple question: Since other EMBA programs are very good, why would companies -- which sponsor the majority of executives who attend high-priced EMBA programs -- switch to his?

INSEAD's new, 14-month program will be similar in some ways to other EMBA curriculums. It will target experienced managers with high potential for advancement. It will also teach MBA fundamentals such as accounting, marketing, and finance. The differences will show up in the program's second half, which will incorporate the hands-on learning concepts championed by McGill University Professor Henry Mintzberg in his International Masters Program in Practicing Management (see BW 5/7/01, "Canada: Nirvana for MBAs?"), a masters-degree program for working executives.

The IMPM program -- delivered by a five-school consortium, including Canada's McGill and INSEAD -- emphasizes the application of theoretical concepts on the job. To emulate that process, Hèau says his program will stress constant assessment and collaboration with classmates to discuss how they'll implement lessons learned.


  Another difference: The new program will buck the EMBA trend of global exposure for students. The past few years have seen a proliferation of jointly delivered EMBA programs, often from schools on different continents. Though INSEAD plans to offer parallel programs at both its Fontainebleau and Singapore locations, each will remain focused on its specific environment. Thus, INSEAD's Singapore EMBA students -- Asian managers, for the most part -- can expect coursework geared to doing business in Asia, while Fontainebleau students will get more Eurocentric business training.

That's a far cry from the ambitious cross-ocean partnerships in vogue at other EMBA programs, such as the London Business School-Columbia University joint program, or the Trium EMBA, offered through France's HEC, the London School of Economics, and New York University's Stern School. "The people who come to this program already travel too much," maintains Hèau. "This is not Club Med -- this is serious business."

Hèau says he expects initial classes of about 40 students -- two-thirds of whom will be company-sponsored -- on each campus, starting in November, 2003. Each must have 10 years of work experience, plus four years in a managerial role. He expects competition for admission to be every bit as keen as it is for INSEAD's traditional MBA program, which accepts about 27% of its applicant pool.


  Compounding the program's difficulty, EMBA applicants at INSEAD will be required to take the Graduate Management Admissions Test. By contrast, many other well-regarded EMBA programs generally value work experience more than academic achievement. Cost is another factor. The new program should boost the school's income since it'll run $74,500 per student, about $30,000 more than the total cost of INSEAD's traditional year-long MBA program.

The French B-school's late start will pose some challenges, Hèau concedes. By now, many European companies have found other EMBA programs to train their high-potential managers. Rivals LBS and Swiss business-school IMD already have a record of success. LBS placed No. 23 in BusinessWeek's 2001 EMBA rankings, and IMD placed No. 13 in the world.

Still, INSEAD does a scorching business in executive education -- short-term, nondegree management-training programs -- to the tune of $47.7 million in revenue in 2001. So presumably, companies that have sent students to INSEAD's executive-education training, such as Europe-based multinationals Siemens (SI ) and ABN Amro (ABN ), will be likely to send EMBA students to INSEAD as well.


  Developing such relationships quickly will be crucial for the new program, given the struggling global economy. EMBA directors around the world are finding that companies are increasingly reluctant to foot the bills for the course. Economic uncertainty also makes it tougher for managers to pay tuition on their own.

The MBA degree is gaining in popularity in Europe and Asia, however, so a competitor like INSEAD should almost certainly find a place in the field. "This is a rapidly growing market," says Lynn Hoffman, LBS's EMBA program director. "There's plenty of room for both of us."

By Brian Hindo in New York

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