MBA Study in France

by Mark Bennett

Why study for an MBA in France?

The world's number one tourist destination is also home to one of its strongest and most varied economic markets. France's pride and expertise in its traditional domestic products and industries has helped establish its global profile, fuelling the international success of French companies and brands and attracting a range of overseas businesses to the country. As such France continues to perform well in the twenty-first century's global marketplace, helping to lead growth in Europe as the region's second largest economy with some of its highest productivity.

All of this makes France an impressive place to pursue an MBA. The international prestige and performance of French businesses is matched by the success of its management schools and their graduates. In fact, cultivating business acumen has been a key aim in French higher education ever since the country established the first European MBA programme in 1957. Today a French MBA offers opportunities to suit a diverse range of career goals and enhance the prospects of even the most aspirational candidates. You'll be able to choose from programmes at globally acclaimed schools such as INSEAD and HEC Paris or take up unique opportunities to specialise in some of France's core business areas, such as wine production and its international sales and marketing. Wherever you study you'll benefit from diverse international cohorts, offering the potential for enhanced global networking and alumni connections.

Business schools and accreditation in France

Domestic schools

MBA provision fits well within the more 'granular' structure of the French higher education system, which chiefly operates through smaller, highly specialised, institutions, sometimes organised into regional networks. At present there are around 230 dedicated business schools in France, operating as independent institutions or through affiliation with larger research universities such as the country's prestigious Grandes écoles. A number of schools also function as highly specialised Institutes of Business Administration (IAEs), organised within their own network. In addition to postgraduate Masters and MBA degrees, many of these institutions also offer undergraduate ('license') level qualifications as preparation for more advanced business programmes.

The best schools in France perform exceptionally well in global tables and their MBA qualifications will be highly regarded by future employers in whatever career path you choose to pursue. INSEAD is generally recognised as the leading French business school: ranking as the top continental institution in the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings and the top European institution overall in the QS TopMBA tables, which identify it as one of a small number of 'Elite Global' schools. Other prestigious French MBA providers include Audencia Nantes, EDHEC, EMLYON, the Grenoble École de Management and HEC Paris, all of which are amongst the top 100 schools worldwide according to The Economist's 'Which MBA?' survey.

International schools and programmes

Internationalisation is a key feature of French business schools, which see their MBA graduates as future leaders in a global business context. A large number of institutions offer 'International MBA' courses, drawing upon partnerships with overseas institutions and businesses. These include Audencia Nantes, which is a partner in the highly regarded EUROMBA joint programme. Some schools, such as INSEAD, also maintain overseas campuses in emerging global markets and economic hubs such as Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

International campuses have also been established by foreign institutions in France, (particularly those originating in the US) offering their own international partnerships and opportunities.

Accreditation

Accreditation for MBA programmes at the top French business schools is truly impressive, as the country boasts more triple-accredited institutions than any other country besides the UK. In total ten French business schools are accredited by all three of the AACSB, the AMBA and EQUIS. These include Audencia Nantes, BEM Bordeaux, EDHEC, EMLYON, Grenoble Écloe de Management, ESCP-Europe, HEC Paris, INSEAD, Rouen and Toulouse Business School.

In addition, French business schools are also internally overseen and represented by the country's own Conférence des Grandes écoles. In this way the standard of quality for French MBA programmes is maintained across all of the country's schools. This means that a French MBA will be an impressive item on your CV wherever you take it as even smaller schools benefit from the international reputation of French business education, whilst developing their own highly specialised programmes.

Admissions to French MBA programmes

Admissions requirements at French business schools will vary depending on the size of an institution and the profile of the candidates it seeks to attract. You can expect entry to a top, triple-accredited, programme to be highly competitive, but this, of course, is a key part of the value to be derived from such a course. You will benefit from both the prestige and networking opportunities that come from having studied amongst an elite global cohort.

Standard admissions criteria include an undergraduate Bachelors degree (or its equivalent) together with around three years of relevant professional experience. If you don't possess the required undergraduate qualifications you may consider enrolling for a license degree in business at your prospective school or an alternative institution. Though not on par with the MBA, France's undergraduate business programmes offer many similar components and are an ideal preparation for more elite postgraduate training within France and elsewhere.

Test scores such as the GMAT may not always be a stipulated requirement at French business schools, but being able to demonstrate a strong performance may enhance your prospects of admission to a top programme. Cohorts at top institutions such as INSEAD or HEC Paris can boast average GMAT scores in excess of 700, though, as above, performance on these tests will not be the sole determining factor in a decision to admit you. A strong record of appropriate work experience and the ability to demonstrate personal compatibility with a course's content and guiding philosophies will also be important. Most schools will interview prospective candidates. You should prepare well for these occasions and be aware of any travel and accommodation requirements in advance.

Language requirements

The majority of French business schools offer their programmes in English (this is the case at all triple-accredited institutions) and language tests may be required for non-native speakers. In order to contribute to the global profile and prospects of their graduates some French MBA programmes may seek out candidates with proficiency in more than language, irrespective of specific teaching requirements.

Fees and funding for an MBA in France

Though tuition fees for French public higher education institutions are capped and subsidised by the government, this does not usually apply to business schools, which often function as private providers.

Official fees for business school education at Campus France estimate annual fees at between €3,000 and €10,000 ($4,200 - $14,000) but this range also covers undergraduate programmes. You should usually expect fees for top French MBA programmes to be closer to €30,000 ($42,000) and for prestigious international MBA programmes at premier schools such as INSEAD or HEC Paris to cost more. In addition, there may be further costs for optional course elements and activities such as internships, project management programmes and travel. These may not be compulsory for the award of your degree, but they will usually significantly enhance its value and you should budget for them accordingly.

Because a large number of French MBA programmes are relatively intensive full-time courses, you will usually need to secure funds in advance to support yourself during your studies. Some business schools may offer funding to support candidates. Eligibility for this varies and may depend on the intentions driving a particular scholarship. Some will be intended to support students from less wealthy backgrounds, whilst offers may be awarded based purely on individual merit and designed to attract high calibre candidates. You should investigate the possibility of funding with your prospective school. There is also some general advice on funding for French postgraduate programmes on our sister site, FindAMasters.

Visas and immigration for MBA students in France

Because France is within the EU, students from other member countries (as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) will not usually need a visa to study there.

The procedure for other students depends on your country of residence:

  • If Campus France (the French higher education agency) maintains an office in your home country, you can apply through them and will usually benefit from assistance and advice during your immigration process. This process is known as the 'Procedure CEF' and you can find out more about it online at the Campus France website.
  • If you are from (or permanently resident within) a country without an office of Campus France, you will need to visit your local French consulate or embassy and apply to the Service de coopération et d'action culturelle (SCAC).
  • If you are already resident in France (as an existing student, or with a non-student visa) you should consult your prospective institution and / or seek advice from a Préfecture (the office of the French local authorities).

In most of these cases you will acquire a VLS-TS visa, which is normally valid for one year, but may be extended or renewed for longer study programmes. The cost is 58. In addition, you will need to register and receive a resident's permit within 2 months of arrival. This can usually be done at your local Préfecture.

Structure and content of a French MBA

Most French MBA courses are designed as full-time study programmes, taking around a year of residential study to complete. Part-time variants of some programmes may be available. In addition, some of the top French MBA schools also offer Executive MBA (EMBA) courses, targeting candidates with substantial high-level experience and usually designed to take place alongside existing employment and professional responsibilities.

Most French MBA's will involve lectures on business theory and methodology, expanded and enhanced through group seminars and workshops. You will probably begin with a selection of core modules, followed by more specialised elective options and opportunities for exchanges, project work and internships. These will draw upon the expertise and partnerships at your chosen institution and will play a significant role in expressing its educational philosophy and determining the specific value of its MBA qualification. You should examine such specialisms and opportunities carefully when picking a programme to suit your personal career goals.

Assessment will vary between schools, but will often be organised around specific courses and tailored to their content. This means that some modules designed to ground candidates in theory and method may be followed by an exam, whilst those intended to develop independent ideas and leadership skills may be assessed through project work or a research essay.

Employment and career opportunities with a French MBA

Whatever your intended field of employment and personal career goals, you can expect a French MBA to significantly enhance your CV. With a qualification from a school like INSEAD or HEC Paris you can situate yourself confidently and competitively in any graduate recruiting scenario. The proven quality and reputation of France's top business schools also allows them to operate as ambassadors for the French MBA as a whole. This means that even domestically accredited programmes at smaller schools benefit from an enhanced international profile whilst still offering highly targeted training in their specific fields.

Statistics for employment following a French MBA reflect the reputation of France's business schools. 80-90% of graduates from the country's top schools find prompt employment following the receipt of their MBAs and can generally expect to earn starting salaries between $80,000 and $120,000.

The international focus of most French MBA programmes means you can seek to place yourself globally, but prospects are very good within France itself. INSEAD alone estimates that around 40% of its alumni employed within France are foreign nationals and with 35 Global Fortune 500 companies operating within the country there are excellent opportunities for all MBA graduates. Whatever your career goals you will benefit from extensive alumni networks within France and worldwide.

MBA courses and business programmes in France

To find out what programmes are available in France, check the FindAnMBA database.

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