MBA: An MBA pour tout le monde

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The Independent Culture
AT THE OLDEST grande ecole in France, on the Left Bank in Paris, you will find one of the most unusual MBA programmes. The Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees gets its name from the group of engineers who built bridges and roads (ponts et chaussees) and came together to form the school back in the 18th century. But it wasn't until 1988 that Celia Russo founded the ENPC graduate school of international business to turn engineers, and others, into global business leaders.

The MBA will appeal to people who want maximum flexibility. It is as far removed from the traditional core-plus-electives model as you can get. Basically you design your own programme from a number of options and in consultation with academic staff. That means students need to know who they are and what they want to do. It is no good for those who lack confidence.

Despite the flexibility, the programme offers a solid framework in business. In addition it offers courses that explore personal and professional development issues such as business philosophy, ethics, creativity and communication. Students can combine courses in leadership, management and area studies with specialised study in international finance and economics, international marketing and global strategy, and management of technology.

The MBA programme is strongly international - 85 per cent of students come from outside France and they are taught mainly by visiting faculty who jet in from abroad, from places such as America, Britain and Japan.

The subject matter is taught entirely in English and the cost is around pounds 11,000 for a programme lasting 13 to 15 months.

"We offer a very multicultural environment and an international community," says Karina Jensen, who is in charge of international communications and development. "Our MBA provides a good opportunity for professionals who are seeking to launch or continue an international career."

Not only do students come from a wide range of countries they also come from a range of professional backgrounds - ballet dancers, nurses and lawyers as well as engineers - and are aged between 25 and 45. The class size is limited to 60 to maximise communication.

Most of the students relish the opportunity of living in Paris for a year and studying in the magnificent old building which was once housed the whole grande ecole. Now the engineers have moved out to a site near Euro Disney the business students are left to enjoy the St Germain site to themselves.

Lucy Hodges

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