Many business schools trumpet their links with Europe, but the University of Kent has closer ties to the Continent than most. Kathy Harvey profiles the institution with a natural advantage

It's not mentioned in the brochure, but students at Kent Business School have access to some of the best beer in Europe. "I'm not just talking about our excellent local Kentish brews," says the school's dean, Professor Martyn Jones. "We also have a campus in Brussels. Their beer's very good too - and they also make excellent mayonnaise."

It's not mentioned in the brochure, but students at Kent Business School have access to some of the best beer in Europe. "I'm not just talking about our excellent local Kentish brews," says the school's dean, Professor Martyn Jones. "We also have a campus in Brussels. Their beer's very good too - and they also make excellent mayonnaise."

The emphasis on cross-Channel connections is deliberate. Kent Business School, part of the University of Kent at Canterbury, is determined to make the most of its proximity to the Continent. At the moment only a small proportion of the undergraduates at the business school study abroad. The well-established Brussels campus focuses on postgraduate study, but the plan is to change this. The journey from Ashford to Lille in France is only an hour on the Eurostar, and the university realises that it makes sense to emphasise the European credentials of the business school. "It's easy to talk about an international outlook, but we are in a good position to give our students the real experience," says Professor Jones.

The school is a well-established part of the main university, with over 1,000 undergraduate students and a postgraduate MBA programme which, although small, has been running for over a decade. But the school is currently expanding, and has invested in a multi-million pound Medway campus next to the old naval dockyard at Chatham. The emphasis here will be on courses with a vocational element. Undergraduate degrees in tourism and business studies are being offered and a research centre on coastal tourism is being established. "Applications for courses at Chatham are up tenfold this year, and up 28 per cent for programmes at the Canterbury site," says Professor Martyn Jones. "Businesses are very keen to support us. There's a focus on making people employable on graduation." Business school students are encouraged to follow a personal development plan, which they can take to job interviews to demonstrate the skills they have gained while studying. "In future, business schools that do well will have to respond to the needs of businesses in their region. We're doing that."

The business school offers a wide range of courses, from management science to computing and accounting. Students have an opportunity to spend time in industry, and the school aims to foster better links with Continental businesses. The university is also spearheading a joint venture with four French counterparts - the University of the Transmanche project - which is still at an early stage. Less than 20 students are taking the two-year Masters courses, which are staged in Canterbury and at one of three universities in Lille or the Université du Littoral Côte d'Opale, based in Boulogne, Dunkirk and Calais. But Professor Jones sees it as the start of something big. "We want to challenge British assumptions about the Continent. Our alumni will be part of a genuinely European institution."

The school has been on something of a recruitment drive in the past two years, boosting its international credentials by hiring faculty from California, Spain and Greece. With research league tables in mind (the business school currently has an official rating of 3A, with the highest score being 5A), it is also planning research centres in subjects like European business and financial services. The number of specialist Masters courses being offered has increased, while the flagship MBA programme has been given an overhaul.

This summer, the school will hear whether it has met the criteria for accreditation by the Association of MBAs, a seal of approval offered to less than a third of UK MBA programmes. "We want to keep the numbers small, around 50, but make sure the quality is as high as possible," says Professor Jones. "In future we will also be able to allow part-time MBA students to study subjects like leadership or human resources along side full-time students - giving both groups a chance to benefit from their varied life experiences." One day the business school may even offer an MBA through the University of the the Transmanche. "We are in a great position here in the South-east, with an important link to the rest of Europe. Our students should benefit from this natural advantage."

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