Reinventing What Is Taught In A Master’s In Management

HEC Paris' campus

HEC Paris’ campus

It’s no secret that younger generations, particularly those in the Gen-Z and Millennial cohorts, are far more concerned with such global challenges as sustainability, social justice, and an ethical future.

So when HEC Paris began to consider how to revamp its highly admired Master’s in Management program, those issues came to the fore. The result: The first entirely new MIM curriculum in ten years, informed by a steering committee of CEOs, government ministers, the dean of Oxford Business School, and the dean of MIT’s undergraduate school and focus groups of company executives, students, and faculty.

“What we heard from them is that we really need to have a younger generation that is not obsessed with technical tools,” says Yann Algan, dean of pre-experience programs and a professor of economics at HEC Paris.  “What we really need them to do is connect the different actors in the firm and speak the different languages in strategy, marketing, and finance. A lot of issues that have to do with diversity, inclusion, growth, the use of technology, and climate change used to be on the shoulders of others. If we want to succeed in our fight against climate change, we need to address these issues within the company.”


HEC Paris Master's in Management

Yann Algan, associate dean of HEC’s Master’s In Management program/ Photo by Magali Delporte

This September, incoming students will get their first taste of the new program which has taken a year and one-half to reinvent.  What they will experience is a deep understanding of the vital issues facing society and organizations, from geopolitical conflict to the impact of artificial intelligence. They will gain a multi-disciplinary approach to solving challenges based on management and the behavioral, social, and data sciences. And they will be taught to address challenges in an entrepreneurial, responsible way.

“What’s new here is that we’re making a big change that affects the whole structure of the program, its positioning, and the content of all the compulsory courses,” adds Algan. “The curriculum was focused on traditional management courses that are obviously important but we shaved the content of the core courses to introduce the ESG dimension. We wanted a broader understanding of the challenges and the framing of them with an entrepreneurial mindset. Whatever the situation and the job, they need to know how to negotiate and reach a consensus among different stakeholders. We want to make sure students not only graduate with critical thinking skills but that they could go beyond that by providing concrete solutions to improve the lives of people and organizations.”

To accomplish these overall goals. HEC is adding more multi-disciplinary courses, simulations, boot camps, and a capstone course in which students will create an organization from idea to prototype. The elective courses on ESG issues will be equivalent to 35% of the total portfolio of the electives. In addition, there will be field experiences ranging from a half-day to one month. Just as critical, HEC is embedding ESG issues into every course in the curriculum. The number of hours devoted exclusively to ESG themes in the compulsory courses in the first and second years of the program will be doubled from the start of the new academic year to more than 20% of the total time.


“We are asking faculty to revisit what they teach,” explains Algan. It helps that with 43% of the school’s tenured faculty are now conducting research and publishing specifically on ESG issues so many of the changes are also informed by faculty research.

“They will not reinvent all the concepts but we have calculated the part in the core courses devoted to ESG and it is 20%. That is a lot but we hope to increase it. During the other 80%, they are also introducing tools and concepts to help you work on this. The faculty was receptive because we were talking to researchers who know we need to anticipate the changes in society and it was important to move forward with a different paradigm. It would have been impossible to tell them to just do green-washing and keep business as usual, adding at the end one chapter on climate change. It would have been meaningless for them.”

So while HEC’s MIM will have a new course on climate change, it will also provide the context of what Algan calls “a holistic vision with social, political, and economic challenges to the problem. You just can’t provide the facts of the challenges to this new generation. That no longer works. Our new generation is really aware of what is going on and we need to help them with tools and concepts to find solutions to climate change.”

The larger challenge was how to include ESG elements in all the courses. In the program’s financial accounting course, for example, the faculty will go beyond the typical financial indicators for shareholders to provide a financial outlook on climate not only for the shareholders but also for society and a company’s own employees. “It was a big change,” says Algan. “That course used to be how to minimize costs when you match supply and demand. Now the main takeaway is how to minimize your carbon imprint.”


In economics, the faculty will now start the course with a deep dive into imperfect competition and the need to change the paradigm. “It was really important for all the faculty to talk to each other, from the finance department to the department of law,” he adds.

The changes come on top of a well-established academic program that is consistently ranked among the best in the world. The hallmarks of HEC’s MIM are well known. The classes are small, with just 45 to 50 students each, and highly diverse. The program draws a group of 400 incoming students a year throughout Europe, though 30% of the cohort is from Asia and Oceania, the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East. In all, there are 70 nationalities in the program.

That diversity is key to the learning experience. “We have a role to play to try to bring in people from all over the world,” explains Eloïc Peyrache, dean of HEC. “The idea is to make sure people value this diversity and be promoters of peace by understanding cultural differences.”

That diversity is reflected in the widely divergent career paths taken by graduates of the programs. “The scope of what they do is huge,” says Peyrache. “So it really opens a lot of doors. That is something we market and it is true, valued and real. Some are lawyers, bankers, entrepreneurs and one often becomes a priest every year or two among the French students.”


While HEC has made many incremental changes in its MiM since the last major curriculum review ten years ago, from creating new HEC certificates to a new sustainability and purpose course for all students, nothing compares to the tinkering of the curriculum in this latest revamp. “We’ve had positive feedback for the moment because the aspirations of this new generation of students are evolving,” believes Algan. “It is a generation that wants a broader perspective on the strategy challenges society faces and a good balance in a multi-disciplinary approach. The students obviously express not only their own anxiety over the environment but the need for tools to address the climate crisis.”

So is HEC taking a rankings risk with the big changes? After all, a composite ranking of MIM programs by Poets&Quants puts HEC in a dead tie with the University of St. Gallen which has a much smaller program. Algan doesn’t think so. “It’s not as if during the last ten years, we haven’t changed anything. We didn’t start from scratch. We started from a solid foundation, experimenting with new courses every year. We were able to take stock of those changes to give coherence to them. The biggest risk would have been not to adapt the curriculum to the new situation.”

HEC also believes future rankings will increasingly include ESG elements. The Financial Times, for example, has introduced a carbon footprint metric in its global MBA ranking. And Times Higher Education, owner of Poets&Quants,  has been publishing an impact ranking over the past five years that assesses universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

“My sense is that all the ranking bodies themselves are now introducing new criteria to take into account the ESG and climate dimensions,” says Algan. “So I hope the new indicators will take into account the efforts by business schools to move on this dimension. We were not ready to just wait for the FT to change indicators. Like some other top institutions, HEC has to develop its own footprint. For us, it was the lowest risk to do.”



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