Few places in the world can be as student-friendly as Montreal, a walkable, safe city in French-speaking Quebec that is home to no fewer than 11 institutions of higher-education and 190,000 students, 20,000 of whom hail from overseas. It is also recognized as a great place for people looking to move to Canada, because Montreal is a thriving hub for tech start-ups, as well as the Canadian home to 60 foreign organizations, meaning high-quality jobs are in plentiful supply. Montreal, where as many of the 45% of foreign students on the MBA are international, can be a soft landing for new arrivals to Canada.
The school has been running an MBA for 50 years, making it one of the francophone world’s oldest. Besides being deeply embedded in the entrepreneurial business culture of the city, HEC Montreal enjoys a healthy on-campus cross-fertilization between the corporate and academic worlds: Current and former CEOs mentor students, and graduates have good contacts with the job market.
Unusually, HEC Montreal runs both French- and English-language full-time MBAs in parallel, and students can move between the two. That Montreal is a French-speaking city has been known to pose challenges for MBAs looking to find work in the city, but it also means that students at HEC Montreal get plenty of opportunities to polish their French both in school and out.
The MBA offers electives grouped into six streams: entrepreneurship; finance, strategy, and consulting; markets and business intelligence; general management and leadership; international management; and digital enterprise. Students can take optional immersion courses in destinations like China, India, or Brazil.
HEC Montreal prides itself on giving students a blend of hard skills in areas like managing digital transformation, supply chain management, big data, and tech start-ups, but also places equal emphasis on the “softer” skills such as self-reflection and leadership. Driving home the fact that HEC Montreal offers a transformational experience, the very final course is on personal change.
Louis Herbert, director of HEC Montreal’s MBA program
Our MBA is more than a series of courses. Students learn a lot in class, in the formal activities, but it is also a life-changing experience and they grow and develop both inside and outside the classroom, where they make visits abroad, work with start-ups and VCs, and more. We make sure the students go from theory to practice and have lots of opportunities to use and integrate what they have learned in class. We place great emphasis on moving from knowing to being — being a manager, a leader, or an entrepreneur, and not just knowing how to do things. Our aim is to produce reflective and responsible managers.
Malini Jain, MBA 2018
I’m originally from Thailand, but I did my undergraduate degree in Canada and I’d been living in Montreal for eight years when I started my MBA. I’d been working as a campaign manager in a fund-raising company, and I wanted to develop my skills. HEC had a meet-the-professor event where prospective students sat in a classroom and did a case-study and I loved it. I thought it was a very interesting way of learning and the dynamic was totally different from my economics degree, and I thought: “This is where I want to be.” It felt like they really wanted to get to know you personally. The people who were at the event were in the MBA office when I was studying there, so we got to know them. There is a real family feel, and they were like the aunts and uncles.