What is the best business school in Europe? HEC, located just southwest of Paris in the town of in Jouy-en-Josas, has a good claim: It is the top European business school for producing future Fortune 500 CEOs, just a whisker behind Stanford.
At 16 months, the HEC MBA is longer than the 12-month European standard, which allows students to mull their future more than some short courses that seem to catapult them from one job to another, via an intensive boot-camp of job interviews and CV coaching. Indeed, HEC likes to focus on the transformational potential, saying that two-thirds of its MBAs change either geography, sector, or focus, while a remarkable 70% change two or more.
For the first half of the course, students undertake the Fundamental Phase, consisting of most of the recognizable MBA topics. After eight months, students move on to the more exploratory Customized Phase. This involves electives, a fieldwork project, and a choice of 40 international exchanges. Students can choose from the five specializations: Entrepreneurship, Finance, Advanced Management, Marketing, or Strategy.
From September 2018, HEC will add a Digital specialization, capitalizing on its location in the Paris-Saclay Innovation Cluster (dubbed “The Silicon Valley of France”). As well as working with firms that are at the cutting edge of digital developments, the school will also look at how digital technology is transforming marketing, finance, and other business areas.
HEC already works closely with its tech neighbors on an entrepreneurial project. Firms come and pitch ideas to MBA students, who then work on commercializing the technology. The ideas are then pitched to CEOs and VCs, and some develop into real businesses. The entrepreneurial streak in this MBA clearly rubs off: 20% of HEC MBAs go on to found their own businesses at some point.
HEC is also home to the MBA Tournament, the “MBA Olympics” — a sports competition between more than 1,500 MBA students from schools across Europe, with a smattering of competitors from U.S. schools. Students get valuable logistical experience by organizing the event.
HEC also offers “dual degrees,” meaning students can take the MBA in 12 months and spend another year studying for a master’s in public affairs at Paris’s Sciences Po, or four months studying a Global Real Estate MSc at Wisconsin School of Business.
HEC has two MBA intakes each year, in January and September, a total of 250 students, over 90% of whom are non-French. This MBA clearly works as a springboard to a job in Europe, and about a quarter of graduates land jobs in France while around another quarter move to other European countries.
Andrea Masini, Associate Dean of HEC’s MBA
HEC’s MBA is designed to maximize the chances of career transformation. Often these days people don’t just want to increase their salary, but also to have an impact on society and have a purpose in life through the way they do business. HEC’s 16-month MBA, which is longer than most European ones, gives you the chance to figure out what your purpose is.
We strongly emphasize taking decisions in uncertain and highly multicultural conditions. We think that 16 months working in a context as diverse as it can be is the best training for leading a multinational corporation, or creating a company with a global market.
Margaret Hoffecker, HEC MBA class of 2018
The class is a diverse group with lots of different backgrounds and it is very friendly. People are always suggesting concerts or art exhibitions to go and see in Paris. With less than 500 people on the MBA course’s three intakes, it does feel like a real community.
For me the most interesting thing is that I have been encouraged to think about how I can be a better leader, and gain confidence in the business world. Some classes really encourage self-reflection. I feel that this might be my last chance to really learn, so I am looking to explore courses that are outside my planned career path.