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European Business Schools Look To Expand Into Another Developing Country: USA

After European campuses open in China and India, a top French business school has set up shop on the North Carolina State University campus to give its students a shot at American jobs. Other European institutions hope to follow.

Jean-Claude Lewandowski

After China, then India and the emerging countries, the US could now be the latest territory coveted by European business schools. The French school EDHEC plans to open a US site, just as the Spanish IESE did last year, and others hope to follow. But the School of Knowledge Economy and Management, known as SKEMA, is one step ahead. In partnership with North Carolina State University (NCSU), they have set up their own site on the 35 square kilometer (14 square miles), NCSU campus in Raleigh. This is a first for a French school.

SKEMA is the result of a merger of two French schools, ESC in Lille and CERAM in Sophia-Antipolis, France's version of Silicon Valley. A building on the NCSU campus was entirely renovated to house the new school and its 250 students. It features two square kilometers of state-of-the-art classrooms equipped with interactive whiteboards, an automatic podcasting system, touch screen computers and a videoconference system. The school collaborates with Microsoft, benefiting from its latest teaching aids. Even the chairs, which can be linked together for small meetings, come directly from the laboratories of the international office furniture company Steelcase. The group has invested a total of two million euros. The NCSU campus is close to the Research Triangle Park, the largest science and technology park in the US and the second most prominent high-tech research and development center after Silicon Valley.

"Our ambition is to become a global school that trains brilliant students for the knowledge economy, fulfilling companies' expectations," explains Alice Guilhon, general director of SKEMA. "That explains why we are opening campuses in science and technology parks, in business districts or in growth poles, in other words places where tomorrow's knowledge is being created. For instance, we opened a campus in Suzhou in China last year," she adds.

The new US site is primarily designed for SKEMA students. Since January, 210 students have come for one semester courses taught by SKEMA professors, including masters degrees and an MBA program specialized in finance. Being onsite gives them a chance to participate in campus life, including voluntary work, and meet American students. They can also make the most of the sports equipment, an ultramodern library and the campus museum. "Many students dream of studying in the US, but sometimes they can't because of a lack of places," notes Régis Brandinelli, deputy managing director at SKEMA. "We are offering this opportunity to about 500 students each year, with limited extra costs," she adds.

Of course, students integrate less than those on a traditional study period abroad, but the program should change. "Soon, students will be able to attend courses offered at NCSU," says Alice Guilhon. "We are going to recruit more and more foreign students. And by 2015, we will have truly multicultural classes," she adds. Already this year, each SKEMA student has had two weeks of teaching from American professors. They can also combine their time at Raleigh with a university exchange program. "The course is a way into the American labor market," says Thomas Pellier, a third-year student. "And for the American students it's a completely new approach. We are an international school that comes to locate in the US. They really appreciate it."

It is true that the initiative comes just at the right time for NCSU. Less than 10% of its students are foreign, and the expanding university wants to open up further. "Our students are not really used to going abroad," admits Ira Weiss, dean of the College of Management at NCSU. "French people are more curious, they are more international. The fact that SKEMA opened a campus in Raleigh opens up new European and even Chinese horizons for us. We'll be able to send some of our students there," she adds.

A common bachelor's degree could also be launched next year, with two years in France and two years in the US. But SKEMA wants to do more. The business school intends to set up more new premises on the campus by 2012. It also plans to launch other projects in India and Brazil in 2014.

Read the original article in French.

Photo – TNOC

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