The Commercial School of France: the fate of the four schools since their separation

In July 2014, the ax falls: the French Business School (FBS) is a failure, it will disappear in 2015. The school, which wanted to recruit its students differently, was not convinced.

Françoise Roudier, now general manager of ESC Clermont, lived the FBS adventure. This school offered “a new model in the landscape of the time, with recruitment inspired by companies. But without the strength of joint competitions, this company, which was not yet known, experienced a commercial failure“, she sums up.

Exhausted, the four partners regained their independence in 2015 and had to regain their legitimacy. But in between loss of master’s degrees for certain schools, plummeting admissions and financial problems: the difficulties are accumulating.

France business school: end clap on April 30

Escem is one of the schools that emerged most weakened by this failure. The school does not regain its master’s degree for its PGE and enters a period of turbulence.

Taken over in 2016 by the Sup de Co La Rochelle group (now Excelia) and the GES network, the school, which offers two targeted bachelor degrees in Tours and Orléans, aims to rebuild a PGE in 2017. However,the miracle will not take place. “Relaunching EMP required too many investments. Escem could hardly find an economic model on its own,” says Bruno Neil, CEO of Excelia since 2017.

In addition, the association formed between the GES network and Excelia has been dissolved at the end of May 2020. In the matter, financial difficulties and “a strong divergence of strategic vision for the two partners”, Excelia specifies.

Excelia Group: a new strategic plan to “rethink the future”

Escem disappears in Excelia: a second wind?

It is in November 2020 that FBS’ former school lives its last moment: Excelia announces that it will take over Escem alone, whose brand no longer exists, at the start of the 2021 school year. For Bruno Neil, some “alumni will be frustrated by this. But we can see Excelia as the group that saved Escem. Without this takeover, the school would have disappeared”.

For Julien Dargaisse, president of Ex-Escem alumni, “this merger is good news for us and for the employees, which now has a clear framework, with a single captain on board. As for the students, their course will be more valuable.”

In fact, the group is committed to guaranteeing the 550 students the continuity of education until they graduate, especially through its recognized programs. Excelia is now established on three campuses and will open its undergraduate business in Tours and Orléans at the start of the 2021 academic year. Objectives: give “a boost” to its strategyexplains Bruno Neil.

Business schools: courses that offer a targeted diploma recognized by students

For ESC Amiens, the story begins in the same way: with loss of his master’s degree then the closure of PGE, the school is very affected, in 2015. “We have rebuilt the school on its state-approved bachelor’s degree, an unaffected program”, describes Yann Tournesac, director general of the Amiens Business School, recruited just after the end of the FBS.

The growth of the workforce, especially of apprentices, allows “self-financing” by the ESC. The school now has a total of nearly 500 students and is aiming for 800 students by the end of 2023.

ESC Amiens wants to get back in the game

The school has also joined the research activity of its seven teacher-researchers around the concept of risk management with the line of sight: the recovery of the master’s degree.

The Grande Ecole course, which reopened in 2016, has been targeted by the state since late 2019. “What is missing between the visa and the grade is research. We meet almost all the criteria, but we still need to consolidate our curriculumin order to be entitled to the grade in the short term”, assesses the director.

Until at least 2024, the school positions itself as a local business schoolwhich recruits 80% of students from Picardy and wants to train managers for companies in the local economic area.

International accreditations: a holy grail for business schools?

ESC Clermont had several cards in its game in 2015, but not everything was decided beforehand. If the school regains its master’s degree, “we had to be very agile because we came out of a crisis“, analyzes Françoise Roudier today.

“With this unexpected bracket, we had to completely rethink our strategy, innovate and leverage our roots, our values ​​and our assets. By relying on our good reputation and choosing an offensive strategy, we took up the challenge”, explains the director.

In 2016, still shaken, the school reached its smallest student groupbut other lights turned green.

ESC Clermont, stronger than before?

ESC Clermont quickly manages to join the Conference of Grandes Ecoles (CGE). And in 2016, two major milestones were reached : The school achieves renewal of AACSB accreditation for five years, and the Grande Ecole program can again, recruit through BCE post-preparatory competition.

On that date, “we had found our basic principles for a business school: the master’s degree, AACSB and ECB. We were then able to implement a strategic plan”, states Françoise Roudier. The school then obtained the two accreditations it lacked: Epas, in 2019, for its bachelor’s degree and AMBA, for the master’s degree, in 2020.

This dynamic attracts and PGE returns to its pre-FBS workforce from 2016. The school also recruits more for its bachelor’s program and is dependent on international development. “We worked a lot on the offering of our programs, the heart of our business”.

With a deficit in 2015, the school is breaking even in 2019–2020, mainly thanks to ongoing training and “unwavering support” from CCI, companies and graduates. An SAS, created in 2019, gives it “additional credibility”.

After a failed merger, ESC Clermont is gradually raising its head above water

Like ESC Clermont, Brest Business School was able to quickly regain its status, reintegrate the CGE and recruit by the ECB. But its reconstruction goes through a single path.

In 2015, the BBS once again became an association managed by the CCI of Brest, with the Brittany region. But from 2016 it finds itself economically weakened and welcomes a new player in its management in 2016: the Chinese group Weidong Cloud Education, while the Brittany region withdraws. This admission makes Brest BS the first Franco-Chinese school in France.

Dai Shen, the former director of FBS’s international campuses, has been working for a rapprochement with Weidong. Director of the school since 2017, he explains this “very friendly” operation made it possible to organize “good governance” : “Weidong allows the broadcasting of programs and provides a market for continuing education, and the CCI provides access to the local economic fabric for work-study contracts”.

Three areas of development that rely on significant equity capital

In the bride’s basket, Weidong contributes 7 million euros for 2016-2020. And if the director specifies that the school still has a deficit, he hopes for a return to a positive balance “this year or next year”.

Since 2017, the school has been dependent on the digitization of programs and learning, which sometimes reaches “70% of M2 promotion”, says Dai Shen. Above all, it is deployed internationally: BBS has 50% international (especially via partnerships in Morocco) and is developing continuing education in China.

But all is not over yet. “Academically, the school has surpassed its previous level“, Dai Shen thinks, “but we have to attract more students from outside the regional pool”, because the school lacks post-preparatory candidates.

What’s left of France’s business school?
The former partners almost all agree: nothing. Neither in pedagogy nor in recruitment methods. The connections between the four schools are not particularly strong and if the heads of establishments cross paths in the authorities and may have established “friendly ties,” no privileged partnership is pleaded.

“In 2014, each school tried to return to the market with its own management and its own team. In Clermont, FBS had an impact until 2017. Since then, neither the students nor the companies have spoken to us about it. The page has turned”, states Françoise Roudier. “The FBS is over and forgotten”, says Yann Tournesac from ESC Amiens.

A voice differs, that of Dai Shen. “The PGE from Brest Business School was strongly inspired by what was created by FBS, with a strong international dimension, learning, strengthened courses in entrepreneurship and innovation. If this project was an occupational accident, don’t think it was all negative“.

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