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Paris Attacks Anniversary: Business Schools Are Feeling The Impact Of Terrorism In Europe

A year on from the Paris terror attacks, campus security at French and Belgian business schools is at an all-time high

By  Marco De Novellis

Sun Nov 13 2016

On November 13th 2015, Islamic State militants launched a series of horrific attacks on Paris. 130 people were killed. Among them, Juan Alberto González Garrido, an HEC Paris MBA student shot at the Bataclan theatre.

François Collin, associate dean for international affairs at HEC Paris, remembers a day full of emotion. A year on, he’s concerned about the terror threat but confident Paris remains an attractive destination for prospective MBAs.

“We’re not changing our marketing strategy,” he says. “We’re a Paris-based school with a French identity.”

Although HEC Paris’ on-campus security has been significantly stepped up since last November, MBA application numbers have not been affected. Grenoble École de Management however, experienced a decline in application numbers following the attacks.

“I would say we lost 5% in applicant numbers,” says vice dean Jean-François Fiorina. “International students especially.”

Following the attacks, Grenoble reviewed its on-campus security. Today’s students need ID cards to enter the school. Despite the changes, application numbers recovered in early 2016.

“After the Brussels attacks, people saw that every country is at risk, not specifically France,” Jean-François explains.

On March 22nd 2016, Brussels became the second Western European capital to be rocked by terrorism in under six months. The suicide bombings at Brussels Airport and inner-city Malbeek metro station sent reverberations across the country.

30 miles north, at Antwerp Management School, EMBA director Peter Rafferty remembers the widespread consternation.

“There was that shock and incomprehension that every community everywhere in the world has in the immediate aftermath of such an attack,” he says. “The same that London had on July 7th, or that New York had on September 11th.”

Antwerp’s EMBA application numbers have actually increased since March. Although Peter puts this down to the effects of Brexit, with international applicants who would traditionally look to UK-based b-schools - professionals from China and India in particular - choosing schools in mainland Europe instead.

“The picture is quite fuzzy,” Peter continues. “There has been an increase in applications, but at the same time I’ve no doubt that there are some individuals who have withdrawn from the international education market.”

While Peter is confident the Belgium-based program will continue to thrive, contingency plans are in place in the event on another major terrorist attack.

“We have discussed what to do in the event of not being able to continue with the program in our current location,” Peter explains. “If things went to an extreme we have a full-blown program over in Moscow which we actually do use as back-up.”