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Specialized Masters In FinTech & Big Data Bring Boom In Applications To French Business School

Jean-Philippe Ammeux has grown IESEG School of Management from 600 to 5,500 students since the year 2000. A roster of nine specialized masters are attracting international attention

By  Marco De Novellis

Mon Dec 3 2018

After 24 years as director of IESEG School of Management, you’d think Jean-Philippe Ammeux would have adopted some sort of routine.

The opposite is true. At time of interview, Jean-Philippe has just returned to France from a trip to Africa. He’ll travel to Chile in the coming weeks, then the UK.

The business world, he says, is constantly changing—and that’s what keeps his job interesting. Travelling and seeing how business schools are adapting to change in different parts of the world inspires him to keep innovating. “Every day, you see new challenges!” he smiles.

Among the latest innovations at IESEG are a roster of nine specialized master’s programs covering hot topics like big data analytics and fintech.

IESEG’s MSc in Big Data Analytics for Business was created in partnership with Capgemini in 2015. Three years on, this year’s class boasts close to 40 students representing 20 different nationalities.

IESEG’s MSc in Investment Banking & Capital Markets introduced a new course on digital banking and fintech in 2016 with participants exploring online marketing techniques—like SEO and email marketing—alongside more traditional finance-related topics. Latest trending topics like artificial intelligence, blockchain, crowdfunding, and cryptocurrency are all covered in the course.

IESEG’s masters offering includes an MSc in International Business as well as more specialized programs on accounting, digital marketing, fashion management, and finance.

Across the board, class sizes range from 25-to-50 students. The programs are oversubscribed; each attracts three-to-four applications for every seat in the class.

IESEG’s focus on specialized masters, Jean-Philippe explains, is part of the school’s quest for internationalization. The 12 or 18-month programs are taught in English and the majority of participating students (80%-to-90%) are international.

1,400 degree-seeking students at IESEG are international

Established in 1964 as part of Université Catholique de Lille, IESEG is one of France’s Grande Écoles; prestigious institutions which fall outside the main framework of the French public university system. Others include HEC Paris, EDHEC, ESSEC, and ESCP Europe.

Jean-Philippe studied at the school as an undergraduate in 1974 and became a professor ten years later. When was appointed dean in 1994, IESEG was far removed from what it is today.

Its flagship Grande École program was taught in French, delivered by French professors for French students. But it was not always easy to attract French students.


©Barbara Grossmann—IESEG’s campus in Lille

IESEG differed from other schools in France as it did not offer a standard three-year Grande École program which follows two years of preparatory classes taken by students in high school and dedicated to the Grande École entrance exam. Instead, it offered a standalone, four-year course with no preparatory classes or additional entrance exam. 

“In France, that was a problem,” Jean-Philippe explains. “People said a Grande École should have preparatory classes.”

At the turn of the millennium, everything changed. IESEG extended its Grande École program to five years—in line with new international standards—and a problem, Jean-Philippe says, became an asset.

With eyes on the international market, the school started teaching more and more programs in English. It launched its MSc in International Business in English in 2002.

The opening of a new campus in Paris in 2009 only helped increase the international visibility of the school, with programs now spread equally between Paris and Lille. IESEG launched an MBA degree in 2014, an EMBA in 2015, and achieved AACSB accreditation in April 2018.

Since 2000, the number of students at the school has increased almost ten times over, from 600 to 5,500 today. 1,400 degree-seeking students (25%) are international; 2,400 including exchange students. Today, every program and 95% of classes at IESEG are delivered in English.


©Barbara Grossmann—IESEG’s campus in Paris

Jean-Philippe’s budget has increased 20-fold since 2000. Now, he says, the aim is “constant development”; to become more international, more diverse, and to develop the school’s executive education offering.

To achieve his goals, Jean-Philippe hired 18 new core faculty members at the start of 2018. There’s construction underway for a new campus building in Lille—part of a $30 million investment—alongside a $50 million investment on the Paris campus.

Outside France, IESEG has 280 partner institutions and offers 30 dual degree programs “We have a large number of partners in China and India,” Jean-Philippe explains. “We work a lot within Asia; in Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Vietnam. We want to make sure we cover the planet.”

As dean of a private business school, Jean-Philippe doesn’t follow instructions from the government. From January 2014 to mid-2015, he did something quite uncommon in France.

For 18 months, through a series of conferences and events, he brought all the school’s stakeholders together—students, alumni, staff, and partner organizations—to decide collectively on what the future of IESEG should be.

Ultimately, Jean-Phillippe and his team set out their vision: by 2025, they want to transform IESEG into a unique international hub empowering change-makers for a better society.

And that, says Jean-Phillippe, is exactly what they’re going to do.