HEC Paris, at number one, is one of four French schools in the top 10 © Magali Delporte

French business schools outperform their European peers with the best masters programmes and executive education courses across the continent, according to the 2020 Financial Times ranking.

Four institutions in and around Paris — HEC Paris, Insead, Essec and ESCP — are all in the top 10 of the FT’s annual assessment of 90 European business schools, which includes a total of 22 French schools.

Eloïc Peyrache, interim dean at top-ranked HEC Paris, said one explanation for its performance was investment in its MBA, which is also now highly ranked, with a growing appeal to international students and faculty. “We’ve become global partners of companies which come to . . . recruit from us worldwide,” he added.

Two UK institutions are ranked in the top 10, led by London Business School in second place overall, and Oxford: Saïd, joint 10th Another three — Warwick, Cambridge: Judge and Imperial — are among the top 20 and there are 19 UK schools in the total 90.

FT European Business Schools ranking 2020 — the top 90

Esade Business School in Spain

Find out which schools are in our ranking of European business schools and learn how the table was compiled.

The FT ranking assesses the performance of business schools for MBAs, executive MBAs and Masters in Management degrees based on factors including salary outcomes, as well as in non-degree custom and open executive education courses, using measures including participant satisfaction. The composite ranking is weighted to adjust for the fact that some schools do not offer all five programmes.

Interest in European business schools’ qualifications has held up in recent months with continued strong demand despite coronavirus-induced recessions, health pressures and travel restrictions which have shifted most teaching online. Non-degree executive education courses have suffered more this year, as companies have cut training budgets.

Figures from the Graduate Management Admission Council, which runs the GMAT business school entry test, show that MBA applications were up for three quarters of European schools in 2020. This compares with two-thirds of US schools, where an MBA typically costs more and lasts twice as long.

While French universities are largely public institutions and France sometimes has a reputation of being suspicious of capitalism, its business schools are independent and attract students from around the world, while preparing many of the country’s own nationals for international business careers.

Three of the country’s four top-ranked business schools are privately run elite grandes écoles, with highly competitive entry. All charge substantial fees, draw in students, faculty and senior managers from around the world, operate campuses or partnerships in other countries and offer courses in English — including increasingly for their French students.

HEC, Essec and ESCP, which claims to be the world’s oldest continuously operated business school since its creation in 1819, have traditionally been supported through the country’s network of regional chambers of commerce. But as support from the chambers has been cut, the schools have increased fundraising and are exploring options to bring in fresh sources of funding.

Insead operates between campuses outside Paris, in Singapore, Abu Dhabi and the US.

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