60 Years of IÉSEG: how internationalization has become a field of excellence at the School

In June 2023, IÉSEG renewed its EQUIS accreditation for the maximum duration of 5 years. For the first time since 2012, the year of its initial accreditation, international auditors recognized the School’s excellence in a specific field: internationalization, whether among students, administrative teams, faculty members, or through its network of academic partners worldwide.

331 partner universities in 74 countries, an extensive and high-quality network

It all began in 1980, 16 years after its establishment: that year, Jean-Paul WICKART and Alain BOUWET became the first two students to participate in an academic exchange during their studies at IÉSEG. Their destination? Juniata College in the United States. A partnership that still exists today, 44 years later…

While academic exchanges were not yet mandatory for obtaining a degree, an increasing number of students sought opportunities to study abroad. Consequently, the international network of partner universities began to expand at an increasingly quick pace. Thus, in 1994, the School had 13 partner universities, a network that rapidly grew to 55 partner universities in 2003 and 136 partners in 2009. Among them was IÉSEG’s first Indian partner, the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, established in 2005, and notably, the signing of the first double degree agreement in 2008 with LIUC Università Carlo Cattaneo (now, IÉSEG offers 16 double degree programs for Grande École Program students, 4 double degree programs for Bachelor in International Business students, 2 triple Bachelor programs in Europe and intercontinental, and 4 MBA-level double degree programs).

During this period, international openness and intercultural diversity became defining features of IÉSEG’s DNA. As early as the 2000s, the School decided to gradually transition 100% of its Grande École Program courses to English, developed its first programs taught entirely in English (such as the Master in International Business launched in 2004), and, most importantly, opened its Paris – La Défense campus in 2009. Consequently, an increasing number of international professors (200 international professors from 54 different nationalities in 2024) were recruited, and more and more international students (over 2,500 in 2024) discovered and immerse themselves into IÉSEG’s campuses.

This transformation is what IÉSEG refers to as its “Internationalization @Home” strategy: campuses have become truly multinational and multicultural environments, where languages other than French are more frequently spoken; students are thus regularly exposed to working with many international students who, through group work, business games, and challenges, bring their different perspectives on the world and the business environment, as well as different working methods.

In 2014, the milestone of 200 partner universities was reached, ultimately expanding to 331 partner universities in 74 countries by 2024. An extensive network of high academic quality to support IÉSEG’s established strategy: to ensure that each partner hosts the fewest possible number of students, so that each student can fully benefit from their experience abroad, with minimal contact with other French students.

Finally, in 2017, IÉSEG launched its “Undergraduate Excellence Program,” which allows the most motivated students meeting very strict academic criteria to study at prestigious universities such as Harvard University or the London School of Economics. Through this program, around twenty students had the opportunity to join these internationally renowned institutions. In 2019, building on the success of the “Undergraduate Excellence Program,” IÉSEG launched a “Graduate Excellence Program,” selecting 29 international programs for their excellence, selectivity, and complementarity with IÉSEG’s teachings (among them, programs delivered at Columbia, Stanford, Oxford, Imperial College, Yale, MIT…). After rigorous academic selection, IÉSEG supports its top students at every stage of the process, from preparing application documents and the GMAT to successfully passing the test, admission interviews, and integration into these institutions.

An exchange abroad… and a mandatory internship to validate the degree

Each year, an increasing number of graduates start their careers or hold positions related to international affairs… With the globalization of the job market, graduates from the School will inevitably be confronted, at some point in their careers, with managing this international dimension: leading projects with teams working in different countries, managing from different cultures, working with providers sometimes located on another continent and thus with a different perception of time, company, and interpersonal communication…

It thus becomes essential for everyone to develop these specific skills (the well-known soft skills) to know how to take into account and make the most of the great diversity (cultural, social, international…) of teams. This is why IÉSEG has also integrated the international dimension into its internship policy. Indeed, to obtain their degree, students must have completed a minimum 6-month academic exchange abroad as well as a minimum 6-month internship abroad.

This professional experience in another country allows students to develop a better understanding of their own culture and that of others; to acquire a truly “international” education by studying abroad and gaining a first professional experience internationally; to familiarize themselves with other work methods and new management approaches. Finally, it is a unique opportunity to meet new people, forge lasting friendships worldwide, and build the foundations of one’s professional network.

IÉSEG, a school more intercultural than international, for students and teams alike

Like any journey, to make the most of the intercultural adventure, it is essential to prepare before leaving… To equip each student with a “Diversity Toolkit,” IÉSEG provides training in international openness and intercultural diversity from the moment they arrive at the School.

Thus, the second semester of the Bachelor’s cycle allows students to explore diversity and aims to consolidate academic knowledge while developing intercultural sensitivity and creativity in their operating methods and those of a team. Students thus have the opportunity to understand the foundations of project management by taking into account the diversity of their team profiles. Or, to validate their Cultural Diversity Passport, essential for obtaining their degree, students must work in pairs with someone from another culture, another nationality… Through exchanges, reflection on their differences and their richness, and the production of a video summary, this module is very enriching and eagerly awaited by students each year. Finally, in the Master’s cycle, students take the “Managing Diversity in Vivo” module: Master’s cycle students thus accompany Bachelor’s cycle students on a daily basis to develop their management skills through experience.

Before, during, after: students are thus trained before their departure abroad to be able to, during their exchange or internship, have all the tools to make the most of diversity. But most importantly, upon their return, they are asked to reflect on how they experienced this experience and to project themselves into the future.

On IÉSEG’s campuses, over 54 nationalities work together in administrative and academic teams… This intercultural diversity is a real asset for the School, which has also decided to train 100% of its teams (as part of the Transition 2026 program) in Diversity. This is anything but trivial when you hear more languages other than French at the School! How to manage diverse teams? How to better take into account disabilities within one’s team? How to make the most of everyone’s diversity in project management? These are just some of the topics addressed during the 2 days, allowing IÉSEG to define itself as a truly intercultural School!

IÉSEG's 60th Anniversary Badge