The Master in International Business –  IÉSEG’s first Specialized Master –  celebrates its 20th anniversary

In the early 2000s, IÉSEG had just one campus, in Lille, and offered only one program, the Grande École Program. The School entered a phase of fast-paced development during this period. In 2003, the first Specialized Master, the Master in International Business, was created.

Antonio GIANGRECO, former Academic Director of this program and now Director of International Programs, looks back at the launch, the evolution over the past 20 years and the challenges ahead.


Why did IÉSEG create this Master’s program? How did it fit in with the School’s development strategy?

In the early 2000s, IÉSEG decided to step up the pace of its development, in order to achieve the necessary scale to obtain international accreditations. Let’s not forget that, in 2000, IÉSEG had just become a member of the Conférence des Grande Ecoles and did not yet have the triple accreditation it holds today.

It was therefore decided that all teaching would be in English, and that recruitment would be open to international professors. But at first, attracting international students was complicated. IÉSEG therefore designed this Master in International Business, taught exclusively in English, to attract international students to the School. Officially launched in September 2003, it was the first program beyond the PGE.

For the first few years, the MIB welcomed small classes to test the new courses, as this was something very new for the School. After that, the Master in International Business gradually gained momentum, thanks in particular to the opening of our international offices, and gradually attracted French students, who were won over by this original Master’s program, which was very different from what other schools were offering back then.

What is the keyword of the Master in International Business and what does it prepare students for?

The keyword of the Master, from the outset and still today, is diversity. Diversity of students, whether in terms of their background or nationality, but also diversity of the professions it prepares students for. 

The aim of the Master in International Business is to train managers who will be able to evolve in international contexts or in companies with a strong international focus. Above all, it develops students’ intercultural skills and recontextualizes all the subjects taught (economics, finance, human resources, supply chain, management, etc.) in their international setting. Indeed, taking into account the geopolitical dimension, the state of the world and its impact on one’s profession or organization, is essential for those wishing to evolve internationally.

It’s precisely this highly contextual approach to teaching in the Master in International Business program that requires us to review course content on a regular basis. Indeed, the balance between the USA and China is shifting regularly, some zones of influence have emerged or, on the contrary, disappeared, the COVID crisis has completely upset relations between the major powers and, while only yesterday China was recording double-digit growth rates, the country has recently entered a phase of economic slowdown and India has become the fastest-growing country. All these factors are having an impact on our world’s economic equilibrium, and therefore on the way we do business in the broadest sense of the term…

Interculturality and the international context are therefore the hallmarks of the core courses, while the electives and long internships enable each student to specialize and focus on a more specific profession, thus facilitating integration into the job market.

What are the challenges facing the Master in International Business in the years ahead?

First of all, of course, there’s the challenge of CSR and sustainability. Our students come from all over the world, so they all have very different perceptions and approaches to sustainable development and sustainability. We have reinforced this dimension in our teaching, once again by placing sustainability in an international context, through theoretical courses and, above all, numerous practical case studies.

Similarly, the digital dimension has become increasingly important, and we are now looking at how we can better integrate Artificial Intelligence into our teaching.

But the biggest challenge is certainly that of staying one step ahead in a world that is changing faster and faster… Indeed, Master in International Business professors try to anticipate trends in order to adapt their courses, and above all the international context of their courses… But the business world is increasingly volatile, just as the world in general is increasingly volatile. It is also increasingly connected: never in previous decades would the collapse of such a small American bank as Silicon Valley Bank have generated so much concern. In our hyper-connected, hyper-digitized, hyper-volatile world, agility is therefore an essential skill for success, even in business. It’s this agility that we need to bring to our students, in addition to intercultural skills and a geopolitical understanding of the world around them.

Today, IÉSEG offers 13 Specialized Masters: how was the Master in International Business a pioneer?

On its 2 campuses, Lille and Paris – La Défense, IÉSEG counts a third of foreign students… Thanks to the opening of the Master in International Business, the School has learned how to manage and, above all, teach international students.

During the first few years of the MIB, the School was able to test different teaching methods and evaluate what worked and what didn’t. It thus developed a portfolio of teaching practices which was expanded to its Grande École Program, and to new Specialized Masters – the Masters in Fashion Management, Finance, International Accounting, Audit & Control, Digital Marketing & CRM, and Business Analysis & Consulting.

The Master in International Business has thus been a major program in IÉSEG’s development and internationalization strategy. In 20 years, more than 1,350 students have graduated from this program: more than 80% are now working for an international company or NGO, in sectors as varied as consulting, finance, fashion, luxury goods…