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Bologna Accord sets European grade

By Ian Grayson for CNN

The business-driven MBA became a global phenomenon in the 1960s.


FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Kellogg, U.S.
3. Chicago GSB, U.S.
4. Stern, NY, U.S.
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Hong Kong UST, China
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
9. London Business School, UK
10. Tanaka, Imperial College, UK
Source: Financial Times 2005



Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.


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(CNN) -- As European countries grapple with the challenges of economic and political union, work continues on a far-reaching agreement that will reshape executive education across the region.

Forty European countries have committed to simplifying and standardizing their graduate and post-graduate education systems under an agreement called the Bologna Accord.

The voluntary agreement is designed to synchronize the structure and standards of courses, making it easier for participants to move easily between European universities and business schools.

If successful, the process will result in a standardized grading system for degrees being in place across the region by 2010. At the heart of the accord is a plan to ensure bachelor and masters degrees in each participating country are of a similar length.

Participants will be able to undertake either a three-year bachelor/two-year masters combination or a four-year bachelor/one-year masters course.

Although the effects of this move are still unclear, many educators expect it to spur development of a large number of new business courses. Many European universities are excitedly expecting enrollment numbers to rise as a result.

According to a comprehensive report compiled by the Graduate Management Admission Council, a global business school association, the introduction of shorter masters courses will bring Europe into line with other regions such as the United States. This, in turn, should make studying in Europe more attractive.

The report predicts that there will be significant cross-border competition by universities to attract students. In the area of graduate management education alone, the report estimates there will be more than 12,000 masters programs across Europe.

"In order to seize the opportunities inherent in a more open, competitive market, (universities) need to build upon their strengths and clarify their academic and/or research profile," says the report. "Once these first steps are taken, institutions must define, design and position their portfolio of programs so that they meet the needs of the new Bologna marketplace."

Many European business schools also believe they have an opportunity to expand their share of the international executive education market because of roadblocks that are appearing around the traditionally attractive United States.

A combination of high-priced tuition and tighter visa restrictions are causing many prospective business executives to rethink plans to study in the United States and instead find an appropriate course in Europe.

Kai Peters, chief executive of the UK-based Ashridge Business School told CNN that European business schools tend to be better at teaching in a context of multiple jurisdictions, languages and governments.

"These factors are allowing European schools to compete well with U.S.-based facilities," he says. "It is a very positive market at the moment."

This trend is backed by research carried out by the U.S.-based Association of International Educators which found new enrolments from international graduate students declined in 2004, compared with the previous 12 months. Among universities and business schools with the highest proportion of foreign post-graduate students, almost two thirds reported falling numbers.

Interestingly, Peters says it is not the political and economic unification of Europe that is generating great demand for executive education. Rather, it is the growing needs of European-based companies to be more competitive in global markets.

While the Bologna Accord is still some years away from implementation, European business schools are already busy promoting their executive MBA and other short courses to prospective participants.

At the INSEAD campus in Fontainebleau near Paris, an executive MBA course is available at a cost of $100,000. The course, which begins in October and finishes in December 2006, requires that participants have at least seven years of business experience.

Offering such intensive courses is a technique more European universities are adopting. While none will admit the more traditional MBA formula is dying, they are going to great lengths to offer compelling alternatives.

Another example is the 10-week Program for Executive Development (PED) offered by Swiss business school IMD at its campus in Lausanne. The course, which costs $44,000, offers an immersive study environment in which participants are encouraged to extend their skills and learn from their peers.

PED director Dominique Turpin says the course attracts talented executives who are keen to move up to the next level of responsibility within their organization or sector.

"The course has been designed to look beyond business functions at issues such as growth, globalization and sustainability," he says. "We give space to leadership, team management and coaching as well as industry analysis and profitability."

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