ESCP’s MBA in International Management programme includes extensive hands-on experience. Take a tour of the many ways experiential learning is incorporated into the programme.

Theory has been at the core of education for what seems forever. Data, facts, maths, scientific analysis are all part of what makes theoretical knowledge so reliable. However, when it comes to softer skills, pure theory starts showing its limits. The Greeks, who still can be considered as part of the greatest teachers ever born on Earth, knew that already: students need formal as much as informal education. Nowadays, informal education can be found in what is called experiential learning. A “learning by doing” kind of teaching that is now part of some of the best curricula in the world, including ESCP’s.

Experiential learning as a key component of ESCP’s MBA programme

At ESCP, experiential learning has become an inherent part of the MBA programme, allowing students to get hands-on experience very early on. “Experiential learning is fully integrated and encouraged throughout ESCP’s MBA programme. From the beginning of their first semester, students are assigned a first Company Consultancy project that lasts four months. This allows them to start working with real companies on actual projects,” explains Zahia Bouaziz, Director of Studies for the MBA in International Management. That way, students are provided with high-quality theoretical knowledge, as well as given the opportunity to develop practical ability. 

“The 2 Company Consultancy Projects are real accelerators when it comes to getting hands-on experience.”

Zahia Bouaziz, Director of Studies

And thanks to a real company environment outside the classroom, students get to learn from the source, fast: “The two Company Consultancy Projects are real accelerators for students when it comes to getting hands-on experience. Thanks to ESCP’s partnership with international companies, students get to discover from the inside a specific field appealing to them, and in two different countries,” says Zahia Bouaziz.

Now, one might wonder what type of companies MBA students work with, and how the consultancy projects are distributed. It is pretty simple, and made possible thanks to the MBA’s complementary courses: “We have the chance to work with companies and partners such as BNP Paribas, Google, the United Nations, L’Oréal… But one real asset of ESCP’s MBA programme is the way we support and assist students in their career choices. Thanks to our Career Services and the I-Leap seminary, students are encouraged to reflect on their current and past professional experiences and the path they want to create for themselves. After analysing the results of this seminary, we are able to provide them with consultancy projects that are compatible with their highest goals.”

A powerful way to develop complementary skills fast and a great career booster

Experiential learning, by giving students access to real-life projects, opens up the opportunity for them to put their theoretical knowledge into practice. As our Director of Studies demonstrates: “There is a real synergy between what our MBA students are taught in the classroom and the skills they are required to demonstrate in the Consultancy Projects as well as through the seminaries and case studies.” And indeed, adding experiential learning to the teachings of a world-class faculty can only improve students’ understanding of real-world management issues and the stakes at play. By being immersed in the conditions of a real company, they are able to develop better teamwork and communication skills. Their capacity for analysis is also put to the test, as they have to develop a global vision of the company’s goals, values, and functioning in order to provide their client with relevant counsel.

It has been proven by trial that experiential learning provides students with a better understanding of course material, precious insights into their own skills, interests and passions, as well as high-value opportunities to collaborate with a diversity of people and organisations. “Our students often feel safer entering the MBA programme knowing they will get real hands-on experience. Some of them enter the programme with a desire to change careers, but taking the leap and going back to school can feel scary for these professionals. Knowing they will be kept ‘in the loop’ of professional life reassures them,” observes Zahia Bouaziz. In a sense, experiential learning contributes to boosting one’s confidence in their skill set by giving them the place and opportunity to develop them through real work. This creates a safe space for students to experiment and grow

“Some MBA students are hired at the end of the 10-month programme by the company they operated as a student consultant for.”

Zahia Bouaziz, Director of Studies

But moreover, by opening the doors of renowned companies to students and allowing them to be challenged on real-stake projects, the Company Consultancy Projects at the core of the MBA’s experiential teachings act as tangible career boosters. Some MBA students, for example, are hired at the end of the 10-month programme by the company they operated as a student consultant for. Partner companies, as well, are aware of experiential learning’s benefits on ESCP’s students’ skill set. “When they come to our recruitment forum, recruiters know that ESCP’s MBA programme provides collaborators who are very well prepared not only academically, but in regards to soft and practical skills as well,” observes Zahia Bouaziz. A fact that is directly correlated to the insertion rate of ESCP’s MBA students: 76% of them find a job within 3 months after graduation and 89% get to work in an international environment. 

Experiential learning is key to providing future managers with relevant skills

In an ever-changing world, theoretical knowledge does not suffice to give future managers and decision-makers the tools they need to guide their teams towards success. Allowing students to develop their soft skills as well as giving them opportunities to be confronted with real companies’ issues is key to making sure they get out of school ready to tackle the challenges awaiting them.

Will experiential learning ever fully replace the good old classroom or conference? Maybe not, but everything, from current trends to the growing need for adaptability, points towards greater development and more systematic implementation of experiential learning techniques. As this recent article in the Harvard Business Publishing points out, companies may become more and more reluctant to hire graduates whose skill sets do not meet their needs. “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them,” says not our Director of Studies this time, but Aristotle.