Want to revamp B-school? Ask the recruiters.

March 1, 2012: 1:15 PM ET

HEC has tended to fall in the shadow behind rival European business schools INSEAD, London Business School, and IMD. So it turned to Bain & Co., a voracious MBA recruiter, for help.

By John A. Byrne, contributor

HEC Paris

HEC School of Management

(Poets&Quants) -- This fall, the HEC School of Management will do what many business schools periodically do: introduce a newly revamped MBA curriculum. What makes this revamp especially noteworthy is that it was hatched in consultation with Bain & Co., one of the world's most voracious recruiters of MBAs.

For HEC, one of Europe's top business schools, the consulting firm worked on everything from strategy to curriculum redesign. A detailed benchmarking of competitors took two months alone. And the firm helped conduct a series of workshops on strategy, operations, and the design of the new curriculum.

The ultimate goal: To sharpen the school's positioning, strengthen its MBA program, and ultimately assist HEC in becoming one of the top three business schools in Europe and one of the top 10 worldwide.

Among a broad range of conclusions, Bain suggested that HEC be positioned as an elite, personalized MBA program in Europe that offers students more access to faculty, tutoring and mentoring -- all at a great value for the money in what is being billed as the Silicon Valley of France.

HEC wants to be known among employers as a supplier of MBAs who graduate with rigorous training in the core fundamentals of business, ready to roll up their sleeves and go to work. Bain also believes the school should admit more consultants and bankers to its MBA program to better satisfy market demand.

"I think we can have very different positioning," says Bernard Garrette, associate dean of HEC Paris, who runs the school's MBA program and who had brought in the consulting company to do the study. "The 16-month duration of our program is a strength because we have the time to offer a specialization. Bain told us to better leverage specializations and position our MBA program as the best of both worlds -- an MBA program long enough to help someone switch careers and specialize, yet short enough to cost less and take less time than a two-year program."

Garrette, who had worked earlier in his career for McKinsey & Co., enlisted Bain's help after McKinsey turned down a request for pro bono assistance. As Garrette recalls it, "McKinsey was doing a lot of stuff for us already so they told me. 'Okay, we are not going to staff one more team for free to help you. I called Bain and they immediately said, 'Yes, great, we'll do it.' And then, of course, my colleagues at McKinsey learned about it and called and said, 'Perhaps we can staff a team for you.' It was too late." More

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