Interview with Martin Zahner, Associate Dean and Director of International Affairs, Grenoble Ecole de Management.
What does this transcontinental partnership entail?
McGill University is the 6th transcontinental location on offer at GEM after we have developed similar partnerships with Beihang University (China), the University of Cambridge (UK), the Simon Fraser University (Canada), Pace University (USA), and Columbia University (USA).
The option to study at McGill School of Continuing Studies (SCS) is offered to students in the Grande Ecole Program, specializing in International Management. They study 4 optional course modules in Montreal and one GEM mandatory module from September to December in the first semester of their final year. The transcontinental program is based on the academic philosophy and the architecture of GEM's Grande Ecole Program. The core program is similar on all campuses except for the case studies that are adapted to the country in which the program is delivered.
The work is very demanding on the students. There is a lot of pressure from preparation, reading, mandatory participation in the classroom, and their English language level must be topnotch. The students arriving on the McGill campus rapidly noticed that the experience will be highly-demanding but also extremely valuable. It goes without saying that the high-standard of academic level required of McGill students is the same for the GEM students.
What are the advantages of such a partnership?
McGill is a choice in line with GEM's strategy: working with a prestigious partner, recognized worldwide, to offer an outstanding experience to our students.
Why would a student want to go to McGill? There are so many reasons!
The reputation of the institution is undeniable. McGill is known as Harvard of the North, and even though it is based in predominantly French-speaking Montreal, the courses are in English. The modules are delivered by McGill faculty and course lecturers who are required to have a full-time professional experience in the business topic taught. Thus, the course contents are extremely relevant in terms of the realities of today's job market. Faculty are remarkably available and also have a wide professional network the students can tap into. This is a real advantage for our students to kick start their career.
Naturally, Montreal offers an extraordinary quality of life and the students are also rather lucky to be there during one of the best periods of the year. The McGill campus is really impressive. Students get a student card and benefit from all the facilities: student associations, sport clubs, conferences…It's really like a dream come true for them. Psychologically, it's important for them to hold this student card, and I wouldn't be surprised if they kept it as a souvenir! I am also pretty certain that some of our students will move to Canada after this experience. Our students will have a good degree and there are opportunities there. For me the transcontinental program increases their employability. McGill SCS students also benefit from the GEM community attending their courses. This was one of the aims of my counterpart there to increase the internationalization of the Canadian campus.
What makes this transcontinental track significantly different and outstanding compared to what other schools offer abroad?
Our transcontinental program model is truly unique. It is different from regular one to three-week short programs, what sometimes could be seen as “academic tourism” by the students. Some schools opt to establish wholly-owned off-site (and expensive) campuses abroad. But what happens when the chosen location is no longer attractive, or that the geopolitical environment has changed? They are stuck in their campus building and can't adapt to change. We much prefer to be multi-site by developing partnerships with international institutions and control the situation the students are in and the cost.
What are the plans for future collaborations with McGill?
I am going back at the end of the year to review this first experience, and to look at what we will offer for the next academic year.
There are discussions for going a step further as the interest is mutual. We could do other things than the transcontinental program.
The undeniable cultural and historical link between our countries does mean that we want to go further together, hand in hand, and it also explains the warm welcome we have received so far.
On another note, we are currently working towards establishing another transcontinental program in the USA, watch this space!