We have to be present in capital cities as they, rather than countries, are what determine students’ choices

montageThe CEO of the INSEEC Group, Catherine Lespine, welcomed us alongside her International Director Olivier Guillet to discuss the company’s international growth. For this education specialist, which has more than 15,000 students on its campuses in Europe, the United States and Asia, the challenge of international growth is two-fold: recruiting new students abroad and enhancing the company’s appeal.

Catherine Lespine describes the three stages on which the INSEEC Group’s international expansion was based: “The first stage began around twenty years ago, with the aim of adding an international dimension to student courses through academic partnerships abroad. Many schools offered their students the opportunity to spend a semester or a year abroad, or even to obtain a dual degree. Stage two was related to the arrival of foreign students wanting to study in France: to accommodate them, we launched various courses in English, which enhanced the international appeal of our programs. Eventually, the international aspect became an academic necessity for all students, whether by spending a semester abroad, taking a Summer Session (UCLA, Berkeley, etc.) or following dual/triple degree courses“.

The INSEEC Group’s international presence was structured around three focus areas: the acquisition of schools, the opening of campuses in major foreign cities and initiatives to enhance the group’s reputation. Catherine Lespine cites the example of the University of Monaco, which the INSEEC Group acquired in 2010 and which “added to the nationalities present in our schools, with students from Russia, Canada, the US and the Middle East“. She calmly reels off the cities in which the INSEEC Group has opened campuses, such as Geneva, London and Shanghai, soon to be joined by San Francisco and Seoul. “From these campuses, we can get closer to the breeding grounds that are strategic for our students, such as businesses and local incubators“, she explains.
Choosing which cities to set up in is strategic: “We have to be present in capital cities as they, rather than countries, are what determine students’ choices” she says, taking the example of Paris, whose appeal is a key commercial advantage for the INSEEC Group.

To win over foreign students, the group’s International Director, Olivier Guillet, establishes contact with them by taking part in conferences and fairs all over the world. He explains his approach: “We aim for a direct presence so we can convey the passion of our schools ourselves. In 2014, we held 90 initiatives in some 20 key countries in Europe, America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania“. The two exceptions are China and India, where the INSEEC Group uses sales reps. “Foreign students are most often looking for courses consistent with France’s image. We have therefore developed typically French fields of expertise, such as wine and luxury goods, combined with a strong strategy of city-based differentiation: Wine in Bordeaux, Fashion in Paris, Luxury Goods in Monaco, Tourism in Chambéry, Digital Technology in London, and so on“, Guillet explains. Catherine Lespine goes a step further, describing an environment made fiercely competitive by the enhanced mobility of the younger generation: “One hundred years ago, education was dispensed at regional level, then with Erasmus and the phenomenon of language study placements, it became European – and now it’s gone global!

Each capital city has its students, and the CEO understands the aspirations of each: “Monaco’s students are aware of the importance of international networking – it is a great city for building a professional network. The American dream still appeals to young people, in its new incarnations like IBM, Google and Facebook. China is also an increasingly common part of the career strategies of students, who spend a year there to learn how the global economic power works“.


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Apax Talks is a digital magazine aimed at company managers. It presents growth levers for SMEs, with a focus on TMT, consumer, healthcare and services sectors.