When Raphael Lapointe began thinking about doing his MBA, his biggest obstacle wasn't the studying he'd need do, it was the time he'd have to take off of work.
"The biggest cost of doing an MBA isn't the tuition, books or supplies," said Lapointe, who previously worked as a consultant at Deloitte & Touche. "It's the salary you lose from being off the job market."
Most MBA programs require about two years of full-time study. Since the median Quebec MBA student is an engineering, finance or IT professional with several years of work experience, their average salary loss during the program tends to be high, likely between $50,000 and $100,000.
So when Lapointe heard that HEC Montréal, the University of Montreal's business school, offered an intensive international MBA program that took only one year to complete, he jumped at the chance.
Unlike executive MBA programs that allow students to get away with a lighter workload in exchange for a fatter tuition check, HEC Montréal decided not to sacrifice quality, when designing its intensive international program said Jean Talbot HEC Montréal's MBA program director.
Instead the school re-jigged courses into a 53-week intensive calendar, with semesters running-back-to-back, as opposed to including long summer and Christmas breaks that are common university fare.
"We decided to keep the same number of classroom hours that we had in the two year program, but to compress it into a shorter period" said Talbot.
The result is that students work at a breakneck pace, but they return to the workforce faster, said Bart Kasowski, a graduate of Harvard University and former Gazette intern, who worked at several managerial jobs in the U.S. before coming to Montreal to pursue graduate studies.
"It's short, but it's tough and there is a heavy workload," Kasowski said. "In other university programs, students can hold part time jobs, but here you can forget it. You'd have a real hard time."
The short, intensive curriculum is only one of several features that make HEC's program arguably the most innovative in the province. Another key selling point is the type of students that the program attracts. Fully 58 per cent of them come from outside of Canada. The mix is crucial because university isn't just a place to learn a trade or skill, it's also a place where students make connections that often last a lifetime.
HEC Montreal's MBA program provides them with an opportunity to prepare themselves for a globalized economy in a tangible way. For example teams for group assignments are formed in advance by professors.
This ensures that students don't pair up with pals forcing them instead to meet colleagues from differing backgrounds said Ilhame Ovanssafi, a 27 year old native of Morocco, who came to Canada after completing her engineering studies in Switzerland.
"It replicates a job situation, because you don't always choose the people you work with," Ovansafi said.
Lapointe agreed. "On my last project our group included a Columbian, a Chinese, a Lebanese, an Ontario and a Quebecer. That's quite a mix," Lapointe said with a laugh. "Working with that kind of a group is a cultural as a well as a business experience."
But one of the most intriguing aspects of HEC's intensive MBA program is its bilingual nature. Five years ago the university began offering some MBA classes in English, a move that dramatically changed the composition of the student body.
Students now apply to either the English or French streams. After completing core requirements in their chosen language, they may take optional courses in either language. More than half of the full-time students in HEC's intensive MBA program, (61.1 per cent) choose to study in English.
It's an ironic that a business school whose under-graduate population is overwhelmingly francophone, should be so skewered toward English courses in its elite MBA stream, but totally understandable said the program's director Jean Talbot.
"When we decided to make this an international MBA program, we knew it was going to happen," Talbot said. "International students want to study in English. It's the language of the business world."
One of the program's strongest selling points according to Olivier Loundel, who came to Montreal to study from France with his boyfriend is the city itself.
"When I decided to do my MBA, I had to choose a city as well as a business school," Loundel, who is taking his courses in the English stream said. "For me Montreal was an easy choice. It's a great place to live."
Sidebar: HEC Montréal's international intensive MBA program:
o 180 full time students, (110 in English cycle)
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