Why ESCs have become business schools

In an increasingly competitive national and international market, the brand has become an important theme for French business schools. A study by the bureau Noir sur Blanc, published on Monday, November 23, 2015, shows that: 80% of the 35 French business and management schools, members of the CGE Chapter network and of the UGEI (Union of Independent Grandes Ecoles), have changed or changed their name during their existence. Nearly half of them made this turnaround between 2000 and 2010 and 42% in the past five years.

ESC: an acronym that is difficult to export

In most cases (64%) the institutions were satisfied with adding the term “business school” or “management school” to the existing brand, abandoning the acronym ESC, which is difficult to export. Their goal ? Clarify their mission through a concrete reference to “management” or “business” and gain visibility on the global stage.

The examples are countless up to the point of creation a new standardization, as in the time of the ESC. In 2004 ESC Normandie became EM Normandie, ESC Rennes became “ESC Rennes School of Business”, in 2007… In 1997 ESC Lyon exchanged its Franco-French acronym for the acronym EM, more international, before becoming EMLYON business school ten years ago , in a nutshell.

In a third of the remaining cases (36%) the school changed name. In a quarter of the investigated establishments, the adoption of a new brand took place after a merger. A pioneer, ESCEM was born in 1998 from the alliance of the ESC of Tours and Poitiers. More recently, EM Strasbourg emerged from the marriage of IECS and IAE Strasbourg in 2007.

New meaningful names

These last years, schools seem to have given up acronyms in favor of “original names, with meaning and values”This is the case, in 2009, of the SERs of Lille and Nice, who baptized the new mastodon born of their union Skema BS, from the Greek “skêma”, “schema or schema” and acronym for School of Knowledge Economy and Management.

In the same genre, BEM and Euromed have opted with Kedge, which in English denotes a kind of “anchor”, for a name that reconciles the idea of ​​”a new course” with the need to “remain anchored in its two areas, of which one maritime,” the study said.

For 11% of the schools, the choice of a new name does not coincide with a merger, but with the need to stand out in the market or clarify the identity. In 2000, the Nantes-Atlantique Business School (ESCNA) committed to differentiation by adopting a neologism: Audencia, a mixture of two Latin words, “audientia” (to listen) and “audacia” (audacity).

To strengthen its international positioning by taking advantage of its location in Paris, the ESG-MS chose PSB (Paris School of Business) as its new identity last year.


Whatever the context, a name change is a delicate undertaking, sometimes requiring a multi-step strategy. In 1999, after their merger, cooled by the “categorical refusal” of graduates, ESCP and EAP had abandoned the new brand name “Imep”, proposed by a cabinet. In 2009, ESCP-EAP consulted its 35,000 alumni before renaming itself “ESCP Europe”.

And last year it was again under pressure from students and alumni that the Groupe Inseec abandoned the idea of ​​renaming its Grande Ecole program, Inseec BS, to Insignis BS, Groupe Inseec. A reversal that illustrates the need to consider all communities when developing its brand.

The five reflexes in a “rebranding”
In order not to lose the trust of different target groups, especially companies and recruiters, when changing the name of an establishment, the authors of the study list five key points that should not be overlooked:

1. Ensure the legal registration of the name as trademark and domain names
2. Consider associating the name change with a new logo
3. Invest in an “impactful” communication campaign
4. Don’t neglect the quality of the “product” (ie the training)
5. Know how to impose your new brand

The FBS case
In 2013, the merger of ESC Bretagne Brest, Clermont, Amiens and ESCEM marked the arrival of a new branch and a new brand: France business school (FBS). The breakup in early 2015 forced schools to rethink their identities.

While ESCEM and ESC Amiens have chosen to revert to their former name, ESC Brest has become “Brest Business School”. The study’s authors see it as a desire to “not break completely with the brand equity and exposure acquired during the FBS project in recent years.”

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