“Sup de Cons”, the comic that tackles the business of business schools

Zeil, a graduate of the business school of Grenoble, (it is a pseudonym), taught for several years in a “Sup de Co” in the west of France. On Thursday, May 4, in La Difference editions, he publishes a caustic comic to denounce the excesses of certain establishments: Sup de Cons, the black book of business schools. He explained to us why he wanted to publish this book and why it should interest both former and future business students.

LES ECHOS START: Your comic is called “Sup de Cons”, it’s quite a violent title, isn’t it?

By this title I don’t mean that business school students are idiots, quite the contrary! I want to denounce the fact that certain schools “take them for idiots”. In fact, I was shocked by the commercial and not very academic aspect of the Sup de Co I worked for for five years before returning to teach in North America.

The world of ESC has become hyper-competitive because now fewer students want to go to Sup de Co than there are places. To recruit new students, some schools will do anything, even ethically cut spending. Making this comic was a way for me to get over this disappointment…

What kind of keyboard shortcuts?

Have lessons given by teachers who only speak broken English, because it looks better on the board to be taught in English than in French. Or offer students a new tablet, which they actually pay for in their tuition, and which will not actually be used by teachers for teaching. Or even recruit foreign students who are not at the level to complete the promotions… And this is just an example! The problem is not limited to a single Sup de Co, far from it.

Reading your comics you may have the impression that it is a somewhat “mafia” system whose students are the first victims…

“Mafia” is a bit strong, but it is certain that the accreditation system brings a lot of money to some international organizations that pay for branch audits.

For mid-tier business schools, there is a panic fear of not surviving in a highly competitive environment. And the difference between a school that survives and another that sinks often depends on whether or not it obtains these accreditations (AACSB, EQUIS, AMBA, etc.).

The problem is that this accreditation system is designed for large universities or schools, with criteria such as the number of research papers published. The largest institutions can afford to attract many teacher-researchers, who only teach in their field of research where they excel.

For the other, more modest schools, the system is misleading… And you have teacher-researchers who, for example, are very specialized in digital marketing and who teach basic courses on consumer behavior in the first year. Result of the races: the system does not reward the good teachers but the researchers, with direct consequences for the quality of the courses! In short, everyone loses.

Few before you have dared to criticize this reality, why?

I think there are several reasons. Pour les profs, d’abord, on comprend bien à quel point c’est compliqué de critiquer son employeur actuel ou son futur… Moi, je n’ai pas l’intention pour l’instant de revenir en France donc je pouvais être plus free.

On the student side, it’s also quite normal to defend your degree… Given the investment in getting it, criticizing it would be a bit like criticizing yourself. Finally, I think there is a certain nostalgia for the former students. Once you graduate, you mostly remember the good times.

So, what advice would you give to students who will soon have to choose a business school so as not to get cheated?

To buy my comic already! (laughs) Seriously, it can be interesting to look on LinkedIn for the backgrounds of the former students of the schools that interest you. Also pay close attention to the atmosphere that emanates from open days. Are there teachers present to welcome you or just administrative staff? Also, go online to check the information you get: some schools tend to present themselves as pre-signed prestigious partnerships that are only up for discussion…

Finally, during the entrance exams, discuss with the students, bearing in mind that they will necessarily defend their school, but through the lines of their speech we can sometimes identify points of tension.

I also believe that students should be involved in their educational journey… It is not your school or your courses that will give you all the cards to succeed in your professional life. You should look for small nuggets in your internships or your experiences abroad/associations. Don’t hesitate to build a relationship with your teachers, especially if they are professionals in the sector they will definitely have good contacts to help you on your way.

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