France has a particular system of higher education with the so called “Grandes Ecoles“, institutions which are not typically part of the university. There are about thirty business schools, including HEC Paris and EM Strasbourg. The highly selective system of recruiting students after “preparatory” classes attracts the best graduates from the French Baccalaureate. In the mid- 90’s, the system and EM Strasbourg – at that time called IECS – were in a crisis for several reasons. Therefore, EM Strasbourg had to find a new strategy and new people in this highly competitive market. With this objective in mind, I was recruited as new director in May, 1995. Although I was not part of the French educational system, I had extensive experience in managing an international business school in Germany.
The strategy for EM Strasbourg was founded on the following facts:
-EM Strasbourg is the Business School of the capital of Europe
-EM Strasbourg is the only French Business School integrated into a prestigious university which excels in research and quality doctoral programmes
-The University status offers excellent perspectives for international partnerships
Therefore, it was clear that a substantial internationalization of EM Strasbourg would be the cornerstone of the strategy. The ERASMUS programme, launched in 1987, was so far a very important initiative from the European Commission, but we wanted to pursue this strategy with determination to the highest level of integration.
This goal could be achieved by the establishment of Double Degree Master’s Programmes for almost all students of EM Strasbourg with business schools in and outside Europe, particularly in the United States. These partners should be traditional universities with a good reputation in the academic world.
To implement this strategy, it was of fundamental importance to find a highly committed Director of the International Relations Office. It was a stroke of luck to find Ludwig Kreitz for this position and his wife, Rachel, who is a great expert of the American university system and an absolutely remarkable negotiator.
In the summer of 1995, we started to carry out our plan by signing identical bi-lateral agreements with the three German universities of Tübingen, Nuremberg and Dresden, the Heriot-Watt University of Edinburgh, the University of Alcala in Spain, the University of Pavia in Italy and the Jagiellonian University of Krakow in Poland.
In November 1997, we organized a meeting in Strasbourg and invited these universities to establish a network, focusing on the possibility to establish double degree programmes with each other. We called the new network: HERMES, an acronym for Higher Education and Research in Management of European UniversitieS – and in French for Hautes Etudes et Recherche en Management d’universités EuropéenneS. In March 2000, we all came together at the European Parliament to sign the Charter of HERMES. A legal status was then given to HERMES as an association under French law.
The starting signal was given in 1997. The project was very successful and within a short time it led to creating the prestige of the international management school of Strasbourg. In 1999, EM Strasbourg got the award from the magazine, “L’Etudiant”, as best international project of the French business schools. In the following years, the network was extended, including universities in Moscow, Granada, Venice, Athens, Liège, Hohenheim, Limerick and Budapest. The most recent universities to join the network are: Texas A&M University, Chengdu University and the University of Adelaide, thus HERMES is becoming a global network, but keeping its European heart – and name.
HERMES will continue its successful journey, extending its activities by organizing common seminars, doctoral schools and possibly soon a common Master’s programme in Entrepreneurship. The Entrepreneurial Thinkpad that took place in June of last year and September of this year on the Treviso campus of Ca’ Foscari University is a first step.
HERMES, the messenger of Gods, the protector of invention and trade contributes to the future development of our universities.
Written by Prof. Dr. Hans J. Tümmers