By Peter Walker for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- In comparison with countries like the United States, or even the UK, France sometimes has a popular reputation for economic sluggishness and a centralist approach to business which can strangle enterprises in red tape.
If this is at all true -- and increasingly it is not -- it has nothing whatsoever to do with the country's many, increasingly good, business schools.
The recent 2007 MBA rankings by the Financial Times saw France breaking up the near-total U.S. dominance with two schools in the top 20, joint French/Singaporean-based Insead in seventh, and Paris's HEC at 18th.
Other schools are working hard to catch up. For example, last month the Reims Management School in the northern French city of the same name announced it had acquired prized accreditation from the UK-based Association of MBAs for its MBA program, something only enjoyed by slightly more than 100 institutions worldwide.
French schools are consistently proud of their international outlook -- at Reims, 65% of MBA students come from outside France.
In a similar vein, Grenoble Graduate School of Business in southeast France has just announced it is to expand its Master in International Business qualification, currently offered in Grenoble and Singapore, to students in London as well, with an offshoot planned in Beijing next year.
"With this course, we aim to provide international companies with graduates who have both international business and management skills and foreign language and cross-cultural competencies," said the school's dean, Judith Bouvard.
In another Chinese link, the Grenoble school has just awarded its first-ever business doctorates to students from China.
The trio -- a TV executive, construction industry planner and textile company head -- spent three years conducting research to acquire the DBA qualification, awarded by Grenoble in partnership with Tongji University in Shanghai.
But of course, however innovative and cutting edge business life can be in France, the country has other attractions, also amply catered for in business schools.
The International University of Monaco, based in the principality of Monaco in southern France, offers an MSc in Luxury Goods and Services, teaching students how to operate in the rarefied atmosphere of high-end brands in markets such as fashion.
Meanwhile, Bordeaux Business School, also in the south of the country, has recently launched a Wine MBA for those interested in learning about the business aspects of what is perhaps France's most famous consumer commodity.
And last month, Reims Management School appointed a UK academic to what must surely be the most sought after job in the business school world -- Champagne Chair.
Wine expert Dr. Stephen Charters is responsible for developing the research activities about Champagne and devising specialist courses at masters, MBA and executive education level.
Charters will work closely with the major champagne houses, including MoŽt and Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Laurent Perrier, which have helped to fund the chair.
France's most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower.
FACT BOXFT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006
FACT BOXEMBA SNAPSHOT
Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.
A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.
A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.