EVERY year, local universities cannot seem to provide enough places in their business degree programmes.

From next year though, there will be another option - from a top European business school, one of France's "grandes ecoles", or elite schools.

Essec, short for Ecole Superieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales, will offer a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree on top of the master's courses and executive education programmes it currently runs. It now has 400 students enrolled in the full-time courses and more than 300 in the executive education courses.

The school, which will open its purpose-built campus at the one-north business park next year, will start with 50 students for the BBA course and increase the number to 100 a year. The four-year course will be taught in English, with tuition fees at €10,000 (S$16,200) a year.

In comparison, Singaporeans pay about $11,000 in annual tuition fees at the Singapore Management University.

Students taking the Essec Global BBA, as the course will be called, are expected to spend at least two semesters in two other countries and take up two internships here and abroad.

The school is ranked first in France for its BBA course and third worldwide for its Master of Science in Management programme by the Financial Times.

Its alumni include Mr Pierre Nanterme, chief executive officer of consulting firm Accenture; Mr Patrick Cescau, former CEO of consumer goods group Unilever; and Mr Michel Bon, who headed supermarket group Carrefour and then France Telecom.

Brought in by the Economic Development Board in 2005, Essec has been running at full capacity at its current premises at the National Library Building in Victoria Street, where it occupies two storeys. It has had to rent space at the nearby Odeon Towers building.

Professor Martine Bronner, associate dean of Essec Asia-Pacific, is well acquainted with the high-quality business degree offerings from the local universities. But she stressed that the Essec degree course will offer more.

"For one thing, it will be a truly global BBA. Not only will the students be drawn from different countries, but they will also spend a significant amount of the four years studying or doing internships abroad."

She said the other plus point of the BBA is its practical, hands-on approach. Students will go on two internships, which will have clear learning objectives, she added.

Asked about the school's expansion into undergraduate offerings at a time when other schools such as the University of Chicago Booth School of Business are exiting, she said Essec is committed to staying the course in Singapore.

"Singapore is at the crossroads between Europe and Asia and having a campus here has worked well for us," she said.

Management consultant Valerie Chan, 27, who graduated with a BBA from Essec in France, said she found her education there "very hands-on, spot-on in today's business context".

She said her overseas stints built valuable skills such as independence, maturity, tenacity and cultural adaptability.

Polytechnic graduate Alphonso Tan, 21, who wants to study business, hopes to land a place in Essec. "The graduate workforce is getting crowded; you have to bring something different to the table. I believe an Essec business degree will give me that because it takes a different approach and emphasises global exposure."