June 08, 2008

INSEAD Singapore vs. Fontainebleau / Fonty

INSEAD Singapore vs. Fontainebleau / Campus comparisons Singa vs. Fonty

When researching INSEAD, there is always the question of “Fonty” vs. “Singapore.” The dual campus structure confuses many prospective applicants, and there is often misinformation on how it actually works. I wrote a long post on INSEAD Singapore to cover those misconceptions. This post is more about my impressions on how they compare – it’s been long overdue.

I started in Singapore, spent 6 months on the Singapore campus, and then moved to Fontainebleau in “P4” (the 4th of the 5 2-month terms) and will be completing my course here in Fontainebleau (called hereafter as a “Fonty”)

So, getting straight to business, here are my impressions and contrasts based on my personal experience.

Initially setting up



  • Super easy, efficient and quick

  • Big, fancy apartments close to school

  • Easy to travel – economical taxis, buses, trains

  • Fantastic airport access 25 minutes from school

  • Really simple initial immigration procedure – you get your entry visa online after filling a simple online form!

In a nutshell? Easy.

  • Painful to find a place – language barrier can be a real hassle for all initial setup work

  • Houses spread all around – big chateaus, quaint and pretty little houses, studios. People stay in Fonty and in villages surrounding

  • Commuting is painful without a car. A car is very necessary to do anything.

  • CDG isn’t a great airport and it’s in Paris

  • Some nationalities need to take a French visa, fill up French forms even in Singapore (!), but it’s not really painful. Takes about a week if you do from Singapore. I’ve read some difficult stories for those applying from elsewhere, but they may be exceptions. Getting a carte-de-sejour is a pain (you can avoid it if you’re staying for less than 6 months)

In a nutshell, not easy!

Campus First Impressions

  • Compact, modern and sleek

  • Not much of a “campus” but more like a well designed exec-center

  • Closed break-out rooms are nicer

  • Lockers are much better

INSEAD Singapore photos
  • Feels like a campus – big

  • Gorgeous especially when the weather is good

  • Bigger, nicer library

  • Crappy little lockers. Change them!

INSEAD Fontainebleau Photos

Campus Life

  • Smaller initial start size on campus means you get to know lot more people

  • City style living – so most people go out together for clubs, bars, events, barbecues – the “whole class” is invited

  • Much larger so groups get formed

  • Different living style – Chateau parties, small “get- together” events

  • Everything is on a larger scale


  • Sunny tropics and beaches! Malaysia, Bali, other Indonesian areas, Micronesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Hong Kong, China

  • Attractions of Europe (weather permitting, seriously!) – France, UK, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal..

Teaching/Student mix

  • More than 70% of the class switches campus and does terms on both – student mix is exactly the same. If someone goes around saying something else, they’re misinformed, it’s that simple.

  • Superstar professors in both campuses – many professors switch campuses in terms. Fonty is bigger so more electives. In P5, majority of the class lands up in Fonty for the graduation.


  • Companies have a greater slant towards positions in Asia

  • Smaller number of companies on campus (keep in mind the number of students in Singapore during recruitment period is also much smaller)

  • Note that jobs are open to students in both campuses – it’s common. But physical presence on campus is less in Singapore

  • Greater slant towards Europe/UK

  • Bigger career fair, more on-campus events

  • Proximity to London makes it easier for those interested in recruiting for London

Living expenses

Interestingly, it is possible to balance the additional rental expense and eating out in Singapore with the extra living cost in France. For me, the monthly cost in both places remained approximately the same.

Bottom line

The INSEAD experience is incomplete if you do not do both campuses. They’re both very different experiences and both amazing in what you can do in the few months. Think of it this way: It’s like going to another building on campus to study (similar professors, same course, same friends) except that this other building is in another continent. No other school I know has anything like this – and this is not like an exchange program. It’s an experience that is hard to describe but works extremely well.

Oh, BTW, compared to Singapore, the weather in Fonty sucks.
But then, you won't get to walk by the beautiful idyllic riversides in Singapore


Anonymous said...

Hey, Necro.

I am a R4 applicant for the July 2009 class. I've been a long time reader of your blog and your posts have been extremely helpful throughout my application process.

While I anxiously await news on my application (ad com's final decision is forthcoming and should get to me over the next few days/weeks), I do have a couple of questions for you.

In comparing the two campuses, you pointed out that there tend to be less on-campus recruiters in Singapore viz. Fonty. You also mentioned that the recruiters who do show up in each campus are, not surprisingly, slanted towards their respective regions.

What have you observed about the diversity of the recruiters and the positions that they offer for finance/consulting/industry in each campus? Are they equally diverse? Would you know how they stack up viz. salaries?

On your advice about the benefits of experiencing a campus switch one way or another, how feasible would this be for someone who starts off in Singapore with a view to working in Asia post-MBA? Would the counterintuitive move (weather-wise) of going over to Fonty solely for P3 (to be back in Singapore for recruitment season and graduation) make much sense?

In any case, even if things don't fall into place for me and my INSEAD aspirations, any answers you may give to my queries may prove helpful to the many others who religiously follow your blog.

Thanks in advance.

Unknown said...

Hi Necro,

As usual, very good post. Will get back to you with more queries if and when selected :)


. said...


I will have to answer your questions from a subjective perspective as I do not have hard data in response.

In terms of diversity of recruitment, it's probably similar between the two campuses.

In terms of compensation, it might vary somewhat if you take up jobs in china/India which are lower wage countries, but from what I've observed the compensation for INSEAD grads in Asia is pretty much inline with average for INSEAD.

Even the couple of offers I know offered for India were very good - though I'm sorry I am not going to reveal numbers on my blog or by email.

To the question of P3 in Fonty - that's what a lot of people committed to Asia campus do. While the weather will be lousy if you do P3 (for July promotion), you still get to experience Fonty, and I think you should.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the prompt reply, Necro.

I really hope to be given the opportunity to be in Fonty for P3 early next year.

All the best.

Unknown said...

Anon, so glad you asked that question on P3, exactly what I was wondering about.

Necro, great posts! I'm with July 2010, starting in Sing, wish I came across all this info earlier. But better late than never!