Source: Conférence of the Grandes Ecoles
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The characteristics of the Grandes Ecoles are the fruit of a tradition. Way back in the Middle Ages the French University trained managers from all of society and was responsible for disseminating its academic know-how and developing the intellectual potential of the country from a literary, artistic and scientific perspective.
In the Eighteenth century, the central powers of the country felt the need to dispose of Managers capable of managing technical and industrial developments and hence created its own schools for a whole new category of Managers: Engineers. The said Managers would be placed in charge of building bridges, roads, machines, running the mines, the forests and farming production. The first schools were created in 1747 (École nationale des ponts et chaussées), in 1783 (École des Mines de Paris) and later under the Revolution, the Empire and all of the Sixth century. Today approximately 220 schools run training courses that lead to the title of Engineer. The same is true also for certain university training components.
They were created slightly later during the ninetenth century and in particular since the beginning of the twentieth century, on the initiative of private associations and chambers of commerce and industry. The first one, the École supérieure de commerce de Paris was born in 1819. Today there are a large number of Management schools of which around 85 are recognised by the French State.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE GRANDES ECOLES
Above and beyond their diversity, the Grandees Ecoles demonstrate the true consistency of their approach to training and vocational integration. All their roles vis-à-vis the local community are underpinned by the same features:
- State recognition of the institute and the diploma:
- For the Engineering schools, recognition is granted after examination by the Engineering Title Commission (CTI)
- For the higher commercial education schools, after examination by the Commission for the Assessment of the Training Courses and Management Diplomas (CEFDG)
- Their human size: from 400 to 6.000 students per school
- A selection process that makes the Grandes Ecoles world very competitive. The selection takes place either through a set of written and oral exams following on from preparatory classes (classes préparatoires) (38.5% of incoming students), or based on the student’s file.
- Long studies, five or six years after the French baccalaureate, a set of multi- disciplinary general exams that privilege a basic understanding of a sound multidisciplinary cultural knowledge and the acquiring of methods and tools for working
- Sufficient variety and mobility in terms of the teaching staff. Alongside the permanent teaching staff composed of academic specialists, company managers and experienced practitioners invest their time and energy in the teaching actions as associated professors and as individual contractors
- Flexible and evolutive teaching is provided. This largely involves lectures, tutorials, case-studies, project and group work and increasing use of new methods and tools
- The overall consistency of the project is guaranteed by the Head of the school
- Very close cooperation with the economic environment, that is developed both for student training (definition of the needs, participation in the committees, organisation of internships, end of studies projects) and for innovation and the optimisation of new products (thanks to research contracts and technology transfers)
- International open-mindedness that results in: scientific potential with research and innovation activities
- An important role assigned to language teaching and the knowledge and understanding of foreign cultures
- The multiplication of the number of trips and internships abroad, as far as the possibility of an academic period abroad that is integrated into the course followed at the School.
- Scientific potential, with research and innovation activities
The Grandes Ecoles have the following status:
- State-run: linked to a Ministry: Higher Education and Research, Industry, Equipment, Defence, Agriculture. 70% of the schools or Engineering training courses are State-run.
- Private: “Loi 1901” association, foundation, company ; private institutes are generally under Ministry administration : Higher Education and Research (for the most part) but also Industry and Agriculture
- Consular: dependent on a Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Their training is evaluated and certified by the Commission des titres d’ingénieur (CTI) (1934 Law).
The Commission is comprised of representatives from the Higher Education sector, qualified engineers and representatives from trade union and employer organisations. Following its assignment, the Commission proposes to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research the qualified engineer diploma accreditation to be delivered to the State-run institutes and also decides which private institutes also receive accreditation. The Engineering Diploma qualifies students for a Master’s degree.
NB : The Engineer diploma gives direct access to the profession. In France there is no Professional Order of Engineers.
The best French Business and Management schools receive accreditation from the Commission for the Assessment of Management Training Courses and Diplomas (CEFDG) that entitles them to deliver a diploma that is approved by the Ministry in charge of Higher Education and that qualifies their holder for a Master’s Degree.
Schools with other specialities
The other schools (Architecture, Applied Arts, Higher Teacher-training Schools, Veterinary schools, the training school for Magistrates, etc.) are recognised by the State and their diploma qualifies them to grant a Master’s Degree.
- Higher teacher-training schools
- Veterinary schools : these come under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture
- Schools of Art and Architecture: these come under the authority of the Ministry of Culture
The Grandes Ecoles recruit through written and oral entrance exams in the majority of cases, either after the baccalaureate or after the preparatory classes: their selection rate is often very high. They also accept holders of university diplomas, either based on their diploma or based on additional exams that are sat. There are also numerous access routes via French or foreign training programmes after two or three years of university studies.