What is a French Grande École?
In France, the majority of managers and executives in both industry and commerce are graduates of Grandes Écoles. More than 60% of the presidents and managing directors of the 100 largest French companies are graduates from these Écoles.
The French "ingénieur" that graduates from a Grande École plays an essential role in the research and development of innovative technologies such as the Ariane satellite launcher, the European Airbus, the High Speed Train System (Train à Grande Vitesse - TGV), electro-nuclear power stations, software development, etc. The international scientific community recognizes these engineers in their fields; some are members of the Académie des Sciences. The Grandes Écoles, the leading institutions for educating engineers and managers in France, deliver graduate degrees.
The "diplôme d'ingénieur", (equivalent to a Master of Engineering) is accredited by the Commission des Titres d'Ingénieurs, created in 1934.
The Grandes Écoles are characterized by the following:
A rigorous selection procedure
- This requirement makes the Grandes Ecoles very competitive and can lead to a hierarchy following relatively steady criteria. Admission is based on a nation-wide examination or on records,
- Of 800,000 pupils in a class of age, each year nearly 500,000 pass the Baccalaureate, the final secondary teaching examination. The top students normally choose the scientific Baccalaureate and around 140,000 manage to obtain it. Those that pass with distinction may enter the preparatory classes. After two or three years of university level preparatory studies, more than 10,000 sit the entrance examinations for the École Centrale Paris. The École Centrale Paris accepts around 330 each year that are amongst the 800 best science students in France,
- All of the students, including those coming from abroad or those coming from University, are judged on the same selection criteria.
High level teaching programs that are both varied and adaptable
- Long studies (4 to 6 years), broad-based and general (except in specialized Grandes Ecoles) with a strong emphasis on basic knowledge in the core disciplines, a multidisciplinary approach and the acquisition of working methods and tools,
- Mobility and various backgrounds of the teaching staff: beside permanent faculty, composed of academic experts, guest and visiting lecturers coming from industry, consultancies and the professions guarantee openness and efficiency,
- Teacher/student ration around 1/10,
- Integrated and flexible education methods: based on lectures but also on small class work, case study, individual or team projects, on the growing use of new methods and tools such as computers, audio-visual, language laboratories, information and communication technologies, data bases etc,
- Complemented by continuous education programs for managers in management and advanced technologies.
Traditional links with industry
- That ensure periods of industrial training,
- Allowing contributions from part time lecturers from French and international industry, from consultants or technical or service professionals in general.
A capacity for adaptation and cooperation
- That guarantees the autonomy of each Grande École to develop its own programs, often in liaison with other establishments, within the French education structure,
- Allowing the establishments to remain modest in size and human in character (300 to 4,000 students) and to pool resources regionally, thus attaining the dimension of technological universities.
- That allows rapid research and development activity in the European Union,
- That leads to more than 1,000 PhDs per year,
- That facilitates the collaboration of groups of Grandes Écoles with regional economic activities and companies specializing in specific technologies, as well as an interaction with similar networks abroad.
An European and international dimension
- That brings direct experience of foreign languages and cultures thanks to student exchanges, to teaching teams, to project work and to industrial experience abroad,
- That reinforces technical and management disciplines, an international presence, either individually or collectively, with their international partners.
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