The Grandes Ecoles wonder about their future
Where are the Grandes Ecoles, fifty years after the creation of their association, whose vocation was, after May 68, to promote a training model closer to companies?
For the Conference of Grandes Ecoles (CGE), the challenges are numerous. The association is also preparing a call for projects to “imagine the great schools of the future”, announced Monday its president Laurent Champaney, candidate for a second term .
In the debates held on Monday, during an anniversary symposium at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris, “excellence” was often put forward. What does it cover today, when the big schools are regularly singled out for their lack of social diversity?
Selectivity “is scary”
“Whatever the efforts we make, the proportion of real scholarship holders is not at all important, regrets Pierre Mathiot, head of Sciences Po Lille. The very high selectivity is synonymous with attractiveness, but it scares candidates from working-class backgrounds and that’s a shame, because those who enter do just as well. “All scholarship students should be accompanied, from the 4th year, by a higher education establishment, he pleads.
The preparatory classes set up in the regions are often presented as a reservoir of diversity. It is still necessary to “recruit” enough students there, insists the president of the association of preparatory class high school principals, Joël Bianco, who mentions the “slump” in the workforce of certain preparations.
In the economic and commercial sector (ECG), after an aborted reform project , we are also expecting class closures. “The ministry cannot continue to finance classes of ten students,” admits the director general of a large school.
“Rethinking the Model”
The relationship with companies must also evolve, according to Sanaa Nahla. The head of academic relations at Engie calls for “rethinking the model of the grandes écoles so that it is modeled on the Anglo-Saxon model”. The French system “works too much in silos”, she judges, citing business schools on the one hand, engineering schools on the other, and universities.
She denounces the tendency of certain companies to recruit only profiles from the great schools that prance at the top of the rankings. At Engie, before her arrival, those who had not gone through one of these great schools did not reach the most prestigious management positions, she explains, on the grounds that “they only had university in their course. “The university offers excellent courses and profiles we are looking for “, she continues, explaining also having imposed the recruitment of employees from less prestigious schools.
The key figures
12% of students entering the Grandes Ecoles
are former high school scholarship holders
56% of Grandes Ecoles
deploy programs promoting the social diversity of students during recruitment and admission
“Nobody is really against diversity, even if some always recruit the same ones, admits Anne-Sophie Barthez. There is only excellence if there is diversity, but employers still have to look at something other than diplomas and the school’s brand. »
It is also responsible, for the grandes écoles, for “teaching the ability to welcome different people”, insists the HRD of L’Oréal. And Benoît Serre to slip: “We sometimes get young people with great diplomas but who don’t know how to do anything and would like to explain to us how to define the strategy” when they should “start by listening and learning to do”.
To nurture diversity, Sanaa Nahla calls on the Grandes Ecoles to “get more into learning”. “The problem is financing,” retorts Laurent Champaney, who suggests that companies “pay more”, asking “the question of contract costs and outstanding charges”.
“Reform competitions for everyone”
Another major challenge is that of the image. The Grandes Ecoles are too often associated with the idea of ”making money”, he laments, specifying that “two thirds of the CGE schools are public and the others, non-public, are for non-profit. »
It’s necessary ” clarify the concept of private profit-making establishment », Approves Anne-Sophie Barthez, who also intends to do so for the higher education offer. “No one understands anything about what is public, private and the promises behind each diploma,” she adds, seeing it as a way to “fight against self-censorship”.
To access the grandes écoles, she also suggests “reforming the competitions for everyone”, instead of having scholarship holders “stigmatized by bonus points”. If we were talking about skills, all students labeled as “diverse” would be better, she says. “You can’t say that skills are important and then, when selecting, just look at the grades and judge only on the students’ ability to do mathematical equations. »