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France: Engineering the future of education

   Oct 04, 2021
Credit : GMI Post

Apart from the appeal of its interesting history, stunning architecture and rich culture, France remains a preferred destination among international students seeking higher education abroad because of the reputation of its universities, the most recognizable of which has to be Sorbonne University in Paris.

The birthplace of The Age of Enlightenment and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, France is very proud of its role in advancing the study of humanities.

In a completely different sphere, the country also gained global admiration for its engineering prowess. It co-built the Concorde, the first supersonic commercial plane, as well as the Train Grand Vitesse or TGV, which broke the long-time speed record held by Japan’s “bullet trains” when it was launched in 1981. And perhaps unknown to many, French inventors also gave us “smart cards” and the camera phone.

France’s reputation for excellent education can be attributed to its 250 or so grandes écoles, which generally specialize in a single field, like engineering, business or public administration. Because admission into these schools is limited to a few hundred people, they are considered prestigious institutions.

Apart from the grandes écoles, France also has numerous state-funded public universities and colleges that have gained much recognition around the world. These schools include so-called Communities of Universities and Institutions (COMUE), which are grouping of universities and institutes of higher learning that can confer degrees to their graduates.

Over the past few years, among the most popular fields of study is engineering and the fastest growing group of international students is Chinese.

“Based on our latest data, we have more than 32,000 international students in our engineering schools. As of this year, China ranks second in the number of international students based on country of origin,” said Jocelyne Brendlé, the President of the International and Development Commission for the Conference of Deans of French Schools of Engineering (CDEFI).

While Brendle pointed out a 25% decline in international student enrollment since the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Hendrik Lohse, Director of International Affairs of EM Normandie Business School, has seen a rise in interest from Chinese students and predicts a sharp rise once the vaccination program gains momentum in France.

“With the vaccination strategy already rolled out in France, we have seen an upswing in the number of applications for the coming year, with a significant number coming from Chinese students,” Lohse said.

“China is becoming a very important market for us in the future. We are definitely trying to enhance our relationship with China and our partner universities, exploring possibilities in executive education and in granting double degrees,” he added.

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