Paving the Way for Foreign Academics in France
Worldwide competition for researchers and professors is stiff. To land promising candidates, French universities and research centers have devised two strategies: smooth out hassles such as housing and administrative paperwork or receive recognition through international recruitment standards.
"Recruiters tend to give foreign academics a welcome packet and think that's enough," laments Jean Bertsch, president of Science Accueil. "They need help with the acculturation process." In addition to providing French classes and cultural outings, Science Accueil handles residency cards, housing, bank accounts, schools and health insurance. According to Bertsch, the main way for a country to attract foreigners is to excel at hospitality and smooth transitions.
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Pitching Paris and Provence
Bruno Bachimont, research director at the University of Technology of Compiègne (UTC), explains, "Recruiting young foreign researchers and PhDs is easy. Recruiting higher-ranking academics, who are often older and have families, is another story."
Kedge Business School dean Thomas Froehlicher says, "Starting the recruitment process early is key. We post on academic recruitment platforms and on the sites of French professional associations. Major conferences are an easy way to make direct contact. Ultimately, if candidates want to work with your faculty, that's the best sales pitch."
The Write Way
High-ranking academics "often have good jobs back home. In France, we can't offer them much aside from government-funded positions that come with two to three year waiting periods," explains Georges Bismuth, president of the Paris Descartes Foundation. Salary is another hurdle.
Froehlicher notes, "You have to meet international standards and that's hard in fields like quantitative finance and marketing. That's why we offer incentives." On top of its annual salaries of €50 to €110 thousand, Kedge awards publication bonuses.
Eyes on the Prize
International recognition helps. UTC has received the European Commission's HR Excellence in Research Award, given to schools that meet the European Charter & Code for Researchers. For Bachimont, the award "helps us publicize the quality of our recruitment procedures and obtain European research funding." Of the 336 universities and research centers that have received the award, only seven are French. Much remains to be done.