Help youth succeed": this was the rallying cry of the Conférences des Grandes Ecoles (CGE), which represents France's elite grandes écoles, on September 29th at the French Senate. The CGE shared 24 proposals intended to make French "higher education agile, attractive, sustainable and open."
As former CGE president Pierre Tapie knows, influencing election issues isn't easy. He notes, "There's urgency around dropout rates, safety and the military. Politicians aren't thinking about the impoverishment of our schools."
ESSEC dean and director Jean-Michel Blanquer told the Senate, "The topic may sound elitist and dry but it's key. Schools shape our society." CGE president Anne-Lucie Wack hopes the proposals will trigger "a cultural shift in higher education. The current system creates obstacles for French youth."
The proposals outline a new equal opportunity program and expanded scholarships that would look at "parental education levels" in addition to social criteria. Wack is convinced "social bias can be erased." CGE vice-president Hervé Biausser also insists on the importance of "linking higher education and businesses in a country where 24 % of youth are unemployed."
The topic may sound elitist and dry but it's key. Schools shape our society. (J.-M. Blanquer)
Agility is also important. Blanquer maintains it's academic excellence and not size that makes schools agile. Five proposals emphasize the need for schools to be more independent, streamline their governance and encourage internships and gap years.
The proposals have international implications. Biausser argues, "Our students should live abroad because that's where they'll create businesses." American campuses and Asian programs provide inspiration but the final outcome will be distinctly French.
Why lobby now? Wack explains, "We wanted to start far ahead of the primaries to give the candidates time to take in our proposals." In the 2012 elections, the CGE's priorities got little attention. "Over the last year, we've met with almost all of the candidates' teams. Who knows who will win?"
Translated by Nina Fink, Paul Conge | Publié le