The Grandes Ecoles are “institutions of higher learning that enrol students through competitive examination and offer top programs” that enjoy a high degree of independence from the State, but whose degrees only receive government recognition once accredited by the Conférence de Grandes Ecoles.

 

Why study in an engineering Grande Ecole in France?

 

French engineering schools are the heirs to both a long tradition of scientific and mathematic excellence and rigour and to pioneers in every field of innovation. André Peugeot, upon graduating from the Polytechnique school, became one of the very first automotive manufacturers in the world. André Michelin studied at the Centrale Paris school before inventing pneumatics as well as the maps and guides that bear his name, all of which have become global icons. Marcel Dassault, who studied at the Ecole supérieure d'aéronautique et de construction mécanique (Supaéro), is the founder of one of the largest companies operating in the defence, aeronautics and aerospace industries, with a presence in some 70 countries. Eugène Freyssinet, an engineer from the Ecole nationale des ponts et chaussées, is the inventor of concrete and created the world’s biggest civil engineering company. Gustave Eiffel, builder of the tower that bears his name as well as the Statue of Liberty, was also an engineer, as was Ziegler, the creator of the Concord supersonic jet. There is a long list of people who made their mark on history after studying in French engineering schools.

 

Still today, many French engineers invent but also lead the biggest companies in the world. According to the Mines ParisTech ranking system, France is actually the third-ranked nation in the world for educating the heads of the world’s top 500 companies, and most of them studied in engineering schools such as Polytechnique, les Mines, Centrale Paris, l’ESTP, and Sup Télécom.

 

If graduates with a French diplôme d’ingénieur degree are so competent and sought-after in so many fields, it’s because they are hand-picked. In fact, they are chosen, either immediately following the baccalauréat or after two years of preparatory classes, during which time they deepen their knowledge in several fields of science as well as in literature and languages. But their reputation and abilities are especially the result of the high level of education they receive in school, firstly in scientific fields but also in management and languages. Students all develop practical projects for major companies and put their knowledge into practice during compulsory internships. They enjoy top-of-the-line facilities, particularly in research, following the example of the Plateau de Saclay schools (Polytechnique, Supélec, etc.) where Synchrotron Soleil, Neurospin (high field magnetic resonance imaging), the Orphée neutron reactor and many other major research tools.

What is involved in an engineering school program?

 

In France, prominent engineering programs confer the degree and title of ingénieur (equivalent to a master’s degree obtained with 300 ECTS credits, consistent with international agreements). There are normally four essential components to an engineering education:

 

- basic sciences or common knowledge base. This guarantees thorough analysis and the long-term ability to adapt to the evolving demands of professions;

- engineering sciences. They guarantee the effectiveness and the ability of young engineers to adapt in the short-term;

- business culture and understanding of the economic, social, human, ethical and philosophical environments, and aptitude for management. They are essential skills for engineering graduates, who will be future managers and leaders;

- communication and international culture, of which English-language training is only one part. They allow engineers to practice their profession and to build social connections around the world.

 

Recognized French engineering schools are all part of the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles, which accredits some programs and, above all, guarantees the quality of the degrees. As for the title of ingénieur, it is regulated by the Commission des Titres d’Ingénieur (CTI) which, in 2008, authorized the degree at about 240 schools.

 

There are two types of engineering schools: 

·        Three-year schools recruit at the bac+2 level (with two years of post-secondary education). The main way in is through an entrance exam following a Grandes Ecoles preparatory class.

·        Five-year schools recruit students immediately after the baccalauréat on the basis of existing marks or through exams.

The engineering Grandes Ecoles also offer Mastères spécialisés (MS), post-graduate programs of at least one year, which include theory learning, an individual research project and the defence of a professional thesis, with the goal of either specializing in a particular field or a double major.

How do I get into an engineering Grande Ecole?

 

As mentioned above, there are two ways of enrolling in a Grande Ecole:

Through entrance exams Following the baccalauréat, some students take the post-graduate entrance exam. The most important exams are the FESIC, the  GEIPI-Polytech and the Avenir exam. After two years of Grandes Ecoles preparatory classes, it is possible to enter a three-year school. There are many different exams including the ESPCI ParisTech/École Polytechnique exam, the Centrale-Supélec exam, the exam for the Mines Ponts school, and the Polytechnique schools exam. You can register for preparatory classes on the admission-postbac site by using this guide.

-         On the basis of existing marks This is likely the simplest way to get into an engineering Grande Ecole. You must contact the school of your choice to know how to apply.