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Engineering Education In France

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.247.1 - 3.247.8

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Paper Authors

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Ian R. Simpson

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Brian Manhire

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2660

Engineering Education in France

Ian Simpson and Brian Manhire

Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications de Bretagne / Ohio University

Abstract— The aim of this paper is to present the main characteristics of Engineering Education in France. For historical reasons, the French system is not easy to analyze succinctly and the authors have had to resort to some oversimplifications. Aspects such as the mutual recognition of degrees and professional qualifications have not been examined in this paper.


Compared to the relative simplicity of the Anglo-Saxon model in engineering education (B.S./3-4 years, M.S./1-2 years, Ph.D./3-4 years), the French system may be characterized by the extreme diversity of its components, namely:

* The varying size of its institutions * The eclectic nature of the organizations which run and fund the institutions * The organization of the academic curricula and the subjects taught.

Another important difference between the Anglo-Saxon and French models concerns the social status of engineers. In France, engineers tend to occupy the upper echelons of management posts, competing with other specialists (such as economists and business school graduates) for the highest positions in government and industry. Prestige and salary put the French engineer near the top of the social ladder. In France, almost all high government officials in engineering are graduates of the prestigious Grandes Ecoles Scientifiques.

It should also be noted that one major Management School, the Ecole Nationale d'Ad- ministration (ENA) has produced many high-level decision-makers over the past four decades. Formed on 9th October 1945 by General de Gaulle, with Michel Debré as its first Director, it re- cruits at the strikingly young age of 31. (At post-graduate level!) Its initial aim was to train high-flyers for the French Administration in a spirit which owed much to the French Resistance Movement of World War II. Its graduates have occupied many positions of high power in recent French governments but are now considered, by the French public in general, to incarnate the philosophy of the "heartless, inhuman bureaucrat," aloof from everyday problems which they solve at the stroke of a ruthlessly-effective pen. The ENA is directly attached to the French Prime Minister's Office. It is now based in Strasbourg but also has strong roots in Paris.

In training engineers, two institutions have evolved over the past 200 years :

• The Grandes Ecoles • The Universités

Simpson, I. R., & Manhire, B. (1998, June), Engineering Education In France Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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