In France, the leaders and top executives in the world of industry and business are mainly graduates of what are called the Grandes Ecoles. More than 60% of the CEOs of the 100 biggest French corporations are from these Schools.
The Grandes Ecoles run engineering degree courses which play a pivotal role in the R&D of new technologies - with spin-offs as famous as the Ariane delivery rocket, Airbus, the TGV high-speed train, nuclear power stations or the Minitel. A large number of engineers have done internationally recognized scientific work, and some are members of the French Academy of Science.
Approved by the French Education Ministry and the Commission of Engineering Diplomas (Commission des Titres d'Ingénieurs), the Grandes Ecoles have the following distinguishing characteristics:
Highly selective admission based, for most of the Grandes Ecoles, on a competitive examination following two (or three) years' intensive study of math and physical science.
Quality programs including courses on new technologies and management, etc.
Close and longstanding links with business: lecturers are recruited from the corporate world, research is carried out in collaboration with industry, and regular contacts are kept up via forums and meetings, to negotiate internships and first jobs.
The ability to adapt and work in partnership.
Autonomy for each Grande Ecole to develop and adapt its own programs, often in liaison with other institutions.
Small-scale set-ups: 300-1,000 students; taken together, they form groups of a size comparable to the great foreign universities.
An opening onto the outside world, thanks to the many links with other Schools, in France and abroad.