How to enable all young people to access the best French schools and to succeed there regardless of their social background? A year ago, Polytechnique, the Ecoles Normales Supérieures of Paris, Lyon, Rennes, and Paris-Saclay, HEC, Essec and ESCP answered this question by formulating proposals to improve social diversity within them. Now is the time for implementation, and a change of scale.
“The debate on social openness should not be limited to a few establishments”, insists Mickaël Prost, president of the Union of teachers of scientific preparatory classes (UPS). To broaden the field of action, a strategic committee “Social diversity in higher education”, chaired by Martin Hirsch, was created last July. “The political will and the ambition of the schools are real, assures Pap Ndiaye, historian and member of the committee. There is a general awareness of the unfair nature of the selection process for the most demanding sectors from the point of view of the representation of French society. “
The stake is known. In all higher education establishments, there are 38% scholarship recipients based on social criteria, but 23% in engineering schools and 13% in business schools, according to ministry data. As the selectivity of schools increases, the figures are reduced: the ENS de Paris has only 19% scholarship holders, Polytechnique 12% and HEC 15%.
15,000 euros per year at HEC
In business schools such as HEC, Essec or ESCP “Is added a selection by the price of studies” which results in a “Risk of social exclusion”, according to a recent report from the Ile-de-France regional chamber of accounts, which recalls that a year at HEC is billed around 15,000 euros. If these schools have set up their own financial aid for their less privileged students, and are also developing apprenticeship training, the chamber notes that it “Much remains to be done in the fight against social discrimination upstream of the competitive examinations”.
For all schools, diversity is “An imperative of social justice, not to mention the fact that it is obvious that we cannot invent a new society with the same decision-makers”, underlines Chantal Dardelet, head of the “social openness” group of the Conférence des grandes écoles (CGE), also a member of the committee. To achieve this, “We are considering actions that we would not have imagined a few years ago”, she believes.
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