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“We value not only academic excellence, but also social skills”

Interview of Laura Villette, ParisTech representative in China

ParisTech representative in China, Laura Villette, was interviewed by a Chinese study abroad agency. The interview was an opportunity to retrace the evolution of ParisTech's cooperation with Chinese universities, as well as to explain how Chinese students can best prepare for the 9 + 9 International Admission Program in order to be admitted at a ParisTech school. 

 

Part 1 – 9+9 Program

1. ParisTech has been in China for 20 years. What do you think of these two decades? What is the development of ParisTech's recruitment in China from 2000 to 2020?

Within two decades both Chinese and French higher education environments have evolved drastically, and so has ParisTech. Yet we have remained a stable partner in China. For 20 years, thanks to our permanent office and all my predecessors, we have been close to our partners, their staff, and of course to the students we recruit. As we enter our 21st recruitment campaign, our alumni network has grown not only into a mature one, but also a more diverse one.

Indeed, our values are still the same, but our offer has evolved: we now not only recruit Chinese students through the 9+9 Program (more than 1400 students admitted over the past 20 years), but also through double degrees (more than 200 Chinese students in double degrees since 2013). Since 2017, the 9+9 program is opened to students from all Chinese universities. In 2011, we launched a PhD Program in cooperation with the China Scholarship Council. Around 160 PhD candidates benefited (or still benefit) from this program.

There were of course challenges, and 2020 was a particularly big one. Our strength is to adapt, set up new projects, evolve. Being an alliance of schools certainly is an advantage: sharing good practices, information, opinions are essential tools to be responsive, creative, and offer multifaceted solutions. Even the pandemic was an opportunity for us to create new ways of connecting: since May, we have organized or participated to webinars, created a lot of digital content, opened a Bilibili channel.

2. Would you please comment on the academic level of Chinese students?

The academic level of the Chinese students we recruit through the 9+9 program or our CSC – ParisTech doctoral program is the same as the academic level of students we recruit in other countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Russia), specifically because we “hand-pick” students through a highly selective process. Our expectations are the same, no matter where the candidates come from.

To students applying to a ParisTech program, I would say that of course, GPAs and rankings are taken into account. But beyond that, what we look for in students is motivation, curiosity, autonomy, adaptability. We value excellence in a broader sense, in all aspects of candidates’ profiles: first of all, academic excellence, and then social skills.

3. Why did ParisTech lift the university restrictions and accept all undergraduate students’ applications in 2017

When we started recruiting Chinese students 20 years ago, our partner universities would first preselect them. Progressively, the possibility to apply to ParisTech was opened to all their students. Since 2011, we also count more partner universities in China.

Lifting the university restriction in 2017 was the logical next step, and a practical one as well: China is vast, top-ranking universities are numerous. Opening up the program to all universities has allowed us to develop new partnerships, recruit students with more diverse profiles. We wanted to give excellent students, wherever they are studying in China, the opportunity to gain an international experience at our schools.

4. Over the past three years, what are the number of applicants and the percentage of successful applicants in 9+9 program? 201820192020

For the past 3 years, there were on average around 100 applicants passing the scientific test. For China, the success rate can vary between 30 – 40%, depending on the year. Nonetheless, the percentage is not illustrative. Depending on the quality of applications, we admit more or less students. There is no fixed number of admittable students per country, per year, or per school. If we only have excellent candidates applying, the rate can be much higher. And of course, it could be lower if not.

5. Could you please share with us how to apply for the scholarship successfully?

For all of these scholarships, I would say that the first condition is excellence. Excellence includes your academic performance, but also the coherence of your personal and professional project.

The next step to apply successfully is to be prepared and have all necessary documents ready before the procedure starts. Read instructions carefully. Double-check.

Last, be it scholarships from the Chinese Government or the French Government, their attribution depends on governmental policies (key sectors, key countries, etc.). Put yourself in the bigger picture: what are the challenges in your field of study? How can you contribute, make an impact? Why would your country or a foreign country be willing to fund your project? You can then articulate the study plan you submit for application around the answers to these questions.

 

Part 2 – Written Test and Interview

1. Could you share with us the passing rate of ParisTech's written test?

As previously answered, the success rate to the scientific test in itself is not a relevant indicator.

Our schools have different expectations. Being excellent in mathematics is a common denominator for all our schools, and for most of them also in physics, but then depending on the student’s profile, he/she will be expected to excel also in life sciences or chemistry.

I would advise candidates to carefully check what the schools’ expectations are. They can find all relevant information on this page: https://paristech.fr/en/international/china/china-admission-program (in 3/how to apply, step 2).

2. Can you give some advises to the applicant to prepare for the written test?

First of all, you have to be able to understand the questions. This year the test will be in English only: make sure your scientific English is sufficient.

Check the documentation on our website (same link as above)! You can also read Wang Jing’s testimonial, it is full of advices on how to be a successful applicant (Wang Jing is also an Eiffel scholarship fellow).

3. After the applicant passes the written test and the interview and gets the advance admission notice, what other conditions exist to be admitted finally? What are the final admission criteria for the school?

Once candidates have passed the test and the interview, ParisTech schools will pre-select candidates. Candidates will be asked to rank by order of preference the schools that have declared their interest in their profile.

The admission board will then consider all elements to take a final decision. There is no per se other conditions.

Yet again, I strongly advice candidates to be thorough: check ParisTech schools’ documentation, build personal and professional projects that are coherent with what you learn, what you excel at and enjoy the most, and pick the right school for it. Check what are the expectations of the schools you are interested in, academically wise. Check what they can offer you. This admission program is not the equivalent of gaokao and admission into university: all ParisTech schools excel in their domains, that’s a given. The 9+9 Program is meant at matching the best profiles with the most relevant schools.

 

Part 3 - Internship and Career

1. Will the schools help students find internships? Is there any other way for students to find internships?

All our schools have very strong links with companies. Students will be very regularly in contact with their school’s partner companies, and most schools regularly receive internship offers from them. Finding an internship is relatively easy, provided students are motivated and proactive.

Students receive help, of course, but are also expected to be able to seize opportunities and shape their own professional project. To seize those opportunities, they can also be active in alumni networks, students’ associations, or share their goals with their professors. But first of all: students should pay attention to their resumes and LinkedIn profiles; they should be able to promote themself in the best way. And of course, if they want to do their internships in companies, improving their oral and written French continuously before coming to France, and during their stay in France, is crucial.

2. What is the average monthly salary for an internship?

The compensation will vary depending on the company / institution, the sector, and the internship.

Some students working for NGOs accept not to have any financial compensation for their internship, some students doing internships for bigger companies can earn up to a starting salary. Others, working for public institutions (schools’ labs for instance) have compensations fixed by law.

3. Are there any opportunities for Chinese students to find a job in France after graduation?

Of course! 50 to 90% of ParisTech’s schools’ students find a job before graduation, or within a few months.

Some Chinese students chose to stay in France after graduation (some of them stayed up to 10 years in France). Others chose to pursue a PhD in France. Staying in France is a unique opportunity to start working for a French multinational company for example, and get to better understand its corporate values, then move back to China within the same company.

In any case, working abroad is a challenge worth taking, to be confronted to other ways of working, thinking, managing and improving even further language skills.

 

Part 4 - Future and Development

1. Could you share with us the development plan of ParisTech in China?

Our development plan includes more partnerships with Chinese universities, including, but not limited to: double degrees, research cooperation, exchange programs, international summer schools. Some new cooperation agreements should be signed before the end of 2020, and we are preparing an international summer school in Paris with all our schools for July 2021. This will give Chinese undergraduate students an opportunity to discover our schools.

ParisTech is now a well-known brand in higher education in China, our next goal is to tighten cooperation with companies, to offer short executive education programs, develop Learning expeditions either in France or in China. This is one of the reasons we are also structuring our alumni association. We want to be able to increase the reputation of our schools within companies.

2. In recent years, some schools of ParisTech have joined Paris Saclay University, PSL University or IP Paris. Is there any influence on ParisTech?

Some of our schools are part of PSL (Chimie ParisTech | PSL, ESPCI Paris | PSL, MINES ParisTech | PSL), some of Paris-Saclay (AgroParisTech, Institut d’Optique Graduate School). Arts et Métiers Sciences et Technologies is part of HESAM and Ecole des Ponts ParisTech part of University Paris-Est.

I would say the influence is mutually beneficial: ParisTech contributes to the promotion of its Grandes Ecoles d’ingénieur, especially abroad. Through our International Admission Program, we recruit top foreign students for our “diplômes d’ingénieur”, or for our CSC – ParisTech Doctoral Program. We develop new partnerships with top-ranking universities worldwide. In that sense, our work also contributes to PSL or Paris-Saclay influence. And in turn, their rankings and reputation contribute to our schools’ influence in France and abroad. It is a virtuous circle.

As far as schools going to IP Paris, the whole point of ParisTech is to bring together engineering schools sharing common values, willing to cooperate, and developing common projects. If some schools believe it is no longer the case for them, they leave. But actually, ParisTech also develops cooperation on specific projects, with Telecom Paris for instance.

There is no per se good or bad influence: both cooperation and competition are essential.

3. Will ParisTech invite more excellent French engineering schools to join in the future? Such as.

The alliance is open to other engineering schools, as long as they share our values of excellence, openness, innovation and solidarity. At this stage, as negotiations are still going on, we cannot reveal which schools might join us. But stay tuned!

4. Could you please share with us the outstanding achievements of the Chinese alumni of ParisTech Paris in various fields?

There are many! From CEOs of multinational companies (Total, Veolia, Allianz…), heads of major institutions (French National Center for Space Studies, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission…) to successful entrepreneurs (Alan, Damae Medical, Acute 3D…), you will find our alumni in all types of companies, and in all sectors.

We regularly share their success on ParisTech China WeChat account.

5. What would you like to say to the students who want to study at ParisTech?

Be audacious, and be tenacious. If you are truly interested in science and technology, in combining engineering and research, willing to acquire multidisciplinary skills and developing your full potential, our schools are top destinations. With their highly customizable curriculum, their strong links with companies, their orientation on innovation and entrepreneurship, they will offer you the best platform to express yourself.

 

The ParisTech Grandes Écoles