Vincent Laflèche, Alma Catala, Laura Villette et Yuan Yuan Shen

MINES Paris - S.Boda / Thibaud Vaerma

Publication date : 24/02/2021
International cooperation

Newsletter n°9: International recruitment: Fantastic response, with candidates as motivated as ever!

Interview with Vincent Laflèche, Chair of the ParisTech International Commission and Director of MINES ParisTech – PSL, Alma Catala, Head of International Relations at MINES ParisTech – PSL and Head of the Admissions Boards for Argentina and Colombia, Laura Villette, Director of ParisTech in China


Across the ParisTech schools, international students make up almost 30% of the student body each year. How does the network go about attracting and recruiting these students?

VL: Our international strategy is focused on the specific features and value of the engineering degree awarded by the ParisTech schools, and indeed of the French engineering system more generally. ParisTech students not only benefit from excellent teaching, as demonstrated by the schools’ league table rankings, but also graduate with the same employment prospects as students who complete two Anglo-Americanstyle master’s courses (in science/ engineering and in management). Our strategy is also underpinned by long-standing ties with several target countries with which France enjoys strong economic relations, such as South America, Russia and China.

AC: We’ve been working with top institutions for a number of years, taking a partnership-based approach whereby we build close relationships with our partners’ international relations teams and department leaders. We have signed agreements to facilitate student exchanges and set up double degree programmes. In terms of attracting candidates, ParisTech has also reinforced its social media presence. We also aim to showcase our institutions to lecturers and researchers at our partner universities, as they play a significant role in advising students.

LV: The underlying strategy of the network is to promote the value of French engineering qualifications in countries where this type of degree does not exist, and to highlight the range of career opportunities open to graduates (research, employment or entrepreneurship).


Has the current health crisis changed the way you recruit international students?

VL: No – and that’s something we’re very proud of! The ParisTech schools implemented strict measures to ensure that teaching could continue. Apart from during the first lockdown, we have not had to stop face-toface classes completely. Overseas placements have been able to go ahead in many cases, and thanks to the quick response of the ParisTech network, our newly recruited international students have been able to continue their studies without interruption, albeit with some adaptations.

AC: We took a very proactive approach to ensure that we maintained recruitment and outward mobility at pre-pandemic levels and were able to welcome students as usual. We looked for alternative ways of presenting our exchange programmes and took our promotional campaign online, using social media and webinars to reach prospective students. We are delighted to say that despite the difficult circumstances, all of the international students we recruited have been able to take up their places this year – and they are as motivated as ever!

LV: As early as February, we knew that we would be running our recruitment campaign online. Usually, representatives from the ParisTech schools travel to China, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Russia in the spring to promote our courses and meet candidates. This year overseas travel was of course out of the question, so we decided to go digital. We recorded a series of videos in which we spoke with the schools’ directors, international students and heads of international relations, and updated the ParisTech websites and social media channels. We also held a global webinar, with additional sessions for Russia, Argentina/ Colombia and China. In China we completely revamped our WeChat account and created a presentation page in Chinese for each of the ParisTech schools.


Would you say the ParisTech 2020 international recruitment campaign was a success?

VL: The resilience shown by the network has been truly remarkable. We were able to hold our promotional activities and entrance exams online, and the international teams were impressively quick to adapt, which meant that the schools could continue to engage with candidates and maintain their interest. Overall, we saw the same level of applications and admissions as in previous years and what’s more, we noticed an increase in the quality of applications, so we are particularly pleased with how things went this year.

AC: I can honestly say the campaign was a great success. It wasn’t easy, but ParisTech quickly adapted its recruitment process. Everything was done online – webinars, test, interviews, a new CRM system. All of this meant that we could accept and process just as many applications as before. Overall we admitted the same number of students as last year, and even exceeded last year’s figures for some countries. The new online tools allowed us to reach candidates from a wider range of backgrounds. One of the next steps will be to ensure we can welcome the students we recruited in 2020 in the best possible conditions.

LV: The pandemic pushed us to acquire and adopt new tools more quickly and learn how to use them to communicate effectively online.


What will the 2021 recruitment campaign look like? Will there be any changes?

VL: Our first goal is to consolidate the excellent results of the 2020 campaign and learn from our experience. There are always points that can be improved. In 2020 we received independent applications from a number of highly talented external candidates – i.e. students not enrolled at one of our many partner institutions. We hope to expand this source of recruitment, in particular in Asia by making the most of the team we have in China, who are already doing an outstanding job.

AC: Our recruitment process has evolved, and will continue to do so. We made a lot of significant and very successful changes in 2020.

LV: We will be working in the same conditions as in 2020, as international borders are still closed. We intend to apply everything we learned from the 2020 campaign and continue to improve, adapt and develop our promotional tools. One major change for 2021 is that we will be recruiting students from other parts of Asia: Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.


Is this recruitment process specific to the ParisTech schools?

VL: For the moment yes, it’s only for the ParisTech schools, but we plan to open up the process to other schools by inviting them to join the network. We specifically want to restrict the recruitment process to schools that share the same values – firstly, a commitment to offering broad engineering programmes that provide students with an excellent education and the same employment prospects as students who complete two master’s degrees elsewhere in the world, and secondly, a desire to foster strong ties between research and teaching.


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