Lebanon News

Top French schools look to lure Lebanese

Thuaudet and Duault say engineering and business are the preferred subjects of study for Lebanese abroad.

BEIRUT: Top-notch French business and engineering schools will present their graduate-level programs this week at an inaugural salon event geared toward attracting Lebanese students. The two-day event is organized by Campus France, the French Institute in Beirut and Ecole Superieure des Affaires, and will take place at the ESA gardens on April 5-6.

Gilles Thuaudet, cooperation attache at the French Institute, said the event would aim to guide future Lebanese entrepreneurs and engineers as they looked to build their careers by first indicating that they had educational opportunities in France.

“We are hoping that more students will enroll as a result of the salon. At the very least, we want them to know it is a possibility that exists and that the doors are open for them,” Thuaudet said.

Campus France, a French national agency that promotes higher education around the world, brought the top tier business and engineering schools to Lebanon to allow one-on-one meetings between potential applicants and school representatives.

Starting at 10 a.m., students will be able to survey the schools, each in their respective booths along the ESA gardens. Two representatives from each school will be present to speak to students who have made appointments via the Campus French website. Another will be present to greet students who come without an appointment.

Lebanese alumni who previously attended the schools will give talks to provide prospective students with an idea of how each program can be of use to them in the national context.

Among the schools slated to be at the event is the top-ranked Ecole Polytechnique, renowned for its engineering program. In France, graduates from the school have typically assumed positions of influence in the government and finance sectors. Admissions are highly selective, and applicants are required to write an entry exam.

Thuaudet maintains the salon is not solely about providing students the ability to interact with the schools, but also to encourage them to think about carving out a definitive career path, from the master’s level and beyond.

“What we tried to do is have the best French schools, which will be of interest to students here because they provide a very high level of instruction in their particular specializations,” said Thuaudet, who believed a graduate-level degree from the schools could be a gateway for Lebanese students to pursue further studies at elite U.S. schools.

Because some of the French schools already share linkages with those in the Ivy League, Thuaudet said, it is possible for students to access them later on, if they wish to pursue doctoral studies, for instance. Because of the highly selective application criteria of elite U.S. schools, even the most accomplished students at LAU and AUB are placed at a competitive disadvantage.

“If they are accepted, and some will be because they are very good students, they have access to these other schools, with scholarship opportunities too,” he said, adding that this would enable the accepted few to return to Lebanon with a wealth of expertise.

But, Thuaudet maintains, this is not the goal of the event that begins Friday, as many Lebanese who have graduated from select French schools have fared well professionally at home without studying elsewhere.

According to the institute, about 1,000 Lebanese pursue studies in France each year, putting the total number of Lebanese students in the country at 5,000. France remains the top destination for Lebanese studying abroad.

Maxence Duault, the provost of ESA, said the business schools to be featured at the event offered specialized programs and were all accredited under the Paris Chamber of Commerce. Among them is HEC Paris, a top-ranked school, according to the Financial Times. A good portion of the courses at these schools, he said, were taught in English, considered the international language of business.

For students who wish to apply, Campus France and the institute will guide them in the process, and if they are accepted, will facilitate the exchange as well. Moreover, students accepted to the engineering programs will have their tuition expenses covered by the state.

Engineering and business are the preferred subjects of study for Lebanese abroad, and France in particular boasts training programs with an entrepreneurial focus, “so they graduate with leadership potential,” Duault said.

Lebanese entrepreneurs have a reputation for success abroad, thanks to networked diaspora communities, along with good formative business training and language skills. Back at home, however, the stunted economy often prompts recent graduates to leave. Those who stay find themselves disoriented after finishing school and in need of career-building guidance.

For this reason, Thuaudet maintains that at the institute, “We want to try and guide the students through the process, try to see if their choices correspond to their studies and if they have attainable objectives after they complete their studies.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 02, 2013, on page 4.




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