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Denis CRISTOL PhD (Paris Ouest Nanterre CREF) - 4cristol@free.fr



This article analyzes trends and development of the Global Higher Education in a French perspective. It shows that’s the global market for education is now a reality. The Issues are linked with countries economic development and culture. We made several focus to show the challenges faced by the French higher education:

- The first describes and critics French social reproduction,

- The second explains the power of U.S. Business Model of Teaching,

- The third shows the spread of Indian gurus of management,

- The fourth gives an outlook of china special projects.


Then two strategic orientations are discussed.

-The first explains the orientation of French school and university becoming educational firm market oriented,

-The second shows the quest for accreditation with a main stream of thought induced by academic standards of production,


In conclusion another way giving primacy to learning will be proposed. It will incorporate wider local cultural specificities in order to avoid a standardization of managerial thinking.




If we adopt a global perspective it would count in the world between 8 000 to 17 000 educational institutions of higher education that bring together no less than 132 million students. Certainly we can consider 13 to 26,000,000 only for business and management.  But the imbalances are evident between countries richly endowed with structures of qualified teachers and others (GFME 2008). These imbalances explain why students and teachers migration are multiplied. Occasionally doing exchange programs, creating double degree, encouraging scholarship or semester abroad, and comparisons between educational systems are accelerating. Henceforth comparisons produce reconciliations. We will locate four current models and try to distinguish the points of overlap and divergence.


The French social reproduction

The world in recent decades has been an international education market, the effects of threats to the implementation of ideas and creating new values. The newspaper Enjeux-Les Echos (2010) gloss on the making of French elites. The paper explains how a handful of schools (Polytechnique, Mines, Central) refine 813 people among 13500 ‘préparationaires’[1] brains among the 225 French engineering schools, and how these 0.001% of individuals controlling the geometry of plane curves has all the likelihood ‘statistics’ to access a seat as CEO of CAC 40[2]. How is this possible? The making of managers, executives and leaders obeys the unwritten rules such as ‘habitus’[3], the legitimation of merit, social inheritance, rules shelled by Bourdieu and Passeron (1964, 1979) for the academic sphere and Lazuech (1999) in schools of engineering and business. The early education system is selective and gives mathematics predominance in France (Joly 2005). This making of managers has been put in relation to other cultural mirrors like Joly with the training of German elite (2005), or Bournois and Roussillon (1998) with the education of international leaders. In France, it obeys in part to a sociology of social and learning trajectories (Roussel 2007), specific codes in a ‘formal certification’ based on the importance of initial degree in another part in the early high level of responsibility in their careers and for highest responsibilities of management, the easy passage of the administration to private companies (Coehen-Huther, 2004). Yet in France the spreading of higher education has resulted in an influx of 500 000 students in all disciplines, including 100,000 in college of commerce and 25 000 in engineering school (MESR 2008). For Fauconnier (2005) the ‘diplômite’[4] would be the basis for a culture of exclusion. Veltz (2007) shows that larger schools to serve the French recruitment agencies for CAC 40 companies, and joined the idea of closing sociological leaders exposed by Vasconcellos (2006). The role of the appointment and networks in the establishment of committees of corporate governance has been highlighted by Falcoz (Bournois and Roussillon, 1998) in a sample of subsidiaries of large French companies such as Alcatel Alsthom. In the ‘French model’ the ‘grandes écoles’[5] serves as reference for the whole society organised according to the logic of the honour (D’Irirbarne 1989). The logic would begin soon. For Lorenzi and Payan (2007), the higher education system is archaic with its three levels of higher education. First ‘nobility’ would consist of large schools of engineering and business or special administration school like the ENA[6]. Second ‘the clergy’ gathers institution with special status, universities with special status or schools of engineering or trade called ‘provincial’. Finally the ‘third estate’ together the two-thirds of students grouped in universities and polytechnics. If the connection is limited to the formation of economic actors must be held the attraction of the reference model of political and economic elites. The current system persists and even tends to increase. Continuously since Bourdieu, Passeron (1964, 1970, 1979) and then Tilliette Crozier (1995), this situation is regularly criticized for its reproduction and social endogamy (Philippon 2007, Dupuy 2008). The first challenge faced by the French higher education lies in its narrow elitism.


Teaching U.S. business model


One imputes to the creation of France's first ‘business school’ in 1819 with the business school in Paris to meet the needs of the industrial revolution. But this is the US standard which overspread all over the world. The first Bachelor of Finance was issued in 1884 in the Wharton business school and MBA was first issued by Harvard Business School (HBS) in 1910 (Cunliffe 2009). For business schools, HBS appears as a model of management education. Ewing (1992) taught 40 years ago and known HBS as the ‘Cathedral of management’. Even if the testimony he actually seems to advocate, he emphasized the strength of an archetype, Ewing identifies several key components of such a school : the sense of mission teachers and administrative staff, the learning placed before teaching, active student participation during class during each must formulate its opinion on the case studied, the predominance of the rational approach and numerical analysis, the organization of the first year students in a group section, the long hours spent studying especially during the first year, other projects or school activities, the membership unwavering and all the most  the deep rooted ideas of capitalism. Moreover, the strength of publications in prestigious journals ranked peer place school in producing knowledge and gives an aura in a knowledge economy. The number of awards and renowned researchers, contributes to the reputation of selective admission. The alumni network is a true ‘machine placement’. In his speech, HBS is still lessons precursors. For example, Roethlisberger would be a pioneer in the study of organizational behaviour. The school prides itself yet significant contributions in the marketing mix, philosophy of the informal group, participative management and empowerment, method of discounted cash flows, decision tree, or preference curve. HBS is also a powerful financial institution with 800 endowment fund was $ 1.4 billion in 2001 (7.5% of the total endowments of the university) and $ 2 billion in 2008. Fundraising 2002 was as follows: attract the best students by providing scholarships, attract and develop faculty, increase the global impact and alternative schools, better methods of learning, to restore the campus. The U.S. model illustrated by the HBS continues to serve as a reference to a ‘world economic war’ in the terminology of Ewing saying ‘As global economic competition, as in war, industry should have top chefs level’. A portion of the model is linked to the power of management research. Beyond this one school so prestigious it is, it's the whole Anglo-Saxon approach that has emerged. And management research is still under the influence of English. Of the 25 000 management academic articles appearing annually 20,000 of them are produced in English (Thoenig 2004, 2006). This finding suggests a scientific thought of Anglo-Saxon exclusive, which of course is certainly false. How creative thinking, divergent breaks do not speak English? Certainly the majority of them simply because they fall outside the mainstream of thought formatted and labelled by schools increasingly turned to the same accreditation systems. The second challenge encountered is the idea that even as the U.S. asserts its supremacy model, it becomes difficult for France to make a catch. Furthermore it is contested from within by a critical current management. Strictly aligned behind such a model would place France far behind,  and prevent it from asserting that its best.


Indian management gurus


While some questioned in France the sense of business of Indian managers, (we recall the contemptuous reception Mittal made its entry into the capital of Arcelor), it is undeniable that Western industry has simply been rolled. The growth rate of India is around 8% and can not only be understood as a catch-up country in development but as an acceleration of history. To take the emblematic example of the car:  the Indian Tata launched the cheapest car in the world (112 000 rupees for a Nano is $ 1,500 U.S.). It was not the Americans or the Europeans or even the Japanese. If commercial success is not assured at least the imaginary bearing the folk's car passes of America (Ford T) Germany (Volkswagen) and the new launch is promised to India. Behind the successful Indian industrialists, it is also possible to see the rise of Indian higher education. The MBA has indeed found its principal place of choice in India with 75,000 graduates every year (GFME 2008), 100 000 and even if we follow Professor Philip (2008). With 200 000 candidates for 1600 seats in the 7 most prestigious Indian university and with a ratio of 0.008% rate we approach the French selectivity. If the Indian graduates are numerous, their teachers earn notoriety. The Sanskrit word guru is used to refer to the professor, who teaches and whose credit is based on the spiritual tradition to which he belongs and which he followed the teachings and practices. From now one of the leading management guru’s professors Indian or of Indian origin as Amartya Sen, Rakesh Khurana and Sumantra Ghoshal holds a prominent place and develop arguments that count. The third challenge faced by the French higher education is open to ways of thinking and different ideas. There is an urgent need to integrate a more Asian view of the world beyond the rationality of Descartes[7] particularly entrenched.


Special projects Chinese


The Chinese higher education has a long history that can be traced back to the Zhou Dynasty in 771-221 BC, but also the education of young aristocratic families of the Shang Dynasty in the 16th century Jesus Christ. Regarding the education of ordinary citizens it was not until the 19th century they are accessing higher education. The rapid modernization of Japan has certainly been an example to accelerate the establishment of institutions of higher education as the Nan Yang Public School was founded in 1886, Jiao Tong University Shanghai Jiao Zhejiang University 1897 or that of Beijing in 1898. The beginning of the period 1949-1976 is marked by a period of rapprochement with the Soviet Union. The growth of institutions of higher education accompanies a period of massive industrialization. Since 1976 new developments are taking place. In 1977 over 5.7 million candidates, only 270,000 are accessing higher education. At the end of the 90’s, partnerships and mutual recognition of diplomas are engaged with countries in Europe and America, and success in Gaokao, examination of the university offers more opportunity to pursuit study. But attention to Chinese statistics are not always comparable with Western statistics, doubts remain about the aggregation of youth and adults trained in the same database. China alone has 23 million students in higher education which would be distributed in 1731 educational institutions. In 2005, Chinese higher education diploma holders 797 293 (191 317 masters and doctors) and would send 159,000 students to foreign universities each year (China Statistical Yearbook 2006). From 1978 to 2006 and is nearly a million Chinese students who have been educated abroad. 1/3 of these immigrants only would return in their country, the others remaining on site (Brandenburg and Zhu 2007). Special programs aimed at developing networks of excellence and promoting quality rather than quantity. Thus from 1995, Project 211 aimed to build 100 schools internationally renowned for the 21th century, while Project 985 aimed to develop 10 to 12 establishments international leaders. Faced with a steady flow, the fourth challenge faced by the French higher education is to develop capacity to host and train students including Chinese and train them in mass without degrading the quality of teaching, to make them love France and to prepare of future trade flows.


Global perspectives and local alternatives


The transformation into firm


In France the battle for national or  international recognition takes place by means of the rankings. But, each country seeks to attract the best students in its curriculum. Each school tends to adopt a name and an educational project exportable. Each school be renamed in the manner of a brand and become a firm. An international education market is now growing (Garette, Gauthier HEC 2005). For Charles (2007 p7), we are witnessing the transformation of schools with a firm sense of educational investment. In the same way as the stock market and its mechanisms rank the value of firms, school ratings illuminate the choice of educational investment. The stakes are high because, according to Durand and Dameron (2008), 4 to 5 million students across the world will follow 7,600 management programs mobilizing 200,000 teachers for a turnover estimated at between 10 to 12 billion dollars. In France to see the consolidation of schools and universities (eg the business school of Strasbourg in 2008 or the consortium Paris Tech, bringing together 10 engineering schools in the Paris region) the critical size of higher education institutions is becoming a stake (Orivel 2007). The ranking of the University of Shanghai Jiao Tong accelerates the drift of comparing universities worldwide. The criteria are: the number of Nobel Prize laureate, the number of authors most cited in 21 scientific fields, the number of publication in the journal ‘Nature’ and ‘Science’, the number of citations in the Science Citation Index 'and' social science citation ‘, the division of the sum of the previous criteria by the number of’ faculty member ‘. These criteria are unfavorable to French elite organizations in particular because of the small size of universities and educational institutions compared. Other institutions offer their own hierarchy. The Financial Times offers an international ranking from wages and employment rates of the top 100 MBA and found 57 of the best MBA is American, 15 British and 6 Canadian, is a predominantly Anglo-Saxon. Following the success of this classification to other classifications have been proposed in the world, based on other criteria such as the classification of the ‘Ecole des Mines de Paris’ based on the number of officer of the 500 largest companies identified by the Fortune magazine. The latter classification is more favourable to French schools, but is exclusively focused on business.


The quest for international accreditations


Accreditations play a role in the recognition of standards and formats of study. Three organizations share the market and are engaged in a competition. AACSB organization accredits U.S. institutions since 1916. The issuing EFMD Equis European standard since 1997. And finally, only AMBA accredits MBA programs since 1967. There were five united states accredited MBA in 1961 they were in 2000 more than 100 to be accredited, a total of 800 programs (Basso, Dornier and Mounier 2004). The number of MBA graduates would be approximately 50,000 per year in the US. And the number of accredited MBA rose to 142 in 67 countries in 2007, making an international standard MBA.


 2007 data

Worldwide certification

Number of countries











Figure 1: Certification in the world (according to Shenton, and Houde 2007 p18)


The business school HEC in France boasts the ‘triple crown’, i.e. the three certifications: AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA. But new certifications appear to facilitate the comparison of international programs. and accreditations appear. For example  EABHES (European Accreditation Board of Higher Education School) is an organization born of the combination of different occupations in various European countries. The purpose of this organization is to give visibility to diplomas specialized vocational schools or trade schools.


Conclusion : The learning Issue


If the research and success in business are two of the old classification criteria specifically identified. The test can provide educational opportunity locally differentiated approaches, leading out of conformism and build schools on the quality of learning. Indeed, the programs, particularly MBA fail most of the time to develop the skills that managers need (Livingston 1971, Allen 2002, Mintzberg 2005). For Hill (1992), managers require to develop deep psychological adjustments. Lorange (2002 p1-7), from his experience as head of several business schools, offers a reflection, if it fits into the logic of the business of higher education, he argues the need for strategies based on vision and mission, includes a multiplicity of stakeholders, recognizes the inviolability of the value-added education, promoting multidisciplinary approaches by organizing different academic research, focuses on real business problems by organizing educational partnerships with them, encourages teamwork, open to new technologies and supports the network belonging to the school and makes a Learning Organization. This leads to questions based on what we learn and how we learn in business school. These questions are far away from the main economic concern. We can devise educational solutions combining the best of local traditions and international one in order to avoid a single thought



Denis Cristol, PhD

Continuing education manager at ADVANCIA and NEGOCIA

Member of SAVOIRS scientific comity, international research review in adult training and education

Vice President of AFREF French association for reflecting and exchanging on training issues

Member of the editorial staff of PERSONNEL review




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[1] ‘Préparationaires’ are very selected student (18 years old) training hardly two years to join an elite school.

[2] CAC 40 gather the stock exchange main french international companies

[3] Habitus is a concept of Pierre Bourdieu explainig how habits and customs becomes behaviour rules explaining exclusion and social segregation

[4] ‘diplomite’ is like a special french disease for the people who don’t own a high level diploma and cannot climb in the social hierarchy whatever he does

[5] The ‘grandes écoles’ approximatively ‘big school’ is a selective club of elite school

[6] ENA Ecole Nationale d’Administration

[7] Descartes was a French philosopher of the XVI th century known to have promoted rationality above all. He theorizes the cogito, thus founding the science system on the knower to the world that he represents

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Commenter cet article

study abroad consultants 18/07/2012 12:51

France is powerful country .in business field their executives are doing good but in comparison of India and America their infrastructure is not working well to reach the level of other countries.
Most important challenge for France in growth of higher education is to develop capacity to host and train students and train them in mass without degrading the quality of teaching, to make them
love France and to prepare of future trade flows.

CRISTOL DENIS 18/07/2012 13:35

You are right ...

But France is well aimed because we are the fourth country in the world to welcome foreign students. Our businees school are heavy competitor in Europe. Be quiet when sleeping water awake
there is new idea and concept overspreading