French schools scrabble to counter negative job image

French prime minister intervenes to allay fears about jobs for Grande Ecole graduates

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France’s top business schools are insisting students from outside France will still be able to get work experience in the country after graduation. This follows six months of confusion in which graduates had been unable to get the appropriate work documentation to work in France.

The confusion goes back to an agreement reached in summer 2006, in which all graduates from France’s Grande Ecole programmes - both business and engineering student - were allowed to get their first professional work experience after graduation in France. But in May this year a circular was sent round which effectively tightened the rules, meaning that 550 masters students from outside the EU were unable to get work authorisation. The majority of these - 75 per cent - were Grande Ecole students, with the remaining 25 per cent coming from French university programmes.

Pierre Tapie, dean of Essec business school and president of the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles, which represents all the business and engineering schools, says that although the numbers involved were small, “it has had a very high symbolic power.”

In particular, he says, schools are worried about the effect the situation has caused among prospective overseas students. “We have noticed it has created some concern and noise in some countries.”

The situation was finally resolved last month when the prime minister of France, François Fillon, issued clarification. In his letter he said that all foreign graduates holding at least a master’s degree could apply for a temporary work permit in order to acquire a first professional experience in France, without the state of the employment market and the list of hard-to-fill professions being held against them.

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