The 2010/02/26 at 09:48
Alexandre T. Analis
At a time when a growing number of engineering schools offer students increasingly specialised programmes, a minority of establishments continues to place an emphasis on generalist training, offering a broader range of job options for graduates. This is notably the case of HEI (Hautes Études d’Ingénieur). Founded in 1885 as part of the Université Catholique de Lille, this school was authorised by the Commission des Titres d’Ingénieur (CTI or Commission for Engineering Titles) in 1935 and recognised in 1968 by the State, which has accorded it a public service mission since 2002.
HEI offers classic training over five years (two years of preparatory school-style training followed by a three-year engineering programme) to some 1,800 students. Based on a site with 23,000 m2 in buildings, as well as a 7-hectare sports complex, the school has 170 tenured staff members, 350 external teachers and benefits from an annual consolidated budget of over 18 million euros. The State is responsible for part of this budget (15%) while over 2,000 companies pay a training levy to the HEI. Tuition fees come to 2,400 euros per year for the first two years, and 5,550 euros per year for the last three, but numerous financial grants are available through student scholarships and sponsorship schemes.
70% of students recruited before the end of their studies
Admission mainly occurs following the baccalauréat, based on a triple selection process (application, written test and motivation interview); out of approximately 1,800 candidates, only 350 are selected. Otherwise, candidates who have completed their baccalauréat and two years of study (DUT, BTS, degree or Master 1) may be admitted. Training is resolutely generalist in that 75% of the timetable is devoted to core curriculum teaching divided into poles. The core curriculum includes science (control, mechanical, chemical engineering…) as well as subjects aimed at preparing graduates for company management (law, foreign languages, marketing, human resources, information and communication technologies…). The remaining 25% in time volume is devoted to ten specific domains selected by students: construction, development and architecture; public works and construction; chemistry; mechanical conception; energy, electrical and automatic systems; computing and IT; health and medical engineering; business organisation and management; textile technology, innovation and international management; banking, finance and insurance. Finally, the average success rate in exams is 82%. The school’s reputation says it all: over 70% of HEI students are recruited before the end of their studies.
Businesses very present in the school’s functioning
Other than theoretical classes, the curriculum includes three compulsory internships. The first is a manual internship at the end of the first year (one month minimum), the second a professionalization internship at the end of the fourth year (three months minimum), and the third an engineering internship at the end of the fifth year (four months minimum). HEI also places a focus on projects via research work that the student carries out with an external client for a minimum of three months. The generalist character of the training allows students to carry out their internships in sectors as diverse as construction, IT, logistics, industry and services… Businesses are very present in the functioning of the establishment: a majority of HEI’s board members are company heads. “It is notably thanks to them that we expanded from four domains, a few years ago, to ten domains today. Companies help us to understand their needs and, as a result, to improve the training that we offer,” observes Jean-Marc Idoux, 40 years old, Managing Director of HEI since January 2006 and an engineer by training. “All the same, we reflect on the needs of companies, if these are too short-term, we try to match them with a long-term pedagogical perspective.” Given its long history, HEI’s alumni network is one of the largest in France, with 14,800 graduates.
An internationally focused outlook
HEI offers undergraduate training, but also continuing education leading to the award of diplomas (5 to 10 graduates per year) according to the Fontanet (1) stream model, whilst the granting of credit for experience (VAE) will be put in place from next academic year onwards. Another strength of HEI’s training offer is its deeply international flavour. The slogan “HEI – Engineers to the world” is no mere empty phrase: aside from teaching 23 languages, all students must spend at least three months overseas in the form of a university exchange (92 exchange possibilities in 60 universities throughout the world and 7 double degrees) or in the form of an internship. But the number of overseas students at HEI remains low: 15 to 20 per year group. “We come across difficulties drawing foreign students to Lille and offering training in English,” explains Jean-Marc Idoux. “But our policy of developing double degrees should provide us with a remedy to this situation.” In any case, 20 % of graduates begin their careers overseas. Finally, HEI is also involved in research in partnership with public and private universities as well as other engineering schools (joint laboratories). This research is centred on four major themes: chemistry; energy and systems; structure and materials; engineering and living sciences.
(1) This stream of engineering training offered by establishments in the Fontanet network (which gathers most establishments authorised to deliver engineering degrees by continuing education) is aimed at technicians with a minimum of 3 years of professional experience. A rigorous stream, it represents a real opportunity for career promotion by the obtaining of an engineering degree identical to that obtained by an undergraduate degree.
More information on www.hei.fr
Activity sectors where HEI graduates find jobs
Public buildings and works: 33.7%
Automobile, aeronautic, naval, rail industries: 13.5%
Information technology (services): 7.9%
Research units, consultancy firms: 5.6%
Chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic industrie: 2.2%
Trade, distribution: 2.2%
Source: CGE survey 2008