On Parcoursup, the rise of private schools calls for vigilance

On Parcoursup in particular, the development of this sector, for the benefit of for-profit groups, calls for vigilance.

At a time when high school students must register on Parcoursupa multitude of private schools offer them training in higher education: the result of a continuous development of this sector for the benefit of profit-making groups, which calls for vigilance to navigate.

“There are a lot of schools. It’s vast”sums up Iliana, 20, who went to a business school in Paris on a work-study program to study luxury marketing. “We had been to forums and a friend had found this school”she says. “Initially, we said ”Maybe they are manipulating us, we don’t really know what they are selling us”».

An “anxiety market” for the benefit of private schools

“When you go to Parcoursup, it’s a thicket of informationexplains sociologist Annabelle Allouch, author of The contest company (Editions Threshold). A whole host of private actors gravitate around the platform, including training courses that sell serenity to users. For the sociologist, these schools take advantage of the “anxiety market” created by the post-bac orientation platform.

Applied arts, cinema, photography, IT, communication, marketing or engineering schools: private training continues to develop, making the offer of post-baccalaureate training more complex. In 2021, the private sector brought together 736,800 students, or 24.8% of the higher education workforce, according to figures from the ministry. This is more than double than twenty years ago.

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In ten years, registrations have increased by 60% (compared to 16% in the public), taking advantage of “massification of student numbers” who “has not been accompanied by support from public universities”explains Aurélien Casta, economist and sociologist at the University of Lille.

Some of these schools are on Parcoursup – 40% of the training courses listed in 2022 are private, according to a parliamentary report -, others are not, putting forward this argument to sell dreams without stress. This growth benefits non-profit players (Catholic institutes and engineering or business schools), but above all private groups, sometimes controlled by investment funds.

“Pharmacies completely escape radar”

Among these for-profit giants: the Galileo group (Cours Florent, Atelier de Sèvres, ESG business schools, etc.), piloted by international funds, Omnes Education (HEIP school of political science, ECE engineering, ESCE management etc.), controlled by the Cinven fund, or even Ionis (ISG business school, Epitech computer science etc.).

“We have actors who do not have educational objectives, strictly speaking, who demand profitability. It is a real break with a set of policies implemented in France, with a model very controlled by the State in the name of equality and national cohesion.underlines Aurélien Casta. This part of the private sector has concentrated most of the increase since 2000, in a fairly significant opacity”. Because if some schools give diplomas recognized by the State, others are not authorized to issue them, or mention employability criteria that nothing comes to support.

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“I think we have to be very careful”underlines Alice Guilhon, general manager of Skema and President of the Conference of Directors of French Schools of Management (CDEFM), which brings together 38 top business schools (HEC, Essec…). “Pharmacies completely escape the radar and are in a significant rise in power because they promise international jobs. But in the end, the student finds himself without a diploma.

“Misleading” commercial practices

In a survey published in December 2022, the Fraud business practices pin “misleading” of higher private education, considering that it should “to review his copy” in consumer protection. According to her, “more than 30% of the establishments checked turned out to be in anomaly” in 2020.

A subject that also interests the Ministry of Higher Education which, in December, created a working group to better regulate and control the quality of private establishments, their diplomas and their distance education. Its conclusions are expected in the spring. For Aurelien Casta, “we have a private sector which mobilizes the symbolic resources of the public, and a public which is beginning to draw inspiration from the private sector. All of this calls for clarification.

On Parcoursup, the rise of private schools calls for vigilance