It's so secluded from the world?! I could not name one university in France, besides Paris.
I know they have this interesting Ecole system, that is very competitive. E.g. Ecole Polytechnique. I swear they have the most difficult admissions in the world (this coming from an Oxford student). How to get in? (I barely even speak French too, but I really want to study there!)
Anyone knows anything about this system? Any inside information?
What I read about the higher education system in France is that it is extremely tiered in elite status. You have public universities at the bottom (and universities in the "Grand Etablissement" which I would assume is a version of private schools and a higher part of "public" university segment) and grand ecoles, the highest status universities . So a two segment university system. At first I was a little surprised by this, but then again, American universities for instance separate universities that are "teaching" and those that are "research," so I suppose the French system is not that different in a general way.
But grand ecoles as far as I understand them are segmented for the top 5% of the university orientation. There are no grand ecoles for law or medicine, and mostly are oriented for business and scientific research. Ecole Polytechnique (apparently called "X") train the cream of the crop, an unstated prerequisite for higher office or university placement. And then afterward, the students that graduate are put into "grand corps" which is sort of a honors association or something like that. LOL! I suppose Napoleons Old Guard and the hilarious classification systems live on in the French educational system.
Honestly, shame on the French for this system. Awesome in one respect because it is virtually free education, but bad in many other ways. In one way, it seems like the French tried to solve the problem of a substandard educational system by taking the top few kids in a large school and moving them into small room focusing the spotlight on the overachievers rather than the whole collective. Kinda ignores the main issue though. But I have to question whether or not segregating the best students in universities (i.e. removing them from the general poolhttp://www.webometrics.info/top8000.asp
Definitely have a point there. That's the more interesting part of statistics, the many inherent biases. For example, the QS and Times list are interesting because 40% (arguably 50%) of the scoring relies on a subjective survey (which oddly enough, it doesn't even seem like they have a big issue with keeping the population of the sample size somewhat even (i.e. 9,386 responses in 2009 (6,354 in 2008)). The WebMetric chart is interesting in the respect that it (superficially) fully conforms with the IREG Berlin Principles. Which is odd because the Times had an article from 2006 which said it was conforming with the international standards but does not mention it in their methodology table (at least for 2010). The QS rankings I don't even think bothered with the IREP resolutions (not explicitly mentioned) although they share similar results. I did read on the WM website though that British universities are ranked lower on the list because there is an issue with "commitment to open access" and because of this there is a ranking issue (a concern you shared with a lack of full supply of data). I have to say it is very amusing though, at least how rankings goes and how we pay so much attention to it. For instance, graduate schools for law here in the states go to great lengths to make sure they ensure their higher spot in the rankings, from full tuition coverage, etc. Anyway, I digress.
What makes the grand ecole system so appealing to you though? Is it the ranking or the training/facilities that the schools offer? I suppose as a foreigner, one could actually fold in with the grand ecoles. I read that in order to qualify (initially) for consideration, you have to take a two-part test at what I would imagine would be the sophomore year of high school. The first test weeds out prospective grand ecole students from those that will only qualify for public university. The second sounds more like a dissertation where you have to demonstrate aptitude in an oral exam. But it sounds as though it is mandatory to take the preparatory classes (the grand ecoles CPGE certification) for a wide range of French students though. And how awesome is the nickname for these classes, the "royal way!" But of more interest to you, they have a parallel admission policy, which means you can apply to a grand ecole from university without the entrance exam. Their graduates schools are even more interesting though. You would be considered a civil servant in training and paid a monthly stipend in return for 10 years of service to France.
je suis le fromage!