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International Affairs

L’X opened a new examination center in Senegal

To facilitate the recruitment of international students, École Polytechnique has examination centers worldwide. L’X recently expanded its presence in Africa where the applicants now have the opportunity to take the examination in Dakar, Senegal.

This is the fifteenth examination center that École Polytechnique opened worldwide. It is located in Africa, more precisely in Dakar, and two Senegalese students who took their exam in that center have succeeded. Since 1996, the institution has set up a development strategy for its international recruitment by providing the opportunity for students to take the examination of l’X in their home country, sometimes even within their university, and in English for non-French speakers.

"We're recruiting talents directly where they are," says Eglantine Jastrabsky, Head of incoming international mobility at École Polytechnique. It is a unique process in French higher education: we have examination centers spread all over the world to make it as easy as possible for applicants to take the exam. Those centers are located in partner universities and French institutes on four continents: Europe, Asia, America and Africa. "We have centers in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Brazil, Chile, Canada or Russia," says Isabelle Becher, Deputy Director of admissions at École Polytechnique.

This system requires organization and considerable resources. "A promotional campaign is led beforehand by l’X to attract the best students," says Eglantine Jastrabsky.

A selection similar to that of applicants coming from preparatory classes

Above all, the exams abroad have the same requirements as the one for international students in preparatory classes. There is a first selection on academic background, done by a jury of examiners and the Director of admissions. "Among the 250 to 300 students applying each year from about forty universities worldwide, about half of them are declared eligible to take the exams," says the Head of incoming international mobility.

Second step: the written and oral exams which take place on site. They include a written test in mathematics and physics as well as oral exams in mathematics, physics and general scientific culture. To conduct these exams, the Admissions Office sends a panel of three examiners in each of the fifteen examination centers. Alain Plagne, researcher at the Laurent Schwartz Mathematics Center (École Polytechnique / CNRS), thus made the trip to Dakar in May.

"The students deserve to be properly welcomed and encouraged," says the researcher. He adds: "As examiner abroad, the process is even more acrobatic because you have to take into consideration the local context and adapt to the students who are in front of you. The exams therefore vary slightly from one center to the other, although it is important to stay very consistent overall. Russian, Spanish and Senegalese students usually do not present their work in the same way."

A popular recruitment system for students

Applicants appreciate this recruitment process a lot. Diego Souza, a Brazilian student, took the exam at the University of São Paulo in Brazil last year. "Not only does it save us the costs of the airfare and accommodation, but this method of recruitment allows us to feel more comfortable. I feel that it has contributed to my success at the exam", says Diego, who felt relieved to be able to take the exam within its university. "I also took the exam in English, and that was important because my French at the time was quite limited," adds the student who has made significant progress in French since.

École Polytechnique intends to keep on developing international recruitment process by opening more examination centers worldwide. "We are looking to increase the number of international students at l’X, especially in the Ingénieur Polytechnicien program, in order to foster diversity and multiculturalism," says Mathieu Le Traon, Vice President for International Relations at École Polytechnique.