Sino-French Engineering Education Forum Organized by Shanghai Jiao Tong University

The Sino-French Engineering Education Forum, hosted by Shanghai Jiao Tong University (hereinafter referred to as the SJTU), was held in SJTU Xuhui Campus on March 29th. Engineering education is tasked with the mission to develop engineering talents, which helped churn out high-level engineering specialists in various countries, significantly advancing their industrialization. Engineer schools were opened in France as early as the 18th century, with the aim of developing application-oriented and versatile engineering talents. Thanks to over 200 years of development, French has made a unique engineering education model around the world. In the context of the implementation of China’s national development strategies that include intelligent manufacturing and new-generation artificial intelligence, China’s higher education confronts both opportunities and challenges. How to develop excellent versatile engineering talents of international perspectives against the backdrop of the current higher education featuring the “New Engineering Disciplines” will become one of the important areas in higher engineering education reform going forward.

Prior to the Forum, Standing Committee Member of the CPC SJTU Committee and Vice President of SJTU Ms. XU Xuemin met with President of ENSTA ParisTech Ms. Elisabeth CREPON, President of École Polytechnique Mr. Eric LABAYE, President of Mines ParisTech Mr. Vincent LAFLÈCH, and President of Telecom ParisTech Mr. Yves POILANE, who all voiced appreciation for the outcomes made in the talent development model innovations that combined the Chinese talent development system with the French one by the SJTU-Paris Tech Elite Institute of Technology (hereinafter referred to as SPEIT), and agreed on expanding cooperation in a bid to run the SPEIT better. The two sides exchanged ideas and reached consensus on three topics: promoting student exchanges, boosting SJTU cooperation with the aforementioned four schools in scientific research, and drawing upon the experience of French schools in admitting more outstanding international students from French-speaking countries/regions.

Facilitated by the Chinese Dean of SPEIT Mr. LI Shaoyuan, the Forum was attended by representatives from top French engineer schools that included École Polytechnique, Mines ParisTech, ENSTA ParisTech, and Telecom ParisTech, and those from the Chinese schools, representative of Sino-French collaboration in running schools of engineering education, which included Institut Franco-Chinois de l’Energie Nucléaire Université Sun Yat-sen, École Centrale de Pékin, Université de Technologie Sino-Européenne de l’Université de Shanghai, Institut Franco-Chinois de l’Université Renmin de Chine, and Ecolede Chimie de Pékin. Participants from over 20 domestic and international companies discussed engineering education reform, shared their practice and experience, summarized the outcomes of Chinese-French cooperation in engineering education, and touched upon effective engineering education models and curriculum reforms in today’s global environment.

Vice Dean of SJTU Graduate School Ms. GUI Lin delivered a report entitled “SJTU Development Model Featuring Integration of Industry, Study and Research”. SJTU started to work on combining industry, study and research in 2003. The overseas engineering internship and engineer title certification implemented by SPEIT reflect the uniquely international joint development of SJTU professional degrees.

The Frech Dean of SPEIT Mr. Frédéric TOUMAZET made a report as well, themed with “Sino-French Cooperation & Practice in Engineering Education”, in which he said SPEIT has been unwaveringly committed to innovative integration of Chinese development model with the French one ever since its founding, as evidenced by the combination of the French engineer development system that includes pre-college education with SJTU engineering education system. By drawing upon the advantages in Sino-French development of engineering talents and in accordance with the French CTI certification and the requirements of China’s Ministry of Education, he said, SPEIT developed a plan combining versatility with speciality and bachelor’s with master’s degree with a duration of 6.5 years, aimed at developing excellent engineering and management talents. As he pointed out, SPEIT built a diversified team of teachers, fostered an international environment with three teaching languages, devoted significant efforts to student development of basic mathematical capabilities and cultural appreciation as well as updated teaching contents, and focused on international exchanges for all students and development of global vision. With school-business cooperation as an important channel and means to develop engineering talents, SPEIT has put in place an open talent development system that’s ushered a new model of engineering education, producing spillover effects not only within SJTU but across China.

President of École Polytechnique Mr. Eric LABAYE elaborated on the characteristics of French engineering education. The history of French engineer schools can be traced back to more than 200 years ago, he said, which were founded then to meet the demand for versatile engineering talents. The schools are characterized by general education, development of abilities to practice, and school-business joint development, whose great sources of students and high-level development pattern have equipped their graduates with a significant edge in the job market. Many government leaders, as well as multinational presidents, executives and well-noted engineers in France were all alumni of the schools.

Senior Vice President (hereinafter referred to as the SVP) of Research & Development in Asia of Groupe PSA Mr. Nicolas CHAMPETIER and SVP of the Shanghai Industrial μTechnology Research Institute Mr. GU Yuandong, explained the demand of the business community for engineering education and multiple forms of school-business cooperation from the perspectives of international and Chinese companies respectively. Both believed that the ultimate goal of engineering education is to develop excellent talents for the business community and beyond, a demand that has just been well met by the Sino-French integration in engineering education. 

The last part of the Forum was focused on international engineering education, school-business joint education, joint school-running experience, and other topics, around which presidents of the French engineer schools, leaders of Sino-French shcools and representatives from the business community conducted discussions.

Sino-French cooperation in engineering education has been broad-based and profound. Thanks to many years of practice, the Sino-French cooperation system and the one between schools and companies have been functioning well, with students that can meet the economic and social demand against an international background, an evidence of fruitful results.