"Cordées de la réussite" at PSL: major mobilization to promote equal opportunities and the discovery of higher education
On Saturday 28 January, in the heart of Paris, 300 students from high schools in the “Cordées de la réussite” (Pulling Together for Success) scheme at Université PSL participated in the morning session organized at ENS – PSL, ESPCI Paris – PSL, Chimie Paris – PSL and Mines Paris – PSL. This get-together is just part of a wider scheme to promote equal access to higher education, supported by all component members of Université PSL. Overview
University and high school students chat at the “Cordées de la réussite” session at Université PSL on 28 January 2023
“The fight against inequality of access and success in higher education requires actions to be put in place upstream of the application stage, then support to be provided once students have been admitted to PSL institutions. It is a fundamental continuum that we are actively working on.” Coralie Chevallier, Vice-President for Education at Université PSL
Many PSL teachers, researchers, students and staff came together on Saturday 28 January to welcome 300 high school students from all the institutions linked to the Université PSL “Cordées de la réussite” scheme. A change of scale for this immersive event, which in the past was organized for a smaller audience. Today it is one of the highlights of PSL’s equal opportunities policy: maintaining the challenge of selectivity, from Bachelor’s degree to Doctorate, but without compromising social, geographic and cultural diversity.
“We know the facts, ‘social inequalities over success become embedded throughout primary and secondary education’, but such a statement does not justify inaction: each link of the chain has its role to play! The fight against inequality of access and success in higher education requires actions to be put in place upstream of the application stage, then support to be provided once students have been admitted to PSL institutions. It is a fundamental continuum that we are actively working on,” says Coralie Chevallier, Vice-President for Education at Université PSL
Scholarship students already make up 25% of enrollments in Bachelor degree courses at PSL (Dauphine - PSL, CPES Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Degree, Sustainability Sciences and the Actor Training program at CNSAD - PSL). This initial result is based on actions carried out over a long period by PSL Component Schools (the TalENS program run by ENS - PSL, policy for access to engineering professions at PSL engineering schools, access to and discovery of artistic training with CNSAD - PSL, equal opportunity programs at Dauphine - PSL and the CPES in partnership with Lycée Henri-IV, etc.). PSL schools share a tremendous ambition: to bring all their initiatives and their networks of partners into synergy in order to reach more young people from modest backgrounds and offer them additional support services at each stage of their education: help with careers guidance after their high school diploma, success and fulfilment in their studies, career development.
Since 2021, an “equal opportunities” working group, then an “equal opportunities” unit (run by ENS - PSL) have been put in place. These first actions enabled us to map out existing systems, formalize feedback and identify opportunities for pooling resources in order to reach as many young people as possible. The PSL “Cordées de la réussite” session, organized by the equal opportunities unit, is a perfect example of this collective work.
“For high school students from all the lycées participating in this scheme with the PSL institutions, we wanted to offer 5 tracks: sciences, engineering sciences, social and economic sciences, humanities, sciences and social sciences. They were designed as an opening onto the scientific majors taught at PSL and in line with career issues after high school,” points out Tiphaine de Gesincourt, head of the TalENS center and coordinator of the PSL equal opportunities unit
Mini-conference in the Salle des Actes chamber at ENS - PSL during the “Cordées de la réussite” PSL 2023 session
The challenge of this Cordées session was to open up perspectives, release the brakes and make unimagined futures possible. Not all of these students will join PSL, but they will definitely discover a new and lively environment ready to welcome them.
Guided by PSL students, high school pupils were able to discover the higher education environment by taking mini-courses in four Université PSL component schools (ENS – PSL, ESPCI Paris – PSL, École nationale supérieure de Chimie de Paris - PSL & Mines Paris – PSL). They were made aware of scientific issues surrounding cognitive sciences, artificial intelligence, digital humanities, historical sciences, etc. by attending talks given by teachers and researchers from PSL. At the heart of the event was a forum where they were able to talk to volunteer PSL students and members of the teaching team from the renowned Jean Zay Lycée.
“This high school has an agreement with ENS - PSL for a cultural program. ENS - PSL helps scholarship students preparing entry to the Grandes Ecoles – regardless of the high school they attend – with accommodation and top-level tutoring within their school. This is a plus for our students, as it enables them to choose a track – preparation for university and Grandes Ecoles entry – which they often avoid because of concerns over accommodation or for fear of not being sufficiently well prepared by their high schools. The challenge of this Cordées session was to open up perspectives, release the brakes and make unimagined futures possible. Not all of these students will join PSL, but they will definitely discover a new and lively environment ready to welcome them,” explains Tiphaine de Gesincourt
Throughout the academic year, various activities are organized to strengthen and nurture this spirit of openness. Among the latest features, for example, are intergenerational tutoring and a system for promoting student commitment, in partnership with the Article 1 association, which were put in place at the start of the 2022-23 academic year as part of the CPES and Sustainability Sciences undergraduate degrees. Both help to develop the spirit of mutual aid and peer-to-peer dialogue, and they are a useful complement to the overall support system for success (methodological support, financial aid, etc.). University students who opt to strengthen their commitment via the Article 1 association are involved in running higher education discovery workshops at about sixty partner high schools in the Ile-de-France region. They also advise future candidates during Parcoursup (open days, chat platforms, etc.).
In the years to come, all of these schemes will be further developed and new initiatives will be added, such as a “learning to learn” program, developed in close collaboration with the Teaching Innovation Center at Université PSL.