My theoretical advice to the French Ministry of National Education for their University System.

Without changing the culture and morality of the system, the aim is to make it more efficient both in terms of budget deficit and in terms of dropout rate in tertiary education, one of the highest in the world. Protecting public education whilst attempting to find optimization routes is crucial, it allows social mobility without discriminating according to household income or willingness to go into debt.

An accounting entity can use its auditing services to gain a better understanding of the system and apply lean techniques to cut wasteful activities.  Feasibly tracking down how to offer non-core services more selectively (the ratio of student to service and technical staff is 1:40, in the US, its 1:3) or reducing the frequency of optional and less popular courses or just eliminating non self-supporting non-core activities. Gamification (one of PWC’s expertise), could be key by transforming mundane tasks into enjoyable ones.  Lessons learned are benefits of high frequency positive feedback; the best approach  is using ICT as an important ingredient to ameliorating efficiency and student capacity allowing individual tracking of progression enough to create self-motivation and eventually allowing  a switch  from batch processing to a more continuous way of handling students.

To set up a proper waste reducing system a proper measurement capacity of value adding activities is required.  Perhaps use the percent of graduates gone to further education or found a job. Such a primary index set in a dynamic manner, adjusted according to economic conditions sustaining or increasing spending in departments or schools achieving or exceeding this quota and reducing it in those that missed it by a proportionate amount. The forte of such a structure is its reliance on market mechanisms as information sources and has the government act on those, creating a much more demand based classification of education  avoiding miss-matching skills to employer’s needs. The supplementary benefit will be a much clearer sense of purpose for educators subsequently gearing their teachings to fit this need and offer work specialized education, incentivizing interaction between industry and research, enabling cross training opportunities not only for students but also for teachers. A catalyst could be introduced in the form of bonuses for exceeding quotas, along with penalties for dropping out or failing.

France’s spending in education per university/high-school student is among the lowest in the EU. Moreover, 30% of that funding goes towards “Grandes Ecoles” (who train less than 5% of students), and create a completely parallel structure which contributes disproportionately to the formation of the “elites” and results in a two tier education curricula distorting the system and painting an even grimmer picture. The steps highlighted above offer a way to reduce this emphasis on “Grandes Ecoles” and eventually should be able to replace them.


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