Interview with a co-director of ESEM FRANCE - Ecole Supérieure d'Etudes Médicales
By Stéphane Alaux, E Reputation Expert
Founder of E Réputation Net Wash
A co-director of ESEM FRANCE explains how the training allows students to access medical studies without a competitive examination. (Paces)
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
Co-Director ESEM FRANCE: My education is rather sparse: after a Baccalaureate L, it took me a year of Hypokhagne in Toulon to realise that my vocation was not in the literary world. The following year, I changed direction and took a DUT in Marketing Technology with one project in mind: setting up my own business. After a short stay in Canada during this course, I entered a 3rd year of a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management in London (LSBU) and then finally a business school, NEOMA (Reims) where I obtained a Master’s degree specialising in Marketing. Today, I am trying to find a balance between the time dedicated to my profession and the time dedicated to writing a thesis in Management Sciences, supervised by the University of Normandy.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR MOST MEMORABLE WORK EXPERIENCE?
Co-Director : While it is true that I was able to multiply my experiences during my studies, rich in internships, my entry into professional life was really made through ESEM France. In 2015, after obtaining my Master’s degree, I returned to my family home with the idea of devoting myself to my new entrepreneurial project. During this period, I was able to really get to know my father’s activities, who had already created a first establishment in 2012 and was going through a difficult period, especially regarding his Communication. I started by simply helping him, initially by creating the https://esemfrance.fr platform, to better inform Internet users about the different courses we offer. Then I quickly became passionate about the management of this school and the objectives and values that my father wanted to share. Today, the whole family works alongside us. We try to share our family values by inspiring a climate of trust, exchange and benevolence on our various campuses.
HOW WAS ESEM FRANCE CREATED?
Co-Director : My father, Bruno Ravaz, was behind the creation of our first establishment in Toulon. A lawyer by training, a Doctor of Law, a lecturer at the University of Toulon, former Dean of the Faculty of Law and then President of the University of Toulon for 5 years, he has a complete knowledge of Higher Education and is sensitive to the problems of French students. It is through the good relations maintained with the President of our first partner University (met during his mandate as President of the University of Toulon) that his project started: they wanted to address French students who dream of studying medicine in France, but who are often disappointed by the limits imposed by the numérus clausus. They joined forces and created an establishment in Toulon. Today, ESEM France is a communication platform that informs French students about all our establishments and courses in France, but also in Ireland and Spain, as well as our numerous European partners.
THE “PACES” A REAL PROBLEM TO SOLVE FOR ACCESS TO MEDICAL STUDIES?
Co-Director: The problems caused by the PACES are at the root of the creation of our different medical schools. Although the current government is talking about reforming access to medical studies and this famous competitive examination, let’s remember the situation in 2012, when our first establishment opened: to become a doctor, physiotherapist, dental surgeon or midwife, students who have passed the baccalaureate are obliged to enter the first common year of health studies (PACES), in other words the first year of medicine. At the end of a laborious year, students enrolled in PACES all take a competitive examination and, depending on their rankings, can choose to continue their studies in the second year of medicine, physiotherapy, dentistry or even midwifery.
The main problem is that there are not enough places for everyone, and 80% of candidates fail the competitive examination without being able to enter any of these courses!
Indeed, access to medical studies is restricted by a numérus clausus (“closed number”), initially set up to regulate the number of new practitioners setting up on French territory. But this numerus clausus has become obsolete in a context where many French regions are declared as “medical deserts”, and where patients are begging for the arrival of new practitioners.
This numerus clausus, even if it makes the happiness of some unscrupulous practitioners taking advantage of their monopoly situation, is not only responsible for the lack of access to care, but also for the disillusionment of many young people who see their dreams shattered at the end of a year of hard work in PACES. At ESEM France, we welcome many students who have gone through this first year of medicine, many of them with a broken spirit and having lost all confidence in themselves. Our administration and teaching staff must provide real support and close supervision to enable these students to rebuild their lives, until they can achieve their professional goals.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE FUTURE REFORM OF THE GOVERNMENT?
Co-Director ESEM FRANCE: From the start of the 2020 academic year, the numerus clausus will be abolished. It is the universities themselves that will determine the number of students admitted in the second and third years. In short, selection will still be present.
High school students who wish to study health will have two choices: for those who are sure they want a career in health, they will have to register on the ‘health portal’ on Parcoursup. Otherwise, for those who do not wish to go through this portal or those who are hesitating between two fields, it is possible to go through a first year of a licence in the health field.
It is important to specify that repeating the first year will not be allowed. Nevertheless, the government is planning a flexibility measure to allow students who have failed to do so to try a second application during the 2019-2020 PACES.
To enter the third year, which corresponds to the internship and the assignment by specialty, students will no longer go through the ECN (National Classification Tests). Instead, they will have to validate their second year by obtaining a minimum mark in the new exams and to obtain the specialty they want, their marks, as well as their training and professional project will be taken into account.
This new system should make it possible to diversify the profiles, which is a good thing. Students will be able to come from different backgrounds as the first cycle will be open to all. The aim is to train students with a digital or humanistic profile, something that the current selection process does not favour.
WHAT IS THE STRENGTH OF YOUR GROUP?
Co-Director ESEM FRANCE: We are a family business, and I humbly believe that this makes us stronger. There are 7 of us who are dedicated day and night to the development of this common project, each one bringing his or her own expertise. We are lucky to have different but complementary specialisations, and to be able to exchange freely without formalities. A “board of directors” can be improvised at 8 p.m. over a meal, starting with a simple idea, and end up with a concrete project the next day. Although this life without a break may seem exhausting, our brainstorming capacity is limitless and we are driven by the passion we share for our school.
For 6 years now, we have also been able to gain more experience, learn to better respond to the needs of our students, their requirements, we have experienced multiple challenges and have so far always been able to reinvent ourselves. This would not have been possible without the legal expertise of both my parents and their resilience. Throughout these changes, we have also been able to build up strong administrative and teaching teams on our various campuses, whose willingness, responsiveness and reliability are an integral part of our success.
HOW MANY CAMPUSES DOES ESEM COMMUNICATE ON SO FAR?
Co-Director : Today the ESEM France platform communicates on several schools, installed in France and in Europe:
In Ireland, we deliver the first two years of dentistry and the first year of pharmacy. In Toulon, we offer a course in Sport and Health. In Spain, we offer a course in Manual Therapy. All these courses are delivered in French. Dental and Pharmacy students continue their studies in Portugal, in one of our partner health schools. We are currently working with 5 partners, and new projects are being developed in Portugal, Europe and internationally.
WHAT ARE ESEM FRANCE’S FUTURE PLANS?
Co-Director : Of course, we want not only to diversify our courses, but also our partners, in order to be able to offer French students as many solutions as possible for their further studies. We remain alert to the reforms that President Macron’s government is trying to put in place, and are ready to adapt our proposals whatever measures are taken. Indeed, our institution, through the diversification of its training courses, wishes to target not only the students who were badly affected by the PACES exam, but also those who are simply looking for an international curriculum or a medical training of excellence. We are continually investing to improve our facilities, our equipment and the quality of the training provided to our students, for example, through the development of our e-learning platform and the recruitment of highly qualified Doctors and Researchers.
Our ambition is to offer a wide range of training courses, with excellence and success as the common thread.
WEB 2.0 HAS TURNED THE INTERNET INTO A TOOL FOR RANTING AND RAVING, WHICH IS CAUSING A LOT OF DAMAGE.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THIS PHENOMENON, AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR DIGITAL IMAGE?
Co-Director: Although our non-competitive medical training offers real opportunities to students, it is also the target of criticism from groups of trade unions, notably dental surgeons and physiotherapists, who support the numérus clausus for the monopoly it brings them. Under the guise of protecting this monopoly, they criticise the quality of training provided in private European medical schools, with a lot of xenophobic language. However, they never mention the European rankings which often put these Universities in the lead, ahead of the French Universities.
In recent years, we have been the main target of these unions, as we have not been able to directly attack students who have graduated abroad and then come to practice in France. Today, we try to fight against their defamations by communicating through digital media and social networks, tools that allow us to be closer to the young people concerned.
ANY FINAL MESSAGE?
Co-Director : Through this interview, I want to communicate our strong desire to offer medical studies to all serious students and our firm opposition to a monopolistic system. I hope that our moral values can be better understood and appreciated by readers in need of objective information, who are dubious following the speeches of our opponents.