It's a small anniversary that affects millions of young people: on September 16, Parcoursup celebrated the completion of its fifth round of admissions.

Stressful years, say the students, a success with teething problems, the responsible politicians.

Parcoursup is the French Internet platform for the central allocation of study and training places.

It was launched in just a few months at the beginning of 2018 by the Minister for Higher Education, Frédérique Vidal, to replace the predecessor platform Admission post bac, which was on the verge of collapse;

At that time, 35,000 students had to be admitted quickly by drawing lots.

Successor Parcoursup, which distributed around 936,000 candidates (high school graduates, trainees, course changers) to more than 13,000 courses and around 7500 training paths this year, should not only work more efficiently: it has seriously changed access to higher education.

From December 2022, candidates will be able to consult information about courses on Parcoursup and create a dossier from January 18, 2023.

They choose ten courses by March 8 without being able to state any preferences;

in addition there are twenty sub-requests, for example different institutions for a course of study.

The wishes must be confirmed, additions made and a letter of motivation must be attached by April 6th.

questions of origin

The schools supplement the dossier with a “fiche avenir”, a note on the future that contains grades, comments and assessments.

Admissions will take place from June 1st: candidates will be informed separately by each educational institution whether they have been admitted or rejected, or whether they will have to wait;

if admitted, they have to decide within a few days whether to accept the study place, while other answers may still be pending.

The supplementary phase, in which you can apply for the remaining study places, is expected to begin in mid-June.

That sounds unspectacular, but the devil loves the administrative detail.

First of all, the selection algorithms are unknown: the high school graduates do not know what criteria they use to be accepted or rejected and have the impression that existential decisions are being made by an anonymous, obscure program.

Many see this as a hidden numerus clausus - a key point of criticism, as well as the importance attached to the school attended.

Reviews of Parcoursup often emphasize that a system change has taken place, from the allocation of places to a selection of students.

Each facility sets its own criteria

In order to assess this change, it must be considered that the higher education system in France is divided into two parts: in addition to elite educational institutions - the grandes écoles (large schools) and the classes préparatoires (preparatory classes) that prepare for the entrance examination - there are universities and similar institutions that have the right to admit everyone, even if they are screened later, in medicine or law, for example, after the first year.

Higher education knows the elite on the one hand and the egalitarian masses on the other.

That's one reason why French universities are in bad shape.

To make matters worse, around eighty percent of a cohort complete their Abitur and the system is chronically underfunded;

Against this background, it is not surprising that the left in the presidential election campaign called for the abolition of parcoursup – without making concrete counter-proposals.

But the Supreme Court of Auditors also suggested in an interim report in February 2020 that the school of origin should be anonymized on Parcoursup and that the algorithms used by the educational institutions should be made public.