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PhDs and companies: employers' syndicate's proposals

Fabrice Martin

French employers' syndicate (Medef) makes proposals to develop PhDs' employment and integration in companies.

In its document, released in February 2007 and titled "10 proposals to develop growth through innovation", Medef has dedicated a 5 pages "Focus" to the employment and the integration of PhDs in companies. Taking up and completing ideas first formulated by the Syntec Federation (which represents French consulting firms) in April 2006, Medef observes that "companies strongly need skills of people trained for and by research" and, in the same time that " it is truly difficult to get a job fitting the degree".

To end this situation which brings frustrations, lack of recognition and difficulties of communication between PhDs and companies, Medef wants to "improve the image of doctoral education in the opinion employers". More specifically, it wants to improve the legibility of the doctoral education system. The trick was well-tried by engineering schools and can be summarized to these few basic principles: autonomy, selection, competition, involvement of companies' representatives in the decision making processes.

A profesionnalization contract
Employers also propose that Master level students take profesionnalization and "knowledge of the world of companies" courses and stand up for the Cifre agreements system which allows a young researcher to obtain a doctorate in the framework of a research partnership between a lab and a company. In order to extend the use of this kind of programme, the key proposal is to open the possibility of pursuing a doctorate in the framework of a profesionnalization contract. This would allow a young researcher to take a doctoral education while acquiring significant experience in a company without the necessity of a match between the job and the subject of the thesis.

Whatever the future of these proposals may be, they are a sign of a renewed interest for PhDs on the part of French companies. This interest should be confirmed "because of the world wide opening of the knowledge economy which compels all stakeholders to see itself in a European dimension (at least) where the French opposition between PhDs/universities and engineers/engineering schools is isolated and should quickly be sidelined".