Qualification

In France, public higher education has an interesting, but complex system of double-approving candidates for the positions of Maître de Conférences (roughly equivalent to Associate Professor) and Professeur des Universités (Full Professor).

First, you have to obtain a “seal of approval” from a national committee — this is called a “qualification”. The committee will check if your research / teaching / administrative experiences are compatible with your history, age and desired rank. Then, if you obtain the qualification, you can answer to job offers in the corresponding rank (when and if they are available) and a local committee (belonging to the concerned department / university) will evaluate the candidates.

The system is quite curious for foreigner eyes (even to me who have lived here for a few years). On one hand, it is as bureaucratic as it gets (bureaucracy streamlined by computers and the web, but still bureaucracy). On the other hand, it warrants a minimum capability level for all the candidates, precluding the very bad ones from securing a position just based on Cronyism. Of course, this system can’t prevent Cronyism from happening when sorting out the qualified candidates — but that’s another problem.

Another curiosity is that even if you are qualified by a committee in a certain domain of knowledge, for example, Computer Sciences, you are free to try job offerings on all other domains, for example, Mathematics (you are free to try, whether the local committee will choose you is another matter).
Once obtained, the qualification is valid for four years. Candidates can ask for a new one once the first expires, but they must convince the committee that their time was well spent.

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