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Looking at the rankings, I saw that Sorbonne and Paris-Saclay are usually ranked higher than ENS and Polytechnique in the field of mathematics. This came as a surprise to me since it's well known that the latter are way more selective than the former.

I get the argument that studying at university the gives you more freedom of thought than grinding for two years in a prépa because the subjects are more open and you get to interact with actual researchers (your teachers).

However it's a fact that prépas (which are the way to enter an engineer school such as Polytechnique or ENS) are very hard, in spite (or perhaps because) of their strict highschool-like format.

My take is that in the field of mathematics, especially if your goal is to do research, there's no point in grinding for two years in a prépa and that a more appropriate approach is to slowly build knowledge doing licence/bachelor at university; so that might be the reason Sorbonne is ranked higher than the Écoles.

Is there a stronger reason for this?

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    One needs to look at how the rankings are determined, and then think whether any of those criteria matter. Generally, the criteria are things that can be scored easily, not things that actually matter.
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 21 at 17:29
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    This is a silly ranking for undergraduates. If you want to become a mathematician, go to ENS. My French colleagues tell me that something like half of all MdCs and professeur(e)s in mathematics in French universities went to one of the four ENSs. Feb 21 at 17:39
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    The rankings are mostly based on the research outputs of the departments, and both of the grandes ecoles have smaller departments that are dedicated (for the rank and file teaching staff) to more intensive teaching. Feb 21 at 17:41
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    MdC: Maître de Conférence, roughly the equivalent of Assistant Professor in the US system Feb 21 at 20:26
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    "My take is that in the field of mathematics, especially if your goal is to do research, there's no point in grinding for two years in a prépa and that a more appropriate approach is to slowly build knowledge doing licence/bachelor at university; so that might be the reason Sorbonne is ranked higher than the Écoles." That definitely isn't the reason why it's ranked higher. The reason why it's ranked higher is that if you sum all the points in all the categories of the ranking, Sorbonne ends up with a higher number than the Ecoles. Not anything to do with "slowly building knowledge" etc. Feb 22 at 0:00

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