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Parcoursup: the researcher who invented the algorithm explains


VSt is a “black box” according to some, a “robot” for others. Since its launch in 2018, to replace Admission post-bac (APB), the Parcoursup application has been the subject of numerous criticisms. “At the beginning, we received several personal attacks, coming from the academic world. It was a little destabilizing, ”says Hugo Gimbert, doctor in computer science. With Claire Mathieu, researcher at the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research), this Girondin researcher also designed the algorithm necessary for the operation of Parcoursup.

A joint laboratory dedicated…

VSt is a “black box” according to some, a “robot” for others. Since its launch in 2018, to replace Admission post-bac (APB), the Parcoursup application has been the subject of numerous criticisms. “At the beginning, we received several personal attacks, coming from the academic world. It was a little destabilizing, ”says Hugo Gimbert, doctor in computer science. With Claire Mathieu, researcher at the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research), this Girondin researcher also designed the algorithm necessary for the operation of Parcoursup.

A joint laboratory dedicated to the algorithm should soon be created between the Ministry of Higher Education and the Bordeaux Computer Science Research Laboratory (Labri) located on the campus of the University of Bordeaux in Talence, of which it is a part.

“The ministry contacted us in 2017. In particular, two new things had to be put in place: the end of the hierarchy of wishes and the establishment of minimum rates for scholarship holders and maximum rates for non-residents for non-selective training. »

It’s a complex system, there are thousands of formations, thousands of candidates.

Hugo Gilbert talks about this challenge. “It is clear that this is a stressful passage in the lives of candidates, regardless of the tool. It’s a complex system, there are thousands of formations, thousands of candidates. »

Lack of transparency

To those who have the impression of being faced with a robot, he assures. “There is no artificial intelligence to process candidate files, there is always a human behind. The two researchers developed the national platform, but for the rankings, each higher education institution is organized in its own way.

“Compared to APB, we have made maximum efforts in terms of transparency. The computer code is public, all Parcoursup data is freely accessible. All this is probably not enough to erase the feeling that a website decides its future… It would perhaps help if there was more communication from establishments on the rankings. »

“It’s a stressful passage in the lives of candidates, regardless of the tool”

Each institution uses a so-called “local” algorithm to rank applications. “There is great diversity. Between a license overwhelmed with applications or a BTS in a small town that manages few requests, there are different methods to classify them. In many places it’s done manually, but when there are a lot of applications, it’s partly automated. »

Improvements Track

With the new challenge of specialties chosen from the first class, candidates are looking for the best combinations to obtain the course of their dreams. But the preferred specialty is not always explicitly announced.

“The information given to candidates and their families in the way the classifications are made is limited. I think there is room for improvement at this level to be more transparent. Each sector communicates on the general criteria it uses, but it is rare that these criteria are detailed. »

“It is a system in continuous improvement”

For the doctor in computer science, work on Parcoursup continues. “It represents about 20% of my work. It is a system in continuous improvement. One of the projects concerns response times. Without a hierarchy of wishes, the proposals arrive gradually to each candidate. If their answer is negative, the proposal is sent to the next on the list. Each candidate can formulate ten wishes and ten additional ones for apprenticeship training. So much so that in previous years, some high school students had to wait until July to receive a proposal.

Hugo Gimbert has developed a computer management system for certain training courses. “We help them calibrate the speed at which they drop in the rankings to be more efficient. We get ahead, we do a kind of overbooking, by estimating the percentage of refusals. If you have 50 places, you know that on average ten people decline, you call 60 directly. The objective is to speed up the process by taking a minimum of risk. »

His next project should help head teachers advise their students. “We are thinking about a tool that would help estimate the risk of not having a proposal. It is rare, but some candidates have no favorable response. This would make it possible to suggest similar training less requested to a candidate who has only made ambitious wishes, to secure his orientation project. “It should be tested in a few high schools at the start of the next school year.

On the same subject

Parcoursup: our file to know everything

This is a decisive step in the year of Terminale for high school students: prepare their wishes on Parcoursup to hope to integrate the training of their dreams. It’s all about knowing what you’re dreaming of. Focus on tailor-made training in the region, jobs of tomorrow and advice for taking a gap year



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