International mobility and confinement: as close as possible to our students

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, in December 2019, the Ecole Centrale de Lyon has implemented numerous measures to ensure, as far as possible, the maintenance of teaching activities, both for international students on the campus, and for our students engaged in activities off campus, either in France or abroad (academic exchanges, stages and cesure). There are almost 2000 students enrolled in the different programmes of Centrale Lyon (Engineering degree, Alternants, Masters, Doctorat) and of those, 176 are still abroad, scattered over more than 30 countries. We have always taken the position that the students are best‐placed to assess their individual situation, and to decide the best course of action. We have simply given an undertaking that any student choosing to return to France before the programmed end of the stay will not be penalised as a result.

When the general confinement was declared on 17th March 2020 there were almost 300 students remaining in the residences (Comparat and Adoma) on campus (from over 25 different nationalities). To minimise the risk of an outbreak of Covid‐19 amongst the residents, the campus is now closed to all outside visitors, including non‐resident staff and students. To respect rules about social distancing, whilst maintaining some basic social interactions, those remaining on campus have been assigned to small "families", principally based on their location in the residences. Members of each family grouping can interact, as in a normal family, but contacts between family groups are limited. During the first week of confinement, each family group had a one‐hour meeting with the Director of the Ecole Centrale, the Director of International Relations, the Manager of the Residences and the Nurse, to explain the rules of confinement, and to answer any questions. Currently, students confined to campus can use some of the sporting facilities, the piano in W1 building, and the Michel Serres Library and the student Bazar, but under tightly‐controlled conditions.

All students have been asked to complete a questionnaire with details of their current situation; the questionnaire also enabled them to indicate any problems related to the confinement. On the basis of this information we have been able to offer specific practical help, financial assistance or psychological support to those experiencing the greatest difficulties.

The greatest current uncertainty now concerns incoming and outgoing mobility for the next academic year. Most of our partner institutions have indicated that they hope to be able to operate exchange programmes as normal – and therefore receive Ecole Centrale de Lyon students who have already been accepted – but this far from guaranteed. The deadline for applications from incoming students is the 23rd April 2020. Today, we have 54 confirmed applications (some are on process) compared with a total number of 137 applications last year. For the first time we are counting applications from IST in Lisbon and a record number of applications from the United Kingdom.