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Grandes Écoles

The Grandes Écoles of France are higher education establishments outside of the mainstream framework of the public Universities. They are generally focussed on a single more or less broad topic, have a moderate size, and often are quite selective on the selection of their students. They are often regarded as prestigious, and form the channel most French managing directors and executives come from.

Table of contents
1 Preparatory classes
2 Categories
3 External link

Preparatory classes

Often, grandes écoles recruit students not after the end of their highschool, but after two or more years of initial higher education. For the most part, this education takes place in special preparatory classes, familiarily known as prépas, located in a few highschools, that dispense undergraduate college education at an accelerated pace. There are 4 main categories of prépas: There is some specific jargon in those classes, such as the way the taupins, as the students of taupe are known, to say "integrate" for "entering a school" and to say that somebody that tries it a second time around "does 5/2", since the integral of X (nickname of École Polytechnique) from 2 to 3 (representing years of study) is 5/2.

The most prestigious preparatory classes are those of the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris.


Grandes écoles can be classified into several broad categories:

Écoles normales supérieures

They train researchers, professors and may also be a starting point for high administrative careers. There are four of them: Their competitive entrance exams are about the most selective. They recruit mostly from taupes, biology prépas and khâgnes.

The normaliens, as the students of the several ENS are known, keep a level of excellence in the various disciplines in which they are trained. Normaliens from France and other European Union countries are considered civil servants in training, and as such paid a monthly salary, in exchange for an agreement to serve France for 10 years, including those of studies.

Engineering schools

There is a broad spectrum of engineering schools, many recruiting after taupes. Things may be a bit confusing since many schools have a lengthy official name (often beginning with École Nationale Supérieure), a shortened name, an acronym and, for the most famous, a nickname (and often a nickname for their students).

The foremost is the École Polytechnique, nicknamed X, which trains engineers and prepares its students (the famous polytechniciens) for high-level graduate studies or high-level administrative careers. Others include:

To confuse things even more, schools with similar curricula as the Parisian ones have been established; thus there is, for instance, an École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications de Bretagne in Brittany. They are generally less prestigious than their elder sisters. Other schools include: The École Nationale de l'Aviation Civile (civilian air academy) also recruits taupins.

Biological and agricultural engineering

The foremost is the Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon (INA-PG or Agro).

Commerce schools

French commerce schools are privately run by the regional chambers of commerce. The most prestigious is

Military officer academies

While technically
École Polytechnique is a military academy and its French students reserve officers in training, it is not considered a "real" military schools since few of its students embrace a military career afterwards.

Administrative schools

Those schools train students for certain
civil service positions. In addition, some of the above engineering schools have special curricula for civil service training.

The best known is the École nationale d'administration (ENA), whose alumni are the famous énarques.

See also:

External link