École normale supérieure de Lyon

Coordinates: 45°43′47″N 4°49′37″E / 45.729734°N 4.826875°E / 45.729734; 4.826875
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

École normale supérieure de Lyon
MottoL'enseignement par la recherche, pour la recherche
Motto in English
Education through research, for research
TypeGrande école (École normale supérieure)
Established1880, 2010 in its current form
Budget130 million[1]
PresidentEmmanuel Trizac[2]
Academic staff

45°43′47″N 4°49′37″E / 45.729734°N 4.826875°E / 45.729734; 4.826875
Colours  Red
AffiliationsUniversity of Lyon
ENS de Lyon is located in France
ENS de Lyon
ENS de Lyon
ENS de Lyon (France)

The École normale supérieure de Lyon (also known as ENS de Lyon, ENSL or Normale Sup' Lyon) is a French grande école located in the city of Lyon. It is one of the four prestigious écoles normales supérieures in France. The school is composed of two academic units —Arts and Sciences— with campuses in Lyon, near the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers.

ENSL's students usually enjoy a special civil servant status in the wake of highly competitive exams, providing they pursue careers in public service.[4] Although it maintains extensive connections with the University of Lyon and external research institutions, including the CNRS, the school remains independent.


Training teachers for normal schools[edit]

L'École normale supérieure de Lyon is the descendant of two top educational institutions founded by Jules Ferry:

Recruiting among the most brilliant French students, these two schools used to train the professors of the French normal schools. Whereas these schools were largely regarded as meritocratic, their sisters – the eldest, l'École Normale Supérieure de la Rue d'Ulm, and her feminine counterpart, l'École normale supérieure de jeunes filles de Sèvres -, which trained academics, were de facto dedicated to the heirs of the Parisian elites.

A shift towards secondary and higher education[edit]

Following a reform of normal schools, the decree of February 19, 1945 granted both institutions the title of Écoles normales préparatoires à l'enseignement secondaire. The schools' purpose changed with the growth of the French education system. By 1956, the length of studies was increased to four years in order to institute a preparation for the agrégation – a prestigious teaching qualification. Increasingly opening up to research, they aligned their development strategies with those of the ENS Ulm and Sèvres.

The relocation in Lyon[edit]

As part of France's process of decentralisation, the Schools' scientific departments moved in 1987 to Gerland, an old industrial district of Lyon, in the premises of the current Monod campus. The relocated institution was named ENS Lyon. Humanities students remained in the Parisian suburbs within the coeducational École normale supérieure de Fontenay-Saint-Cloud. In 2000, this school, informally renamed École normale supérieure lettres et sciences humaines, was transferred to the new Descartes Campus also located in Gerland.

On the first of January 2010, the two branches merged to become a single institution, retaining the name École normale supérieure de Lyon.[5]


ENS de Lyon is a Grande École, a French institution of higher education that is separate from, but parallel and connected to the main framework of the French public university system. Similar to the Ivy League in the United States, Oxbridge in the UK, and C9 League in China, Grandes Écoles are elite academic institutions that admit students through an extremely competitive process.[6][7][8] Grandes Écoles typically they have much smaller class sizes and student bodies than public universities in France, and many of their programs are taught in English. While most Grandes Écoles are more expensive than French universities, ENS de Lyon charges the same tuition fees: €243 annually for the master's degree in 2021–2022; €184 for the Bachelor's.[9] International internships, study abroad opportunities, and close ties with government and the corporate world are a hallmark of the Grandes Écoles.[10][11] Degrees from École normale supérieure are accredited by the Conférence des Grandes Écoles[12] and awarded by the Ministry of National Education (France) (French: Le Ministère de L'éducation Nationale).[13] Alums go on to occupy elite positions within government, administration, and corporate firms in France.[14][15]

Teaching at the ENS de Lyon is organised through twelve main departments, spread over the two campuses:

Monod Campus: Natural and Experimental Sciences Departments[edit]

Jacques Monod Campus – Sciences
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Earth science
  • Mathematics
  • Physics

Descartes Campus: Humanities and Social Sciences Departments[edit]

René Descartes Campus – Humanities
  • Arts and humanities: Musicology, Cinema and Theater studies, Classics and modern French Literature
  • Economics
  • Education and digital humanities
  • Foreign languages, Literatures and Civilisations: Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian
  • Human sciences: Philosophy, Cognitive science and Anthropology
  • Social sciences: Sociology, History, Geography, Political science and International studies


23 of ENSL's research groups have contractual ties to major research organizations, notably the CNRS and INSERM. ENSL is a member of several advanced research networks and competitive clusters, including Lyon BioPôle, and hosts an Institute for Advanced Study, the Collegium de Lyon.


  • Institute of Functional Genomics of Lyon (IGFL)
  • Laboratory of molecular and cell biology (LBMC)
  • Laboratory of plant reproduction and development (RDP)
  • Laboratory of human virology (VIRO)
  • Laboratory of Earth Sciences (LST)
  • Joliot-Curie interdisciplinary laboratory (LJC)
  • Laboratory of Pure and Applied Mathematics (UMPA)
  • Laboratory of chemistry
  • Computer science laboratory (LIP)
  • Laboratory of physics
  • Astronomy research center (CRAL)
  • Center for high field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (CRMN)


  • C2SO – Communication, culture and society
  • Institute for the History of Classical Thought, from Humanism to the Enlightenment
  • Institute of East Asian Studies (IAO)
  • Interactions, Corpuses, Learning and Representations
  • Interdisciplinary approach to the logics of power in medieval Iberian societies
  • Literature, Ideologies and Représentations in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
  • Rhône-Alpes Centre for Historical Research
  • Socialisation Research Group
  • Triangle: Action, Discourses, Economic and Political Thought
  • History and Archaeology of the Medieval Christian and Islamic Worlds
  • Economic Theory and Analysis Group


View from the meadows of the "René Descartes" Campus (Humanities)


ENSL retains its close links to the classes préparatoires which prepare high-level students – previously selected on the basis of their academic record – for the competitive entrance examination that is taken after two years of pluridisciplinary undergraduate-level study.

Students who succeed in the entrance examinations, which attract some 6000 candidates for 228 positions, are known as normaliens-élèves; those who are from France or another European Union country are considered trainee public servants, and receive a salary for their studies during 4 years. A second entrance examination is also open to students who have not gone through the classes préparatoires system.

In return of their salary, they have to serve in public services for 10 years.


Entry to ENSL is not restricted to normaliens-élèves. Students may also apply through a separate admissions process based on academic prowess. The normaliens-étudiants are not public servants, but their training and diploma are the same as those of the normaliens-élèves.

Auditeurs de masters[edit]

An auditeur de master is someone who has been admitted at the ENSL at the master level. By opposition to the normaliens-élèves and the normaliens-étudiants, they don't have the title of Normalien and are just eligible to a master's degree. They can't obtain the ENSL diploma.


First year[edit]

Students prepare the third year of Licence, the equivalent of a UK Bachelor's degree. The ENS de Lyon offers numerous courses which are conceived as preparations for Masters.

Second and third years[edit]

Students prepare in two years their Master's degree. 5 research Masters are proposed in Sciences, 36 in Humanities.

Fourth year[edit]

During this year, students can prepare the agrégation teacher recruitment examination in 16 different subjects. Students can also start their PhD, go studying for one year or more in a foreign country, or follow during one year courses in other subjects.

Gap years[edit]

Between the first and fourth year, normaliens can also spend up to 2 free years called années sans solde, during which they can study other disciplines or do a long internship, sometimes in foreign countries. Each année sans solde project needs the approval of the ENSL supervisors.

Doctoral studies[edit]

The ENS de Lyon welcomes over 400 PhD students from all over the world.[16] Normaliens can apply to specific doctoral contracts, as long as the thesis is undertaken within a French research institution.


This list is sortable. Click on the boxes next to the attribute names to sort the list by year

Times Higher Education – top 20
small universities worldwide
2018[17] 2019[18] 2020[19]
2021[20] 2022[21]
École normale supérieure de Lyon 5th 7th 9th 11th 14th

The 2023 QS World University Rankings[22] ranked the ENSL 111th university in the world.

However, international rankings do not suit well the French academic system, where research organizations are often independent from universities.[23] Moreover, the ENS are small institutions favouring education quality rather than research productivity. For instance, some French universities are better ranked than the ENS, even though the different écoles normales supérieures are considered to be among the highest French academic institutions due to their endowment, prestige and selectivity.[24]

Famous people[edit]



Recipients of honorary degree[edit]


  1. ^ "ENS de Lyon, Budget initial 2017" (PDF). www.ens-lyon.fr. 2018.
  2. ^ "Décret du 24 mai 2023 portant nomination du président de l'Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon – M. TRIZAC (Emmanuel) | Legifrance".
  3. ^ "ENS de Lyon, Rapport d'activité 2017" (PDF). www.ens-lyon.fr. 2018.
  4. ^ "Law granting ENS students the status of civil servants". Légifrance (French government legal database). Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Décret n° 2009-1533 du 10 décembre 2009 portant création de l'Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon | Legifrance".
  6. ^ "France's educational elite". Daily Telegraph. 17 November 2003. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  7. ^ Pierre Bourdieu (1998). The State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power. Stanford UP. pp. 133–35. ISBN 9780804733465.
  8. ^ What are Grandes Ecoles Institutes in France?
  9. ^ "Fees and living expenses". ENS de Lyon. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
  10. ^ "FT European Business Schools Ranking 2021: France dominates". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  11. ^ "Higher Education in France". BSB. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  12. ^ "Conférence des grandes écoles: commission Accréditation". Conférence des grandes écoles. Retrieved 21 January 2022.
  13. ^ "Etablissements dispensant des formations supérieures initiales diplômantes conférant le grade de master". Ministry of France, Higher Education. Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de l'Innovation. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  14. ^ Monique de Saint-Martin, « Les recherches sociologiques sur les grandes écoles : de la reproduction à la recherche de justice », Éducation et sociétés 1/2008 (No. 21), p. 95-103. lire en ligne sur Cairn.info
  15. ^ Valérie Albouy et Thomas Wanecq, Les inégalités sociales d’accès aux grandes écoles (2003), INSEE
  16. ^ "ENS de Lyon, Rapport d'activité 2017" (PDF). www.ens-lyon.fr. 2018.
  17. ^ "École Polytechnique: the world's 2nd best small university". École Polytechnique. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 30 January 2022.
  18. ^ "L'X, world's 2nd best small university". École Polytechnique. 2 September 2019. Retrieved 30 January 2022.
  19. ^ "L'X, world's 2nd best small university". École Polytechnique. 23 July 2020. Retrieved 30 January 2022.
  20. ^ "The world's best small universities". Times Higher Education. 4 August 2021. Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  21. ^ "The world's best small universities 2022". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 5 September 2022.
  22. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2023".
  23. ^ Universités françaises : "Malheureusement, nos qualités ne sont pas reflétées dans le classement de Shanghai”, 2017
  24. ^ "Cour des comptes, Où vont les écoles normales supérieures ?, Rapport public annuel 2012" (PDF). ccomptes.fr. 2012.

External links[edit]