École normale supérieure de Lyon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

École normale supérieure de Lyon
École normale supérieure de Lyon Logo.svg
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]
PresidentJean-François Pinton[2]
Academic staff

45°43′47″N 4°49′37″E / 45.729734°N 4.826875°E / 45.729734; 4.826875Coordinates: 45°43′47″N 4°49′37″E / 45.729734°N 4.826875°E / 45.729734; 4.826875
Colours  Red
AffiliationsUniversity of Lyon

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. According to 2016 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, ENSL was the 5th best "small university" in the world.[5]


Training teachers for normal schools[edit]

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

  • L'École normale supérieure de Fontenay-aux-Roses, for girls, founded in 1880.
  • L'École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud, for boys, founded in 1882.

Recruiting among the most brilliant French students, these two schools used to train the future 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 the decline of normal schools and a reform of national education, the decree of February 19, 1945 granted both institutions the title of Écoles normales préparatoires à l'enseignement secondaire. The Schools' purpose changed in the context of a secondary system democratisation. 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, a former Lyon's industrial district, in the premises of the current Monod campus. The relocated institution was named ENS Lyon. Humanities students remained in the Paris region 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.[6]


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: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Departments[edit]

René Descartes Campus - Humanities
  • Arts: Musicology, Cinema and Theater studies, Classics and modern French Literature
  • Economics
  • Education and digital humanities
  • Foreign Languages, Literatures and Civilizations: 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 formation 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.[7] Normaliens can apply to specific doctoral contracts, as long as the thesis is undertaken within a French research institution.


The 2016 QS World University Rankings[8] ranked ENSL 177th university in the world.

However, international rankings do not suit well the French academic system, where research organizations are often independent from universities.[9] 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.[10]


  1. ^ "ENS de Lyon, Budget initial 2017" (PDF). www.ens-lyon.fr. 2018.
  2. ^ "Décret du 31 mai 2019 portant nomination du président de l'Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon - M. PINTON (Jean-François) | 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. ^ Higher Education World University Rankings 2016
  6. ^ "Décret n° 2009-1533 du 10 décembre 2009 portant création de l'Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon | Legifrance".
  7. ^ "ENS de Lyon, Rapport d'activité 2017" (PDF). www.ens-lyon.fr. 2018.
  8. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2016".
  9. ^ Universités françaises : "Malheureusement, nos qualités ne sont pas reflétées dans le classement de Shanghai”, 2017
  10. ^ "Cour des comptes, Où vont les écoles normales supérieures ?, Rapport public annuel 2012" (PDF). ccomptes.fr. 2012.

External links[edit]