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École nationale d'administration

Coordinates: 48°34′50″N 7°44′14″E / 48.58056°N 7.73722°E / 48.58056; 7.73722
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École nationale d'administration
TypePublic graduate school, grande école
(replaced by the Institut national du service public)
FoundersCharles de Gaulle and Michel Debré
Academic affiliation
Budget€43.98 million[1]
PresidentJean-Marc Sauvé
DirectorPatrick Gérard
Administrative staff
Postgraduates533 students
ColorsBlue, white

The École nationale d'administration (French pronunciation: [ekɔl nasjɔnal dadministʁasjɔ̃]; generally referred to as ENA, English: National School of Administration) was a French grande école, created in 1945 by President Charles de Gaulle and principal author of the 1958 Constitution Michel Debré, to democratise access to the senior civil service. It was abolished on 31 December 2021 and replaced by the Institut national du service public (INSP).[2]

The ENA selected and undertook initial training of senior French officials. It was considered to be one of the most academically exceptional French schools, both because of its low acceptance rates and because a large majority of its candidates have already graduated from other elite schools in the country. Thus, within French society, the ENA stood as one of the main pathways to high positions in the public and private sectors. Indeed, 4 Presidents of France under the beginning of the 5th Republic in 1958 (including Emmanuel Macron) and multiple prime-ministers and ministers, studied at ENA.[3]

Originally located in Paris, it had been relocated to Strasbourg to emphasise its European character. It was based in the former Commanderie Saint-Jean, though continued to maintain a Paris campus. ENA produced around 80 to 90 graduates every year, known as étudiants-fonctionnaires, "enaos" or "énarques" (IPA: [enaʁk]). In 2002 the Institut international d'administration publique (IIAP) which educated French diplomats under a common structure with the ENA was merged with it. The ENA shares several traditions with the College of Europe, which was established shortly after.

In 2019, President Emmanuel Macron announced he would propose to abolish and replace the ENA. Macron is an ENA graduate himself, but the tight network of ENA graduates influencing the French civil service has been decried by populist protests such as the yellow vests movement as an elite governing class out of touch with the lower social classes.[4] In April 2021, Macron confirmed the closure of the school, calling the closure "the most important reform of the senior public service" since the school's creation in 1945.[5]



The Commanderie Saint-Jean, home of the École nationale d'administration

The École Nationale d'Administration was formally established in October 1945 at the decree of Michel Debré as part of his project to reform the recruitment and training of high-ranking officials.[6][7]

The ENA was designed to democratize access to the higher ranks of the French civil service. Until then, each ministry had its own hiring process and selection standards. The examinations for particular ministries were often extremely specialized, meaning that few candidates possessed the knowledge to pass. In addition, the narrow expertise required meant few officials were capable of serving in a variety of roles.[8]

The school was designed to broaden and standardize the training provided to senior public servants, and to ensure they possessed extensive knowledge of policy and governance.[9] Debré's stated intention was to create "a body of officials proven to be highly competent, especially in financial, economic and social matters."[10] The new system, based on academic proficiency and competitive examination, was also intended to guard against nepotism and make recruitment to top positions more transparent.[11]

Access to senior positions of the French civil service is threefold: first, through generalist civil service positions; second, through "technical" (engineering) positions; and third, through internal promotion.

Relocation to Strasbourg[edit]

In November 1991 the government of Prime Minister Édith Cresson announced that the ENA would be relocated to Strasbourg. The Commanderie Saint-Jean, a former barracks and prison dating back to the 14th century, was chosen as its new site. The move was designed to emphasize the school's symbolic proximity to the numerous European institutions based in the city.[12] However, though the school was officially relocated, it maintained many of its facilities in Paris. It remained split between the two cities, requiring students to complete studies in both locations, until it was fully re-located to Strasbourg in January 2005.[13][14]

In 2002, it was merged with its sister institution the Institut international d'administration publique (IIAP), called the “foreigners’ ENA”, with the aim of increasing its international profile.[15]


In April 2019, it was claimed that a leaked speech to be delivered by French President Macron would announce that ENA would be closed as part of the solution to the Gilets Jaunes crisis.[16] On 25 April 2019, President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that he will close ENA.[4] In April 2021, Macron announced the closure of the school, calling the closure "the most important reform of the senior public service" since the school's creation by Charles de Gaulle in 1945. In January 2022, it has been replaced by the Institut national du service public (INSP).[5]


Admission to the ENA is granted based on a competitive examination taking place from the end of August to November, which people generally take after completing studies at the Sciences Po or any Prép'Ena (preparatory classes for the ENA examination for people coming from universities or grandes écoles). The "concours externe" exam is divided into two parts:

The written part includes:
  • An essay on public law;
  • An essay on economics;
  • An essay on a question about the role of public institutions and their relations with the society
  • A note de synthèse (analyzing a 25-page document and proposing a brief for a Senior Executive [Minister or Director]) on Social Law and Policies (Questions Sociales);
  • Three questions on Public Finance.
The oral exam, taken only by those with the highest marks at the written exam, consists of:
  • An oral examination on International Politics (Questions Internationales);
  • An oral examination on Questions Européennes (European Law and Policies);
  • An English oral test;
  • A collective exam, simulating a case in management to assess interaction skills;
  • A 45-minute entrance exam, known as Grand Oral since any question can be asked, based on the CV given by the candidate.

Results of this exam process are published by the end of December.

Other exam processes govern admission for career civil servants (concours interne) and for all other people, already active in business, political or union activities (troisième concours).

Following a two-year intensive programme combining high-responsibility internships and examinations, the ENA ranks students according to their results. Students are then asked, by order of merit, the position/body they want to join. Top-ranked students (between 12 and 15 students) usually join the so-called "grands corps" Inspection générale des finances, Conseil d'État or Cour des comptes, usually followed by the French Treasury and the diplomatic service. Other students will join various ministries and administrative justice or préfectures. To quote the ENA's site:[17]

In fact, although these famous alumni are the most visible, the majority are largely unknown, lead quiet and useful careers in our civil service, and don't recognise themselves in the stereotyped images about our school.


Academic years at the ENA are known as promotions, and are named by the students after outstanding French people (Vauban, Saint-Exupéry, Rousseau), Foreigners (Mandela), characters (Cyrano de Bergerac), battles (Valmy), concepts (Croix de Lorraine, Droits de l'homme) or values (liberté-égalité-fraternité).

This tradition comes from old French military academies such as the Ecole Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr.

The Promotion Voltaire of 1980 has attracted particular attention, since numerous graduates that year went on to become significant figures in French politics. François Hollande, Dominique de Villepin, Ségolène Royal, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Michel Sapin were all members of this promotion.[18][19][20]


In 2011, the Mines ParisTech: Professional Ranking of World Universities ranked the ENA third in France and ninth in the world according to the number of alumni holding the position of CEO at Fortune Global 500 companies.

In 2013, a Times Higher Education ranking that ordered universities according to the same metric placed the ENA sixth in the world.[21]


Few énarques (around 1%) actually get involved in politics. Most ENA alumni hold neutral, technical, and administrative positions in the French civil service. Researchers at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique have shown that many ENA alumni become business executives in France.[22]

French law makes it relatively easy for civil servants to enter politics: civil servants who are elected or appointed to a political position do not have to resign their position in the civil service; instead, they are put in a situation of "temporary leave" known as disponibilité.[23] If they are not re-elected or reappointed, they may ask for their reintegration into their service (well-known examples include Lionel Jospin and Philippe Séguin). In addition, ENA graduates are often recruited as aides by government ministers and other politicians; this makes it easier for some of them to enter a political career. As an example, Dominique de Villepin entered politics as an appointed official, after serving as an aide to Jacques Chirac, without ever having held an elected position. The ENA also participates in international Technical Assistance programmes, funded by the EU or other donors.

Since its creation 60 years ago, the ENA has trained 5600 French senior officials and 2600 foreigners. Some famous alumni include:

International cooperation[edit]

An agreement was signed in Paris on 16 October 2012 between the ENA and the Uzbek Academy of administration; it allows for cooperation in the modernization of state administration and improving skills of public servants in Uzbekistan. The first cooperation was due to begin in January 2013.[29]


Critics have accused the ENA of educating a narrow ruling class who are prone to groupthink and averse to alternative perspectives.[30] According to these critics, the ENA discourages its students from innovative thinking and pushes them to take conventional, middle-of-the-road positions.[31] Peter Gumbel, a British academic, has claimed that France's grande école system, and especially the ENA, has the effect of perpetuating an intellectually brilliant yet out-of-touch ruling elite. Yannick Blanc, a former senior civil servant, has also suggested that énarques have often been too 'intellectually conformist'.[32][33]

The ENA was indeed constantly criticized for being a school perpetuating social-economic inequalities, as only a very tiny portion of its students was coming from modest backgrounds (only around 6% of students were children of laborers for example).[34]

Some French politicians such as Bruno Le Maire and François Bayrou proposed abolishing the ENA,[32][35] a step that was ultimately taken by President Macron in 2021.

See also[edit]

Other main French Grandes Écoles :

Other prestigious universities in the world:


  1. ^ "Qui Sommes Nous? (French)". ENA. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  2. ^ INSP
  3. ^ à 13h41, Par Le Parisien Le 8 avril 2021; À 22h02, Modifié Le 8 Avril 2021 (2021-04-08). "Suppression de l'ENA : 5 minutes pour comprendre une mesure symbolique". leparisien.fr (in French). Retrieved 2023-01-31.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b "Macron unveils reforms after yellow-vest protests". BBC News. April 25, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Cohen, Roger (8 April 2021). "Macron Closes Elite French School in Bid to Diversify Public Service". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Michel Debré". Gouvernement.fr.
  7. ^ Actimage. "Histoire". ENA. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  8. ^ Devine, Summerfield (1998). International Dictionary of University Histories. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-134-26217-5. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  9. ^ Devine, Summerfield (1998). International Dictionary of University Histories. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-134-26217-5. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  10. ^ "Le général de Gaulle et la création de l'ENA - charles-de-gaulle.org". October 19, 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-10-19.
  11. ^ Kessler, Marie-Christine (1 March 1978). "Recruitment and Training of Higher Civil Servants in France: The Ecole Nationale D'administration". European Journal of Political Research. 6 (1): 31–52. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6765.1978.tb00548.x.
  12. ^ lefigaro.fr (2011-11-07). "L'ENA fête ses 20 ans à Strasbourg".
  13. ^ "L'ENA quitte définitivementParis pour Strasbourg". 12 January 2005.
  14. ^ "INA – Jalons – La délocalisation de l'ENA à Strasbourg – Ina.fr". INA – Jalons.
  15. ^ "La Lettre Diplomatique – La revue des Relations internationales et diplomatiques depuis 1988 – La professionnalisation de la fonction publique guatémaltèque, cur de la coopération entre lENA et le Guatemala". www.lalettrediplomatique.fr.
  16. ^ Samuel, Henry (2019-04-20). "Former Ena graduates slam Macron's plans to close finishing school for civil servants". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  17. ^ "Accueil – ENA, Ecole nationale d'administration" (in French). Ena.fr. Archived from the original on 2010-10-09. Retrieved 2012-05-23.
  18. ^ "Old school ties". The Economist. 10 March 2012.
  19. ^ "ENA : les cinq choses à savoir sur la promotion Voltaire". 2015-06-25.
  20. ^ Royer, Solenn de (4 April 2013). "L'incroyable destin de la promotion Voltaire de l'ENA" – via Le Figaro.
  21. ^ "New ranking of universities that produce global CEOs – University World News". www.universityworldnews.com.
  22. ^ Joly, Hervé (2012). "Les dirigeants des grandes entreprises industrielles françaises au 20e siècle". Vingtième Siècle. Revue d'Histoire. 2 (114): 16–32. doi:10.3917/vin.114.0016.
  23. ^ "Disponibilité d'un fonctionnaire". service-public.fr. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  24. ^ "France gets an unknown new prime minister". The Economist. 3 July 2020.
  25. ^ "Qui est Florence Parly, la nouvelle ministre des Armées?". huffingtonpost.fr. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Bruno le Maire, l'énarque qui veut supprimer l'ENA". September 2016.
  27. ^ "Qui est Edouard Philippe, le Premier ministre ?". MidiLibre.fr.
  28. ^ "The rise of the lawyers". The Economist. 2007-07-05. Retrieved 2007-07-11.
  29. ^ "France to Assist the Uzbek Academy of Administration". The Gazette of Central Asia. Satrapia. 1 November 2012.
  30. ^ Kuper, Simon (10 May 2013). "The French elite: where it went wrong". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 2022-12-10.
  31. ^ "L'ENA est-elle une école dangereuse?". 23 October 2015.
  32. ^ a b "L'ENA, prestigieuse et critiquée". La Croix. 1 September 2016 – via www.la-croix.com.
  33. ^ "Liberte, inegalite, fraternite: Is French elitism holding the country". 17 May 2013. Archived from the original on 2022-05-07.
  34. ^ à 19h52, Par Matthieu PelloliLe 18 avril 2019 (2019-04-18). "À l'ENA, seuls 6% des élèves sont fils d'ouvriers". leparisien.fr (in French). Retrieved 2023-01-31.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  35. ^ "Bayrou veut supprimer l'ENA". April 2007.

External links[edit]

48°34′50″N 7°44′14″E / 48.58056°N 7.73722°E / 48.58056; 7.73722