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École nationale d'administration

École nationale d'administration
Established 1945
Type Public
Director Nathalie Loiseau[1]
Administrative staff
Undergraduates 0
Postgraduates 533 students
Location Strasbourg, France

The École nationale d'administration (ENA; French pronunciation: ​; English: National School of Administration), one of the French graduate schools (Grandes écoles), was created in 1945 by Charles de Gaulle to democratise access to the senior civil service. It is now entrusted with the selection and initial training of senior French officials. It is one of the most prestigious and elitist French schools, not only for its acceptance rates (1/16 for the "concours externe") but especially because a large majority of the candidates already graduated from the best "Grandes écoles" of the country such as HEC Paris, Sciences Po Paris or the École Polytechnique.

The ENA is one of the symbols of the Republican meritocracy, along with École normale supérieure and Ecole polytechnique ("X"), offering its alumni access to high positions within the state. It has now been almost completely relocated to Strasbourg to emphasise its European character, and is now based in the former Commanderie Saint-Jean.

The ENA produces around 100 graduates every year, known as énarques (IPA: ). ENA is seen as the method of choice to reach the administrative Grand Corps of the State.

The ENA is often compared at the EU level to the College of Europe in Belgium, with which it shares several traditions. In 2002 the Institut international d'administration publique (IIAP) which educated foreign civil servants under a common structure with ENA was fused with it.


  • ENA and politics 1
  • Recruitment and exit procedures 2
  • Promotions 3
  • Ranking 4
  • Alumni 5
  • International cooperation 6
    • Uzbekistan 6.1
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

ENA and politics

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

The main reason for entering ENA is that it has a legal quasi-monopoly over access to some of the most prestigious positions in the French civil service, just as the École polytechnique fulfills this role for other prestigious and technical positions, while some schools like the École nationale des impôts allow access to very specific positions. ENA was created to make recruitment for various high administrative bodies more rational and democratic. According to this approach, a system solely based on academic proficiency and competitive examinations, renders recruitment to top positions more transparent without suspicion of political or personal preference.

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. If they are not re-elected or reappointed, they may ask for their reintegration into their service (see Lionel Jospin and Philippe Séguin for examples). 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 énarques were criticised as early as the 1960s for their technocratic and arrogant ways. Young énarque Jacques Chirac was, for instance, lampooned in an album of the Asterix series. Such criticism has continued up to present times, with the énarques being accused of monopolizing positions in higher administration and politics without having to show real competence. It has become a recurrent theme for many French politicians to criticise ENA, even when they themselves are alumni of the school.

John Kenneth Galbraith and Pierre Bourdieu have studied the way this school shapes French industry and politics. The key point is that these "énarques" benefit from two main privileges: a monopoly of the top administrative positions within the civil service, and entry into politics and industry without risk.

However, only a small proportion of "énarques" (around 1%) actually get involved in politics. Most ENA alumni hold apolitical, technical positions in the French civil service.

ENA also participates in international Technical Assistance programmes, funded by the EU or other donors.

Recruitment and exit procedures

Admission to ENA is granted based a competitive examination at the beginning of September, which people generally take after completing studies at the Institut d'études politiques de Paris (more widely known as Sciences Po) or any prép'ena ( preparatory classes for the ENA examination in universities or others grandes écoles). The "concours externe" exam is in two parts :

The written part includes
- an essay on public law
- an essay on the economy
- an essay on "general knowledge" (culture générale, extremely common in French competitive exams),
- a note de synthèse (summarizing 40 to 70 pages of documents) in either (at the candidate's choice) European Law and Policies (Questions Européennes) or Social Law and Policies (Questions Sociales)
- a cinquième épreuve chosen by the candidate among many different subjects ranging from mathematics to "administrative sciences" or language.
The oral exam, taken only by those with the highest marks in the written exam, consists of
- An oral examination on Public Finances
- An oral examination on International Politics (Questions Internationales)
- An oral examination either on Questions Européennes or on Questions Sociales (whichever subject the candidate did not choose on the written test)
- An oral examination to test the skill of the candidate in a foreign language.
- A physical test
- the famous 45-minute long Grand Oral during which any question can be asked, from general knowledge to very personal questions.

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).

ENA ranks students according to their academic merit; students are then asked, in order of decreasing merit, the service that they want to join. While the top-ranked join prestigious corps such as the Inspection générale des finances, Conseil d'État or Cour des comptes, other will join e.g. the diplomatic service, ministries, and administrative justice or préfectures. Eventually, some enter national politics, while many end up in high-level administrative positions. To quote ENA's site:[2]

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 ENA are known as promotions, and are named by the students after outstanding French (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 schools such as the Ecole Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr.


In 2011, the Mines ParisTech : Professional Ranking World Universities ranked the ENA 3rd best university in France and 9th in the world according to the number of alumni holding CEO position at Fortune Global 500 companies.


According to an international classification, the École nationale d'administration ranks ninth among higher education institutions in the world, with regard to the performance of their training programmes, based on the number of alumni among the Chief Executive Officers of the 500 leading worldwide companies.[3]

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

International cooperation


An agreement was signed in Paris on 16 October 2012 between ENA and the Uzbek Academy of administration which envisages cooperation in modernization of state administration and improving skills of public servants on Uzbekistan. The first cooperation will begin in January 2013.[5]

See also


  1. ^ La diplomate Nathalie Loiseau a été nommée mercredi 3 octobre 2012 en Conseil des ministres directrice de l'Ecole nationale d'administration (ENA), devenant ainsi la deuxième femme à diriger la prestigieuse école qui forme les hauts fonctionnaires
  2. ^ "Accueil - ENA, Ecole nationale d'administration" (in Français). Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  3. ^ Professionnal ranking of world universities PDF (286 KB), September 2007
  4. ^ a b "The rise of the lawyers". The Economist. 2007-07-05. Retrieved 2007-07-11. 
  5. ^ "France to Assist the Uzbek Academy of Administration". The Gazette of Central Asia (Satrapia). 1 November 2012. 

External links

  • (French) Official website
  • (English) Official website
  • Liberté, egalité and exclusivity
  • [2]

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