One of the so-called Grand Schools in France, which are not part of the official public university system, École Normale Supérieure (ENS) is considered one of the leading higher education institutions in Paris and is well regarded internationally.
Established in 1794, throughout the time of the French Revolution, the institution aimed to cultivate professionals from all backgrounds and social classes, who would be equipped as to participate in the ideological debates and establishment of the New Republic. ENS has then developed a positive reputation for producing well known French political figures, public servants and academia.
As one of the few universities that has a campus in the very centre of Paris, ENS offers a friendly and culturally rich environment for French and international students from a wide range of nationalities and backgrounds.
The university operates across 14 departments and 35 research branches, focusing on traditional areas of study such as social sciences and humanities, and also natural sciences and mathematics.
Being a relatively small institution, the ENS is known for its extremely competitive admission process. The majority of students commencing their undergraduate, postgraduate or doctoral study are required to sit an entrance exam called a concours, attend an interview with university faculty, and in addition prove their proficiency in French.
Once admitted, students have flexibility in designing their own curriculum and also establish a close connection with a relevant tutor who supervises them during the course of their studies. To boost career prospects, scholars are encouraged to embrace ENS’s long-term traditions in interdisciplinary research approach and combine expertise from a variety of fields.
The university employs a relatively small number of professors, but remains active in the exchange of researchers, who come from a wide range of academic fields in order to assist students in delivering their research projects. ENS has as such developed close connections with partner institutions such as Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, which uses the same structure of organisation, as well as other well-known universities such as the University of Oxford, Freie Universitat Berlin and Yale University.
Some of ENS’s notable alumni include Noble Laureates Henri Bergson and Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, mathematician Marie-Louise Dubreil-Jacotin and philosopher Louis Althusser.