Macron to abolish France’s most elite French university ENA

French President Emmanuel Macron is on Thursday to abolish the top university he attended along with four of the last six presidents in a move portrayed as a blow against elitism and in favour of greater diversity.

Macron to abolish France's most elite French university ENA
French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

The Ecole Nationale d’Administration, known as ENA, is a small Strasbourg-based finishing school for top civil servants that plays an outsized role in French public life.

Created in the aftermath of World War II, admission virtually guarantees an influential job in the upper reaches of the public sector and has long been viewed as the most promising route into politics.

Macron, who attended from 2002-2004, announced plans to scrap the institution in 2019 following ‘yellow vest’ anti-government protests which highlighted inequality.

ENA class of 1994/1996. in Strasbourg. Photo by STR / AFP

Later Thursday, he was set to announce a new school with a new name that will be responsible for training students for senior public sector roles, with an emphasis on opening up pathways for people from poorer or ethnic minority backgrounds.

The idea is to “offer closer, more efficient, more transparent and more benevolent public services to French people,” an aide told reporters ahead of the announcement. 

Macron has previously criticised ENA for taking in fewer students from a working-class background than at the end of the last century, even though the school is in theory open to all.

READ ALSO: What is ENA and why is Macron scrapping it?

In February, Macron said that 1,000 places would be created in two new programmes to prepare students from disadvantaged backgrounds for applying to France’s top colleges

He said the “social elevator” in France – the process by which people from poorer backgrounds rise to prominent positions – “works less well than 50 years ago”.

French students at conference in ENA back in 2013. Photo: PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP

Studies show that ENA’s student intake is dominated by the children of wealthy, professional families. 

“Among the vital problems in France, there is one that you are aware of every day: it’s the absolute fracture between the base of society – people who work, who are retired, who are unemployed, young people, students – and the supposed elite,” François Bayrou, a close political ally of Macron, told France Inter radio on Thursday.

The school was created in 1945 when France needed to rebuild its civil service, parts of which had collaborated with France’s Nazi occupiers during World War II.

It succeeded initially in opening up the vast public administration to people drawn from different backgrounds, rather than the old aristocracy which had traditionally dominated the French state.

Its success in producing highly-qualified public administrators has spawned copycat institutions in other countries, however, including Russia.

Member comments

  1. Someone should explain to him that pandering to the masses for the sake of a few extra votes does not always have benefits.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.