French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the closure of France’s elite civil service university, the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA), where he himself graduated from.
The university, based in Strasbourg, was founded by Charles de Gaulle in 1945 with the aim of creating a nationwide higher education institution that would form the future leaders of French administrations.
In the last 76 years, ENA has become to France what Yale or Harvard is for the United States and Oxford for the English.
The university, which produces only 80 graduates a year, offered up half of the presidents of the Fifth Republic, eight of the 22 prime ministers, and graduates from the school currently run the French Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, the Republican Party, France’s intelligence service, and the state railway company.
However, changes related to the elite institution were already apparent in 2004. After the graduation ceremony that year, the graduates handed over a 20-page report to management entitled “The Urgency of Reform”. One of the signatories was Emmanuel Macron.
Macron has been in office since 2017, but thanks to his neo-liberal economic policies, he faced a significant section of society opposed to his presidency as early as the end of 2018, which was reflected in the yellow vest protests, many of which descended into violence. Macron has suffered from poor approval ratings throughout his term. As a result, in 2019, the French president announced a “great national debate”. Macron appeared to realize that he could quell the anger of the anti-elite crowd by taking populist measures and had already earlier signaled he was considering abolishing the ENA.
With the current presidential decision, therefore, the Strasbourg institution is closing its doors once and for all, which, according to an article in the Economist, is a “self-contradicting, populist gesture” by Macron.
Title image: French President Emmanuel Macron visits a child psychiatry department at Reims hospital, eastern France, to discuss the psychological impact of the COVID-19 crisis and the lockdown on children and teenagers in France, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Christian Hartmann/Pool via AP)