A new model for democratising software education is forcing top French universities to rethink accessible training. Conceived by a multi-billionaire to accelerate his country’s competitiveness in the digital domain, the computer programming school in Paris is creating a new generation of entrepreneurial programmers and engineers – without using teachers or books.
Sometimes described as the ‘French Steve Jobs’, Xavier Niel dared to go against the elitism of the traditional system by providing young people with an open education – putting €70 million into the venture and scrapping tuition fees. He’s called the revolutionary school ‘42’, a reference to famous British sci-fi radio series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s answer to the meaning of life, and created a universe where financial ability and a degree don’t matter, but huge talent does.
Completely free, substituting teachers for highly intensive peer-to-peer and internet project-based learning, the admissions process might be hardcore, but once in, students with limited finances can even live on-site in Paris as they learn. Niel’s hope is that after training 1,000 students a year for between three and five years, its successful alumni will sustain the non-profit, donating millions just as he did.
Xavier Niel, Founder
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