A radical French technology school funded by $100 million from billionaire entrepreneur Xavier Niel is coming to Silicon Valley, and has plans to grow to 10,000 students in the next five years.
The tuition-free school is primarily focused on teaching coding and entrepreneurial thinking, and is called “42,” a nod to the book “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” where 42 is the answer to “life, the universe and everything.”
Niel, a high-school dropout and one of France’s biggest technology giants, started the school in 2013 to shake up the traditional mould of French education, and to churn out students that were innovative problem-solvers (and who employers wanted to hire). Another huge draw, especially in the US, is the lack of tuition, which can work to drastically reduce the cost of learning programming skills.
42 already has big supporters in tech like Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield. Spiegel called it a school from the future, while Dorsey gave a glowing endorsement, saying ”We are always looking for great engineers from any background and any education like 42.”
Here’s how 42’s US operation will work:
- 42 doesn’t require a high-school diploma or give a traditional certificate at the end. The students, ages 18 to 30, get accepted into 42 through a logic-focused entrance exam (no coding experience is required). Then they come to 42 for a month-long session called “piscine” (pool), whose 100-hour weeks are designed to see who sinks and who swims. If they succeed, they enter into the program, which runs 3 to 5 years.
- There are no teachers. Students work in groups of two to five on computer programming challenges. The school calls this “peer to peer” learning, and students are expected to find what they need on the internet (the school gives them space, computers, and other equipment available 24/7).
- There is no tuition. Niel has provided $100 million to launch the new nonprofit school in the US. He told VentureBeat he has no plans to make any money off it, and hopes alumni will choose to give back to the school with donations.
- 42 will launch in a new 200,000 square-foot classroom in Fremont, CA, and a 300-person (free) dormitory (42 says it is working to increase that capacity to 600).
Since its launch in France, 42 has received more than 200,000 applications, and taught over 2,500 students.
Here is the email you get when you inquire about an application:
Hello young novice.
Whoever you are, wherever you’re from and whatever you have (or haven’t) done before, you are at the right place. Here, on this starting line, you have neither head start nor handicap on any other candidate at 42. You have all your chances. Really. The admission at 42 is done step by step. Simple but mandatory, they are illustrated by a succession of tabs on the candidature’s website. Those steps will allow us to know you better, to test your aptitudes to learn IT development, and allow us to decide of your admission to the Piscine. Aaah…the Piscine…
And here is an introduction video to 42: