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					Bernard Boucault, President, École Nationale D’Administration (France)
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Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. First of all, I would like to thank István Teplán, for
inviting me to participate at this European forum, the subject of which is of utmost relevance
these days.
Since the very beginnings ENA has always tried to adapt the training courses of high-ranking
officials so that they are prepared to face a changing world. So it is easy to see that the topic
of this conference is reflected in the history of ENA. The training of high-ranking officials in
France experienced a break with the opening of ENA in 1945, which signalled the end of a
serious and long crisis: the Second World War. During this time General de Gaulle wanted to
give the state institutions the human resources which would help France rebuild itself
economically, morally and socially after the War.
Ever since its founding, ENA has always been a dynamically changing institution, one that
adapts to the social changes of the time. ENA went through 23 reform periods and currently
the 24th round of reforms is being organised. I will speak of this in a moment. Despite the
reforms, the founding principles of ENA have not been altered, because they are still valid in
our time, and these principles have remained the same despite the changes that ENA went
through.
There are three such guiding principles. First of all is our duty to make access to high-ranking
positions in the civil service more democratic with the institution of the concours, an exam
that anyone with a university degree may sit. In France, this is what we call “republican
meritocracy”: it should be the best people that fill positions in the upper echelons of civil
service regardless of their origins and social background. Before the war, things were
different as the recruitment system to high-ranking state offices was based mostly on
cronyism, unfair preference and nepotism. This democratic reform at entry level to high-
ranking state positions was necessary in order to budge the state administration from the
inertia that it was in. State administration had to reflect the image of society, it had to
represent all the classes and it was an inevitable change for an administrative system that
wanted to be in line with a changing world.
The second principle expresses a wish to professionalise the civil service. Managing an
administrative body is a profession which should be learnt. A university degree is absolutely
necessary in order to become a high-ranking official but not enough. After having acquired
theoretical knowledge, one has to acquire the know-how, the practical knowledge which is


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adapted to an evolving world. This is why ENA as founded to be a practically minded and not
a theoretically oriented institution.
With the creation of ENA the third aim was to give a generalised training to high-ranking
officials, all of them studying together in the same institution, one that is inter-ministerial so
that all the students get the same training and also get to know each other in order that they
have a common approach to the greatest concerns and that they rise above the boundaries and
rivalries that exist between ministries. With all of them studying together, they may find what
is best for a common cause and they are given a chance to be mobile within public
administration in order to fulfil tasks in various administrative bodies, including the various
ministries. I believe that mobility is an essential condition of being able to adapt to an ever
changing world.
Finally, it was also stated in the bill that ordered the setting up of the institution, that the
curriculum should go beyond the practical training necessary for a high-ranking official and
that it should cater for instilling into them the values that civil service stands for and the ethics
of state services.
Let’s see how students at ENA are selected. It is a demanding process based on a
multidisciplinary competitive exam – each year we recruit 80-100 students. This means we
look for the future elite in public administration via three different concours, which process
allows us at the very start to look for different kinds of people. The first type of concours is
set up for young university graduates, who in general studied two different majors to masters
level. They represents about 50% of all the admissions. The second type of exam is an
internal exam open for those who have already been working as public officials for at least
four years. While the third type of exam is only for private business executives and to
municipal employees, with a certain years of experience. This organisation reflects our belief
that public officials should come from different backgrounds and have different experience so
that they may share and gain from each others experience.
The three exams are slightly different from one another but the areas where we intend to
assess the knowledge of the candidates are the same: general culture, law, economy, public
finances, international and European issues but also the candidate’s ability to reason, clarity of
expression, ability to find solutions and of course they need to understand clearly what the
state and civil service stands for.
How are the courses organised? There is what we call a double curriculum, based on practical
knowledge with two different goals in mind. On the one hand we train civil servants, who are
experts in public affairs, but also make them managers, who are able to introduce changes, to


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manage projects, which means having good skills in team-leading, dealing with financial
matters and with human resources; managers who are able to measure performance, negotiate,
communicate and to deal with crises. The course is made up of on-the-job training (stage), of
having responsibilities at a European institution, and later at a local government institution, –
with a prefect or the mayor of a larger city – and finally with a corporate executive. The
studies are very practical. This is also obvious when we look at the teaching staff: there are no
full-time professors at ENA. Lecturers teach for a certain number of hours or days. 60% of
them are high-ranking officials, 20% are university teachers and 20% are consultants or
business executives.
The teaching method is based on case studies, which are compiled by those who actually
experienced them in real live situations in the field of administration and who found answers
to these issues. These could be good answers or bad answers, but they are always taken from a
real case thus very useful.
The internships and the study-periods unfold over a period of 27 months, organised in three
modules, which stand for the three great concerns of the present time in public administration.
The first one is Europe: how administration should work in a European context? This is why
we organise a traineeship at a European institution, at a commission cabinet or DG,
directorate-general of the commission or another institution. These traineeships are quite long,
four or five months long.
The second issue with which a French civil servant should be familiar with are the territorial
components in France. Certain responsibilities have been decentralizsd, the local governments
have gained in their scope of competence. A high-ranking official must know about the
relationship between the state and local government, this accounts for the five-months
traineeship with a prefect or a mayor.
Finally, there is a third module lasting for eight months: public management. This is backed
by an internship next to the CEO of a private corporation. At the same time, students attend
very high level language classes eight hours a week.
Continuing education completes the courses of the principal curriculum. Indeed with the
organisational reform of the institution we managed to merge the programme of the principal
curriculum and that of continuing education so that high-ranking officials may have an
unbroken career from the moment they enter ENA all the way through to retirement. Some of
the courses are mandatory: each time an ex-student of ENA is promoted to a position with
more responsibilities, they come back to ENA to attend a management course. ENA is an



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international and European institution and it appears indispensable for us to prepare high-
ranking officials to a changing world.
ENA primarily is a European institution – you probably know that it is based in Strasbourg, in
one of the capitals of Europe. It is thus European issues that make up one third of the
curriculum of future French civil servants. There are several courses available as part of
continuing education open to French as well as international candidates on European issues.
The institution also welcomes young foreign students or civil servants, who were selected by
the French embassies around the world to come to study in the same classes together with
French students. The fact that two thirds of the students are French while one third come from
forty different nations helps French students to open their minds to Europe and to the world.
By the way there are some forty young Hungarian officials who studied together with French
students. I also call the attention of those young Hungarians who are interested in the course
that the competitive exams are open - European laws make it obligatory – to those young
Hungarians who are able to pass the exams. Courses are available just the same for them as
for their French peers and then later they may also fill the same positions as the French.
ENA is also an international institution, and since it opened its gates, it had 2800 foreign
students – half of whom where European while the other half from non-European countries –
representing all together around 120 countries.
What causes the greatest concern for ENA these days? ENA constantly has to re-examine its
courses, it has to adapt them to a changing world, to the new demands of society. It is along
these lines that the government set out the four great areas of reform, which are the following.
The reform – and I summarise a bit to keep to the allocated time – was called for the 25th
March 2009, it is very recent and it points out the four areas of reform for ENA.
The first one is about the diversity in recruiting candidates. It has been from the very
beginning one of the founding principles of ENA to diversify the admissions to high-ranking
public service positions, but since 1945 times have changed, new social categories appeared,
in particular, there are many French people who come from immigrant background and who
are very scarcely represented in high-ranking administrative positions. It is our republican
duty to recruit people from different backgrounds, but it is also a question of efficiency: in
order that the highest level of administration may be able to listen to the needs all the French
people, the officials working at the highest level also need to be a representative sample of our
country’s diversity. It is not the basic principle of the concours system that is being
questioned, the system remains, but it is the preparatory phase that is being revisited, and as
the President of the Republic stated, we are going to make an effort for those young people


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who come from long way as a result of their social background. As a result, I was asked to
create a new department, a new set of tasks at ENA, which is to open a preparatory course for
the concours within the building of ENA, a course open for young people from disadvantaged
background, especially for those that come from immigrant families.
The second important reform measure aims at making education more professional. The
three-module organisation that I have previously cited: Europe, devolved territories and
public management was endorsed. The length of the training will be reduced by a few months
but most of all, from now on, after having assigned students to a ministry, ENA will have to
prepare them to their first employment in partnership with the contracting ministry.
The third wave of reform pertains to the system of posting students to a ministry. As you
might know up to now, ENA students were able to choose the ministry where they were
assigned according to their academic achievement. This was quite a strange system, as the
young employee chose their employer and the place of employment, and it was not the other
way round, in fact the employer had to respect the student’s choice. So the reform intends to
give back the responsibility of recruitment to the employer, they can make their choice which
students they want to employ. The students of course may also express their wish of who they
want to work with: there will be job interviews, just like in the private sector. And this will
render it possible for the students to mould their profile to the particular kinds of jobs being
offered. Of course we have to keep a watchful eye on not rebuilding the same system of
biased recommendation, cronyism and nepotism so we are going to put in place a tool to
check objectivity, impartiality and the transparency of recruitment. On the one hand there will
be an assessment material kept about the student containing all the evaluations that the student
receives during their academic career at ENA, on the other an independent commission will
supervise that the students are assigned to their position in an impartial and objective.
With the forth reform, ENA will have more weight in continuing education courses and will
have to provide specialised courses for those civil servants at various stages of their careers
who will have been identified by various bodies as having extraordinary career potentials and
who will receive specialised preparatory training to fulfil important high-ranking positions in
state administration.
By way of conclusion, I would like to come back to the question of opening to Europe. In
European institutions providing administrative training, opening to European issues have
gained more importance in the past ten years. But we believe we need to go further, if we
want public administration to be a more effective contributor to deepening and consolidating
European relations, so that European institutions and Europe may answer the challenges


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brought about by the changes of our current world. We believe that public administration at a
national and European level need to get to know each other even more, need to get acquainted
with each other’s culture and decision making processes, to know the European challenges
that we share and to have a single approach to common European interests. We believe that
the best way to reach this goal is to provide future civil servants with a certain number of
courses in common. This wish was expressed recently at the meeting of DISPA, a network of
European Institutes and Schools of Public Administration, by directors of the aforementioned
institutions. At the meeting, which was held last October in Strasbourg during the French
presidency, all of the institutions, many of which are present here, adapted a manifesto, the
Strasbourg Manifesto, which agrees upon the common goals and affirms a common stance, at
the same time it specifies that it is up to each institution to individually contribute to reaching
this ambitious but inevitable goal, that is to create common public administration for Europe.
The Strasbourg Manifesto, which I believe my colleagues will also speak about today, with all
the issues that it touches upon, could be a useful contribution to the topic of today’s
conference: how to change public service in a constantly evolving world. Thank you.




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