Wired Magazine reports:
French internet mogul Xavier Niel will open a new school in Paris just for software developers. Niel — who previously founded France’s first entrepreneurship school — is even putting up 20 million euros to keep tuition free.
Known as 42, the school will focus on project-based learning and will allow students to set their own pace for learning, the French startup blog Rude Baguette reports. It’s expected to open in November.
In the late ’90s, Neil co-founded the first internet service provider in France, Worldnet, and in 2000, he sold the company for $50 million. By then, he had already founded Free, which is now the second-largest ISP in France. Last year, the company launched Free Mobile, which offers unlimited calls, texts and data for just $27 a month, about half the price of incumbent competitors, according to Forbes.
But Niel is very much the maverick, and controversy tends to follow him. When he was 19, he started an “erotic chat” service for Minitel, the French proto-internet that shut down just last year. In 1999, Free’s parent company, Iliad, was accused by France Télécom of pirating its reverse number look-up database — the companies settled out of court — and in 2005, Niel was arrested in relation to a prostitution scandal at some sex shops that he had invested in. He was cleared of the prostitution charges, but landed a two-year suspended sentence for failing to disclose income, Forbes reported.
Free also caused a stir earlier this year when the company began blocking all web ads. The French government ended up stepping in and forcing Free to end the block, according to the Economist.
Niel is a self-taught programmer who never went to college, so it’s no surprise that 42 won’t be your ordinary school. There will be no lectures, according to the school’s FAQ. All the learning will be project-based, with an emphasis on “peer to peer” learning. And the school will teach not just programming skills, but also the habits that companies are looking for in programmers: productivity, collaboration and lifelong learning and self-investment, according to the school’s website.
42 won’t be an officially accredited school. Instead, Niel is banking on the school developing a reputation for itself.
The school will accept 1,000 students per year. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 30, but there will be no requirement for any sort of degree prior to enrollment. To apply, students will attempt to complete a series of games on the school’s website. Those who are able to complete the games will move on to a one-day “try out” at the school. Up to 1,000 students will be admitted per year. According to the FAQ, the students need not already know how to program to be selected.
Part of the reason for 42 is the mis-match between the demand from IT industries and the supply of skills. Writes The Economist:
When French entrepreneurs decided in March to launch a swanky new school for software developers, they thought they were on to something. But even they were startled by its popularity. For 1,000 student places starting this autumn on a three-year course, they have fully 50,000 applications.
France has a skills mismatch. Joblessness has reached 10.6%, a 14-year high. For the under-25s, it is 26%. Yet, according to a poll by the French Association of Software Publishers and Internet Solutions, 72% of software firms are having trouble recruiting—and 91% of those are seeking software engineers and developers.
The name “42,” apparently, is inspired by the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything from Douglas Adams’ radio play, books, and T.V. series “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”