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Training of Senior Officials, What Do Our Neighbours Do?

BLOG - 24 May 2019

By Institut Montaigne

For several weeks, public debates on the question of abolishing the National School of Administration (Ecole nationale d’administration, ENA) have been gaining intensity. That kind of attention seems paradoxical, given that this school trains only about forty young women and men into becoming senior public officials each year. Often seen as the symbol of the distinctive nature of French administration, the "school of power" has been training the ruling elites since the end of WWII. Given the peculiar recruitment of senior French administrative staff, the ENA may seem to be one of a kind. However, whether designed on the ENA model (with, sometimes, the same name) or on a similar model for training future administrative elites, other high administration schools exist worldwide, especially in Europe and in the French-speaking world. Hence, a second paradox appears: that school model, denounced as the basis of a problem of renewal of the Nation's elite, is not unique in its kind and even inspires other countries.

To better understand administrative bodies’ needs and expectations, why not study how the highest civil servants are trained elsewhere in the world? In this respect, Spain, Italy, the United States, South Korea and Germany have institutions whose understanding may be interesting.

United States

Although unexpectedly only an overall minority of the most senior public and private leaders comes from an Ivy League university (a 2017 study on nearly 4,000 executives in 15 sectors, amongst which the public sector, that only 10% come from an Ivy League university), the majority of the most senior officials go through the Ivy League. Moreover, one school stands out in this type of training and enjoys a worldwide influence (attended nearly by half of foreigners), including in France: the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University, founded in 1936. Among the former students of the "HKS", there are famous women and men of current French political life: Brune Poirson, Delphine O, Guillaume Liegey, Astrid Panosyan, or Amélie de Montchalin. Since 1970, 17 heads of state from around the world passed through it. The programmes are provided to more than 1,000 students each year, amongst which a very small proportion of non-professional students carry out master’s degree courses directly after undergraduate studies. All this for an annual endowment of... $1.2 billion in 2017! With an annual budget of 40 million euros - and a deficit -, significantly smaller student promotions and a majority of them being recruited directly after higher education, our national institution seems far from comparable to HKS.


The Scuola Nazionale dell'Amministrazione - SNA IT, formerly Scuola Superiore della Pubblica Amministrazione, founded in 1957, carries out the selection and training of senior officials in the Italian administration. It is partially relocated, between Rome and Caserta. Under the authority of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the SNA follows the French ENA operating and selection model, based on examinations with a very high level of selectivity. In 2012, out of 10,000 initial enrolments (4,000 students finally showed up), only 26 were selected and trained. Of these 26 students trained - for a budget of 21 million euros - only nine obtained a position upon leaving the school. In September 2018, the last call for applications for the examination opened more than 140 places.


The Instituto Nacional de Administración Pública, or INAP, was born in 1987 from the merger of two schools: the Instituto de Estudios de Administración Local (1940), and the Centro de Formación y Perfeccionamiento de Funcionarios (1958). INAP is attached to the Ministry of Territorial Policy and the Civil Service. Recruitment, through centralised competitions and selection committees specific to senior civil servants ("Administrators" corps), is one of the main tasks of INAP. As in the French case, INAP also has an international dimension in research, publication and training of civil servants. It also has two campuses, one in the centre of Madrid and the other in the east of the city (Alcalá de Henares). However, the number of staff trained is much higher than in the case of ENA, with more than 68,000 students passing through the Institute in 2017. INAP therefore trains public officials on a larger scale and, rather than initialing training for senior civil servants, forms a broader base of federal civil servants.

South Korea

Has the National Human Resources Development Institute (NHI), which is part of the Ministry of Personnel Management of the Republic of Korea. It has three basic functions: to train high-level central government officials; to be a support centre for other public and private sector training institutes in the country; and to establish international ties with other recognized institutions, including through exchanges. Its overall aim is to pave the way for a "new era" for the Republic of Korea through the training of its senior officials. Created in 1949, the National Official's Training Institute (NOTI) was based in central Seoul. It became the Central Official's Training Institute in 1961 and then NHI in 2016, and has been relocated several times, only to be finally based in Jincheon, one hour south of the capital. But the IHN is more oriented towards incremental training: the training of the most senior managers is based on the lower hierarchical managers (the equivalent, to the ENA, of the internal examination). Indeed, the "Senior Executive Program", intended for the most senior positions, is aimed at some sixty general directors of central and provincial government agencies and senior managers of public institutions.


Finally, there is no central training school for senior civil servants, nor any centralized competition. Each department organizes a very selective review at the regional and federal levels. But this is changing and Germany is increasingly taking inspiration from France with institutions training in administrative sciences, such as the Hertie School of Governance (2003). It offers varied courses that are no longer limited to law, the most entrenched traditional discipline among senior public servants. It now integrates international relations and political science. In addition, the average age of entry into senior civil service positions is between 27 and 29 years, and civil servants cannot be appointed until they reach the age of 27.

Beyond these special considerations, the French model of training senior civil servants has similarities in Europe and around the world, and has inspired other countries. Several countries have already adopted the French model for a higher administration school (ENA in Senegal, ENSA in Morocco, Scuola Nazionale dell'Amministrazione (SNA) in Italy). Finally, in many french-speaking countries, national administrative schools with the same name exist and are directly inspired by the French model (in Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Ivory Coast in particular).


Written by Waël ABDALLAH for Institut Montaigne.



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