Three years after launching his innovative, free computing university, 42, in Paris, billionaire businessman Niel will open a new branch in Fremont, California. The news has been met with excitement in the United States, where many students rack up thousands of dollars in college debt and the chance for a free education might seem like a fantasy.
Billionaire Niel, who is the CEO of telecom company Iliad, will invest $100 million of his own funds to launch the school, where he hopes to train 10,000 people over the next five years.
The original 42 is known for its atypical model: no tuition, no teachers, no set schedule and a curriculum based on the video game “Warcraft”, whose 21 levels take three to five years to complete. The programme is open to people between the ages of 18 and 30.
Students often work in groups but are responsible for their own schedules. Helpfully, the Paris school includes showers, mattresses and break rooms. Widely shared photos showed students napping on the floor when French President François Hollande toured the school in 2015. The US school, which will occupy 200,000 square feet, will also offer housing to at least 300 low-income students.
The first class at 42 US will include 1,000 students. After being selected from an online pool of candidates, they will then be tossed into the infamous “piscine” – translated as “swimming pool” – a grueling, four-week entrance exam where applicants have to solve one challenge after another. Only the best students are allowed to stay on after that. They will emerge as skilled IT professionals and coding experts.
Niel has said in previous interviews that he—along with co-founders Florian Bucher, Nicolas Sadirac and Kwame Yamgnane—launched the pilot project in Paris primarily because the country needed more people trained in IT. However, they also saw it as an alternative form of learning for people who struggled in the strict French education system. Niel is primarily self-taught and famously learned coding in his bedroom.