ENS Courses in Computer Science – Introduction
- The ENS graduate degree
- Computer science at the École normale supérieure
- An overview of the curriculum
The ENS graduate degree
ENS, as part of PSL University, offers a graduate degree, entitled “diplôme de l’École normale supérieure”, that combines excellence in education in a major field with an openness towards other fields. The curriculum in computer science, research-oriented and research-based, is similar to the curriculum of the other three écoles normales supérieures (Lyon, Paris-Saclay, Rennes).
This degree is open to ENS students who underwent a specific recruitment procedure.
The ENS graduate degree is awarded at the end of a curriculum that (usually) lasts three years and during which each student needs to validate:
- a high-level university curriculum leading to obtaining a research-oriented Master’s degree in a discipline that constitutes the major field of the graduate degree. Generally speaking, this curriculum include the third year of the Bachelor’s (L3) and the two years of the Master’s (M1 and M2), each corresponding to the validation of a total of 60 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits;
- complementary training amounting to a minimum of 72 ECTS credits (including 24 ECTS outside of the major).
Computer science at the École normale supérieure
As part of the ENS degree, studies in computer science may take two distinct forms:
- Computer science students: the Computer Science department is the educational and scientific entity to which all those who consider computer science as their major discipline are attached. These students follow the computer science track of the ENS graduate degree, which includes L3 (third year of the Bachelor’s), M1, and M2 (the two years of the Master’s).
- Students from another scientific department: the Computer Science department also proposes an educational offer for students registered in other disciplines within the scientific departments of ENS. It may consist either in a coherent collection of computer science courses that defines the minor specialty of the student, or of one-off courses that the student validates for his or her degree with the agreement of his or her tutor and the teachers in charge of these courses.
Bridges exist between the different departments of ENS. Subject to the agreement of the study directors of the respective departments, a reorientation may be considered during the curriculum.
Students registered in the computer science track of the ENS graduate degree are attached to the Computer Science department of ENS which offers, for their main specialty, a program with a limited number of students (aroud twenty per cohort), which trains computer scientists with a strong background in pure and applied mathematics, in various sectors. Reinforced supervision allows a faster pace of studies. Classes are supplemented by research internships. The objectives of the curriculum are as follows:
- an excellence course in computer science;
- a training that is oriented towards research, and through research-oriented methods. Internships abroad allow for an openness towards international relations;
- an orientation respectful of the diversity of backgrounds. Each computer science student is followed by a tutor. He or she is invited to take part in courses from other disciplines that help personalizing his or her training.
Every student graduating from ENS in computer science holds a research-oriented Master’s degree and can therefore start PhD studies in computer science or mathematics, that he or she will usually complete in three years. It is also possible to skip PhD studies to start a non-academic career.
After possibly obtaining a PhD, possible professional outcomes after a couple of years are as follows:
- researcher within a public research center (CNRS, CEA, Inria, ONERA, CNES, etc.);
- assistant/associate professor in a university in France or abroad;
- researcher in a company;
- R&D or software engineer in a French or international company;
- teacher in classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles, and, more generally, in higher education (IUT, CNAM, etc.)
An overview of the curriculum
The curriculum is organized over three years, corresponding to the third year of a Bachelor’s degree (L3) and two years of a Master’s degree (M1 and M2). At the end of their studies, after obtaining a research-oriented Master’s degree and also validating additional courses 72 ECTS units will receive the ENS graduate degree.
The Bachelor’s (L3) in computer science, through a partnership with the University of Paris, requires obtaining 60 ECTS, divided into 48 ECTS of courses at L3 level (first and second semester) or M1 level (first semester) and 12 ECTS for the research internship in an (academic or industrial) laboratory, prioritarily outside the Île-de-France region and of a duration of around 8 weeks between June and August. Students also follow additional courses for the ENS graduate degree (at least 24 ECTS units recommended per year).
A Maths and CS track is also offered during the first year. Students who choose it will be enrolled in both a Bachelor’s (L3) in computer science and a Bachelor’s (L3) in mathematics and will have to validate both. This demanding track allows motivated students to pursue a dual training in mathematics and computer science for one year. It also gives students who are still undecided the opportunity to postpone the choice between the two disciplines for one year.
The first year of the Master’s (M1) in computer science requires obtaining 60 ECTS, divided into 30 ECTS of M1-level courses and 30 ECTS of a research internship in a laboratory abroad. Students also follow additional courses for the ENS graduate degree (at least 24 ECTS units recommended per year).
The second year of the Master’s (M2) in computer science requires obtaining 60 ECTS, and includes M2-level courses and a research internship in a laboratory in France or abroad. Students also follow additional courses for the ENS graduate degree (at least 24 ECTS units recommended per year). The M2 year most often ends with the choice of a supervisor and a subject for a doctoral thesis. At this level, students gradually specialize into a research topic and join a research group.
In addition to the compulsory L3, M1 and M2 internships, it is possible from the 2nd year of schooling to do a year of research internships (often abroad), or follow another training for a year. It is necessary to prepare these internship several months in advance to obtain the agreement of the directors of studies, carry out the visa procedures, obtain the signature of internship agreements, mission orders and depending on the circumstances possibly obtain a year of leave from ENS.