Mr. Niel, an affable, longhaired telecommunications executive with a high school diploma and several billion euros to his name, has spent the past decade gleefully disrupting France’s staid corporate establishment. With 42, he means to do the same, in a small but conspicuous way, to higher education in France. Programming classes start this month.
There will be no lectures or teachers per se, only group projects and “friendly organizers” wearing T-shirts. No state-sanctioned degree will be awarded, nor must incoming students, ages 18 to 30, be high school graduates. Installed in a refurbished administrative building at the gray edge of Paris, 42 is tuition-free and has sought to attract students from the country’s poorest neighborhoods.