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École Navale: A Comprehensive Overview of France’s Premier Naval Academy

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a naval officer in France? If so, you might be interested in learning about the École Navale, the French naval academy. The École Navale is a prestigious institution that trains the future leaders of the French Navy and contributes to the advancement of naval science and technology. In this article, you will discover this unique and respected academy’s history, curriculum, traditions, and research. You will also learn about the admission process, the acceptance rate, and the career opportunities of the École Navale graduates. Whether you are a prospective student, a naval enthusiast, or a curious reader, you will find this article informative and engaging.

A table of contents highlights everything we will cover in this article.

Brief History of École Navale

The École Navale was founded in 1830 by King Louis-Philippe, who wanted to create a dedicated school for the training of naval officers. The academy was originally based on ships anchored in the harbor of Brest, such as the Borda, which gave the nickname “Bordache” to the students. In 1914, the École Navale moved ashore in Brest but was destroyed by Allied bombing raids during World War II. It was then relocated to Lanvéoc-Poulmic, on the opposite side of the bay of Brest, where it still stands today. The academy was officially inaugurated by Charles de Gaulle in 1965.

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The École Navale has a rich and diverse heritage, marked by the achievements and sacrifices of its alumni. Many famous naval officers, explorers, scientists, and politicians graduated from the academy, such as Ferdinand de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal; Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the pioneer of marine conservation; and François Hollande, the former president of France. The academy also honors the memory of those who died in service, such as Émile Muselier, the founder of the Free French Naval Forces, or Robert Surcouf, the legendary privateer.

The Admission Process for École Navale in France

The admission process for École Navale depends on your profile and nationality. There are different ways to access the academy, such as:

  • Suppose you are a French student who completed the scientific preparatory classes (CPGE). In that case, you can take the Centrale-Supélec entrance exam, allowing you to join the engineering program of the École Navale.
  • If you are a student of the École Polytechnique, you can join the École Navale in the third year of the engineering program.
  • Suppose you are a French or German student who wants to study in both countries. In that case, you can apply for the Franco-German exchange program (EFENA), which will allow you to study at the German Naval Academy and one of the two universities of the Bundeswehr.
  • If you are a foreign student, you can apply for the École Navale through the French military representations in your country after obtaining the agreement of your authorities. Depending on your level, you can join the academy in the first or second year of the engineering program.
  • If you have a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering, you can apply for the master’s degree in naval engineering, which is open to contract officers and civilian students.
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According to the official website of the École Navale, the duration of the admission process varies depending on the entrance exam and the profile of the candidates. For example, for the Centrale-Supélec exam, the written tests are held in April, and the oral tests are held in June and July. For the master’s degree in naval engineering, the application deadline is in May, and the admission results are announced in June.

As for the age limit, the École Navale states that the candidates must be under 25 on January 1st of the year of the entrance exam. However, there may be some exceptions or waivers for certain cases, such as foreign students, contract officers, or reserve officers. For more details, you can contact the admission office of the École Navale.

Acceptance Rate of France’s Naval Military Academy

The acceptance rate of École Navale is not easy to find, as the academy does not publish official statistics on its admissions. However, based on some web sources, it appears that the acceptance rate is between 69% and 82%, depending on the entrance exam and the profile of the candidates. This is much higher than the acceptance rate of the U.S. Naval Academy, which is only 8%3. However, this does not mean that the École Navale is less selective or prestigious, as the academy has different admission criteria and standards than its American counterpart. The École Navale is still one of the most competitive and respected institutions in France and the world.

For more information, you can visit the official website of the École Navale or contact the admission office.

Curriculum and Training at The École Navale

The École Navale is in charge of the education of the officers of the French Navy, who can serve on board surface ships and submarines, in naval aviation, with the marines and commandos, and on the general staff. The academy offers programs for different profiles and career paths, such as career officers, contract officers, reserve officers, and civilian students.

The main program for career officers is a five-year course divided into three phases. The first phase is a two-year preparatory class, where the students acquire the scientific and technical foundations and the military and maritime culture. The second phase is a three-year engineering cycle, where the students specialize in one of the four majors: naval architecture, weapons systems, information systems, or energy and propulsion. The third phase is a one-year professional cycle, where the students receive practical training in their chosen branch of the Navy.

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The École Navale also offers a master’s degree in naval engineering, open to contract officers and civilian students with bachelor’s degrees in science or engineering. The master’s program lasts two years and covers the same four majors as the engineering cycle, focusing on research and innovation. The master’s students also have the opportunity to participate in the Jeanne d’Arc mission, a six-month operational deployment on board a naval vessel.

The academy also provides short-term courses for reserve officers and foreign officers and continuing education for naval professionals. The École Navale is part of the Conférence des Grandes Écoles, the Conference of the Directors of French Engineering Schools, and the European University of Brittany. It has many academic and industrial partners, both nationally and internationally.

Traditions and Culture at The French Navy Academy

The École Navale is more than just a school; it is a community of values and traditions that shape the identity and spirit of the naval officers. The academy has a rich and colorful jargon derived from maritime slang and naval history. For example, the academy is called “La Baille”, which means “the bucket” in French, and the commander in second is the “widow”, because he is always left behind when the commander leaves.

The academy also has many rituals and ceremonies that mark the milestones of the students’ journey. One of the most emblematic is the welcoming ceremony, where the new cadets are boarded from the pontoon Gueydon one day before the senior classmen. They are then greeted by the “godfathers,” the oldest students of the academy, who will guide and mentor them throughout their studies. The ceremony ends with singing the “Bordache’s Song,” the anthem of the École Navale.

Another important tradition is the graduation ceremony, where the students receive their officer’s sword and diploma. The ceremony is held on the 8th of May, the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, and is attended by the highest authorities of the state and the navy. The ceremony is also an occasion to pay tribute to the alumni who died in service and to celebrate the achievements and values of the naval officers.

The École Navale also fosters a strong camaraderie and solidarity among its students and alumni, who share a common passion for the sea and the navy. The academy has many clubs and associations that promote cultural, artistic, sporting, and humanitarian activities. One of the most famous is the Grand Prix de l’École Navale, an annual sailing competition that attracts hundreds of participants and spectators. The academy also has a network of alumni associations, called the “Amicale des Anciens Élèves de l’École Navale,” that support and connect the graduates throughout their careers and lives.

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IRENAV Research Institute

The École Navale is not only a place of education but also a place of research and innovation. The academy has its research institute, IRENAV, which stands for “Institut de Recherche de l’École Navale.” IRENAV is a multidisciplinary research center oriented to the maritime environment and sustainable development. One of its main objectives is to support the scientific training of the navy cadets and contribute to advancing naval science and technology.

IRENAV comprises two research groups: M2EN, which stands for “Mechanics and Energy in Naval Environment,” and MOTIM, which stands for “Maritime Information Modeling and Processing.” The M2EN group studies the hydrodynamics and the energy conversion of naval systems, such as propellers, cavitation, and renewable marine energies. The MOTIM group develops methods and tools for the modeling and processing maritime information, such as geographic information systems, underwater acoustics, and signal processing.

IRENAV is part of the national scientific cluster “Europôle Mer,” which groups several universities and engineering schools with research activities oriented towards the marine environment. IRENAV is also nationally recognized as a research center (EA3634) and is part of the national networks of the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers (Arts et Métiers ParisTech). Moreover, IRENAV develops several national and international partnerships with other universities and research centers and hosts several PhD students and post-doctoral researchers.

IRENAV’s research activities are intended to be dual, addressing both military and civilian research problems in the context of the ship of the future. IRENAV’s research results are valorized in collaboration with the research and industrial cluster “Pôle Mer Bretagne Atlantique,” whose objective is to foster the diffusion of research and innovation towards the maritime industry. The domains covered by these industrial partnerships include maritime security, naval maintenance, renewable marine energies, and maritime environment.


The École Navale is a unique and prestigious institution that trains the future officers of the French Navy and contributes to the development of naval science and technology. The academy has a long and rich history, a comprehensive and diverse curriculum, a vibrant and distinctive culture, and a dynamic and innovative research institute. The École Navale is more than just a school; it is a way of life, a community of values, and a source of pride for the French Navy and the French nation.

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