University ‘42’ heads for Silicon Valley

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French telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel has launched a $100m investment to set up a branch of his iconoclastic, Paris-based coding university, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

42, as the university is called, will open its doors in November and grow to 10,000 students over the next five years, offering them free education in a country where students typically have to rack up heavy debts to pay for their courses.

In a press release on Tuesday, 42 said that its mission was to “uncover the talents of their generation in the field of programming and to do so on a broad scale”.

Built over 200,000 square feet in Fremont, the university will have more than 1,000 top-of-the-line iMac computers, very high-speed internet, large-capacity storage servers and 300 dormitories — with plans to increase that to 600.

True to the disruptive spirit of Mr Niel, who has made billions by offering ultra low-cost mobile telephony to French consumers, the university will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It will also be professor-less: students, who will be selected on the basis of their ability to program rather than their formal education, will be expected to learn by themselves and from peers.

Evan Spiegel, co-founder and chief executive of Snapchat, said: ‘‘42 is a school from the future.”

The venture, which will be open to the best students, is based on Mr Niel’s 42 in Paris, which he set up in 2013 to provide opportunities for talented French coders without the formal means to access the best education.

Since its inauguration, the school has received more than 200,000 applications and today has 2,500 students.

In a press release on Tuesday, 42 said that its mission was to “uncover the talents of their generation in the field of programming and to do so on a broad scale”.

Built over 200,000 square feet in Fremont, the university will have more than 1,000 top-of-the-line iMac computers, very high-speed internet, large-capacity storage servers and 300 dormitories — with plans to increase that to 600.

True to the disruptive spirit of Mr Niel, who has made billions by offering ultra low-cost mobile telephony to French consumers, the university will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It will also be professor-less: students, who will be selected on the basis of their ability to program rather than their formal education, will be expected to learn by themselves and from peers.

Evan Spiegel, co-founder and chief executive of Snapchat, said: ‘‘42 is a school from the future.”

The venture, which will be open to the best students, is based on Mr Niel’s 42 in Paris, which he set up in 2013 to provide opportunities for talented French coders without the formal means to access the best education.

Since its inauguration, the school has received more than 200,000 applications and today has 2,500 students.

One of 42’s driving principles is that it will cost students nothing — or, as a press release on Tuesday put it, “completely free of charge (no hidden fees)”.

The idea, it said, was to push back against the huge loans that most students have to take on to finance their studies. “Studies in the United States are very expensive, blocking the way for many individuals to receive an education, find a well-paid job and live the American dream,” it said.

Tony Fadell, founder and chief executive of Nest, said of the non-profit university: ‘‘Anyone, as long as you have the merit, the motivation and the skills, you can come to 42 regardless the amount of money you have.”

However, entry is tough. The test, known as “the swimming pool” because it forces you to throw yourself in at the deep end, thrusts coding challenges and puzzles on applicants, who have four weeks to come up with solutions.

The depth of the challenges is designed to sift the most gifted students from the pack. Once accepted, students are given free rein. “42 offers an ideal environment that allows for talent to thrive,” said the statement.

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