A military School

The historical tie between the École Polytechnique and the French Ministry of the Armed Forces and the military status of its students, instituted by Napoleon in 1804, makes the École Polytechnique a unique institution of higher education and research and is a safeguard of national sovereignty.
A military School

The École Polytechnique is thus the only Grande École in France whose students, called upon to play an essential role in the national defense - understood in its broadest meaning - and development of the country's interests, are confronted with the military world and international challenges.

As a military School, it develops and promotes the essential values of commitment, self-sacrifice and a sense of general interest. These values are the foundation of common ambitions and intrinsic assets for the conception and realization of major strategic projects for the protection and promotion of national interests.


When the École Polytechnique was created in 1794, its students were assimilated to the National Guard and placed under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior. In 1804, Napoleon militarized the School. Since then, Polytechnique has always retained its military status, with the exception of a few rare periods, notably during the Second World War.

The School is still under the military command of a general officer who is the director general, reporting to the Minister of the Armed Forces for the observance of military regulations within the School and for the military training of Polytechnique engineering students.

The organization of this command is based on a chef de corps, director of human and military training, who has authority over the classes commanders, company commanders and section leaders. This organization is essential for the supervision of polytechnic officer cadets (EOX) during their studies.

French students in the engineering program of the École Polytechnique are under military status as cadets during their studies. Polytechnic students are appointed as midshipmen by order of the Minister of Armed Forces on the first day of the second year following their enlistment. As such, they receive a military pay. On completion of theur studies, provided they have obtained the title of graduate engineer from the École Polytechnique, they are appointed second lieutenant or ensign of the second class, under contract to the army or the national gendarmerie, in which they have completed their cadet training.

All Polytechnic engineering students (French and international) have a uniform called "Grand Uniforme" or "GU", which is made to measure. This uniform includes a bicorn and a sword called a "tangent".

Students no longer wear the uniform during courses, except during major conferences where external keynote speakers are invited. The uniform is worn for specific events and military ceremonies such as the Bastille Day military parade.


Monument aux morts - École polytechnique

As a military School, École Polytechnique has given France many of its top military chiefs and paid a heavy human toll in the conflicts in which the country has been involved.

Its graduates have played and continue to play a decisive role in the organization and management of the Defense Technological and Industrial Complex. Today, they are at the forefront of the design, production and maintenance of ever more complex defense equipment, and in the integration of the most advanced technologies into weapons systems.

Upon graduation, more than a third of the graduates of the Ingénieur Polytechnicien Program work in a public administration and another third have joined large groups and companies in the French industrial and service sectors, which are key for the nation future and its sovereignty. One of the unique features of the École Polytechnique is that it trains not only senior civil servants but also executives of French and international major private companies.

By training together, through the sciences and under the flag, officers, senior civil servants, researchers, business leaders and innovative start-upers, the École Polytechnique develops shared values and ambitions that enable the design and implementation of major strategic projects in the service of the general interest, the defense of national sovereignty and the protection of national interests.

Faced with increasingly diverse defense challenges, from the persistence of the terrorist threat to the return of high-intensity conflicts at the gates of Europe, not to mention the resurgence of trade tensions and economic warfare, the rise of conflicts in the information fields or the consequences of global warming, the excellence of École Polytechnique's training and research make it a decisive instrument of scientific and technological sovereignty for France.


Polytechnique's human, military and sports training, unique within a French Engineering Grande École, allows students to develop qualities in different fields :

  • Openness to others: sense of ethics and general interest, teamwork,
  • Openness to the world: adaptation, international experience,
  • Personal development: self-knowledge and self-control, communication and leadership skills, physical qualities and sports commitment

After an integration week in September at the École Polytechnique, initial military training takes place for three weeks at the La Courtine military camp (Creuse). This training teaches the student engineers the basics of military and command training.

This training addresses the notions of command, leadership and interpersonal skills, taught in the management courses.

The engineering students acquire the military management methods that will be indispensable to them as future managers or leaders, namely: identifying the challenges of the leader’s position, learning to stand back and to anticipate.

The human training period is a compulsory part of the program for all first-year engineering students, for a period of six months, in the army and the Gendarmerie or in a civilian organization. It is carried out in metropolitan France, overseas or abroad. Civilian training was introduced in 1996, the year of the mandatory military service in France.

During this specific training program, which has no equivalent in other Engineering Schools, each student becomes aware of the importance of the human factor in the working world and develops his or her interpersonal skills within the group.

This experience is designed to encourage open-mindedness and knowledge of social realities for students who will be called upon to exercise engineering and management responsibilities in the future.

The human training period is a coherent complement to the business internship (2nd year), the scientific research internship (3rd year) and the professional training internship (4th year).

Two thirds of French engineering students complete their training within the Ministry of the Armed Forces. One third of them opt for a civilian organization.

Throughout their training, students continue to work in the community and cultivate a sense of general interest through sports.

From the end of the first year of the Ingénieur Polytechnicien Program, students choose their sports section among 15 disciplines: athletics, rowing, basketball, orienteering and raid, horse riding, climbing, fencing, soccer, golf, handball, judo, swimming, rugby, tennis and volleyball.

The sports section chosen remains the same for the entire schooling period, namely for the 2nd and 3rd year sports courses. Engineering students are required to practice one of the 15 sports disciplines for 6 hours per week. The trainig is delivered by military officers and sports professionals.

Finally, three lecture cycles introduce students to major societal issues, covering general culture themes, and thus complete their knowledge:

  • The "Great Witnesses" cycle
  • Companies" and "professions" cycle
  • International relations" cycle

Each cycle includes four to five lectures given by outside keynote speakers.


The involvement of Polytechnic students in military ceremonies specific to the School or marking major national commemorations is an opportunity to celebrate the values of courage, self-sacrifice, loyalty, discipline and command that are at the heart of the military and Polytechnic heritage.

The Bastille Day parade

During the Bastille Day military parade, a detachment of polytechnicians leads the French Army on the Champs-Élysées, and has done so since Sadi Carnot was president in 1887.

This detachment from the École Polytechnique marches behind its flag, which was given to the School during the Oath of the Army made to Emperor Napoleon  after the distribution of the eagles, December 5th, 1804. On this flag is embroidered the motto given by Napoleon to the School: "For the Homeland, the Sciences and the Glory". Since the Battle of Paris in 1814, the flag bears as its only feat in battle: "Defense of Paris, 1814". On March 23rd, 1901, the second flag of the School was presented by Emile Loubet, President of the Republic. Its tie is decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor, the Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 and the Croix de Guerre 1939-1945.

The commemoration ceremonies of November 11th, 1918 and May 8th, 1945

Polytechnic students take part in the annual ceremonies commemorating the Armistice of November 11th, 1918, which put an end to the First World War, and the victory of the Allied forces over Nazi Germany and the end of the Second World War in Europe on May 8th, 1945.

Tributes to the military and resistance fighters graduated from the École Polytechnique

Polytechnic students regularly pay tribute to their former graduates who have distinguished themselves by their feats of arms and bravery.

Presentation and handing over of the flag, taking of arms for the departure of the graduating classes

The traditional military ceremony of presentation and handing over of the flag from one class of Polytechnic students to the next is a guarantee of continuity, sharing and transmission between the different generations of Polytechnic students in their commitment to serve the country.

The taking up of arms marks the departure of a class from the campus. It ends with the handing over of the torches of the departing class to the next one, which is then responsible for embodying the identity and values of the School.

The Sainte Barbara ceremony

The ceremony of Saint Barbara, patron saint of miners, firemen and fireworks technicians, celebrated on December 4th, is organized each year in the Coutyard of Honour of the École Polytechniue and brings together the two classes present on campus. They are harangued by the Director General of the School who reminds them of the meaning and scope of its military identity.