Students at this computer programming university learn without teachers – and there’s no tuition fee!


After taking France by storm since 2013, the revolutionary computer programming learning institution known as ‘42’ (taken from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy) has opened the doors of its U.S.-based branch in California this summer.

Following the same concept as its French counterpart, the university will train its students in coding and software development through working together on projects and marking each other’s work.

And yes, there are no teachers involved in the process.

That’s how the school operates – it charges no tuition fees and is entirely funded by its chairman and co-founder, French tech billionaire Xavier Niel, alongside several partners.

42’s chairman and co-founder, Xavier Niel. Image via

Despite the lack of teachers, the school’s Paris campus has seen booming numbers of applicants year to year.

42 offers an alternative to MOOCs (massive open online courses), as its students also gain the benefits of having a physical campus and regularly interacting with other students face-to-face, something which MOOCs students miss out on.

“So how do students learn at 42?”

Students can choose from a variety of projects covering the different kinds of I.T. jobs linked to development, like designing a website or a computer game. It can either be a group or individual project.

They can then use the computer labs, which are open 24/7, to complete the project, which has no deadline.

Once the finished project is submitted, it will be randomly assigned to another student for marking.

For every project completed, students will go up a level and can only graduate once they reach level 21, which normally takes three to five years.

During their studies, students also have to undertake internships. To qualify for an internship, a student must have completed a certain number of projects and passed five exams.

Graduates of the school will not be awarded a formal degree, but will receive a certificate.

According to the school’s founders, its peer-to-peer learning format makes up for shortcomings in the traditional education system, which they believe teaches students to passively absorb knowledge.

Speaking to the BBC, chief operating officer of 42 in California, Brittany Bir, said: “The feedback we have had from employers is that our graduates are more apt to go off and find out information for themselves, rather than asking their supervisor what to do next.”

Students at 42 not only learn vital I.T. skills, but also the soft skills needed for the “real world” of work, like confidence, self-sufficiency, and working in a team.

“This is particularly important in computer programming, where individuals are notorious for lacking certain human skills,” said Bir.

“How do I get in?”

First of all, you must be between the ages of 18 to 30 to qualify as a candidate.

To be accepted as a student at the school, interested candidates must then register on the school’s admissions system and take several online memory and logic tests to judge their capability.

Next is a second selection, known as the “Piscine” (the French word for “swimming pool”), where candidates undergo an intensive computer programming bootcamp over four weeks.

Recent graduates of 42 have gone on to work at some of the world’s leading technology and e-commerce companies, such as IBM, Amazon, and Tesla, as well as starting their own firms.

The school has been endorsed by many high-profile leaders in Silicon Valley, including Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of Snapchat; Keyvon Beykpour, co-founder and CEO of Periscope; David Marcus, vice-president of Facebook; Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack; Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb; and Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter.

Inspired by 42’s success, several coding schools based on its learning format have been set up around the world, such as South Africa, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Image via Facebook

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