The École polytechnique (commonly known as Polytechnique or, in France, by the nickname X) is a state-run institution of higher education and research in Palaiseau, Essonne, France, near Paris.
Polytechnique is renowned for its four year undergraduate/graduate Master's program. Called the Ingénieur polytechnicien (polytechnic engineer) program, this attracts the strongest students from the two-year post-secondary-school science and math preparatory programs for the grandes écoles, provides those who pass the famously selective entrance exam with a broad scientific education, and opens the way for many of them to careers in positions of influence in government, industry, finance, and research. In addition to the 2000 polytechnic engineer students (of which only 1000 study on campus), there are 200 students pursuing two-year Master's degrees and 500 doctoral students, for a relatively small total enrollment of 2700.
The Polytechnique was established during the French Revolution in 1794 by Gaspard Monge, and it became a military school under Napoleon in 1804. It is still under the control of the French Ministry of Defence today. Initially, the school was located in the Latin Quarter of central Paris, and it moved to Palaiseau on the Saclay Plateau about 14 km (8.7 mi) southwest of Paris in 1976. It is a founding member of the ParisTech grouping of leading Paris-area engineering schools, established in 2007.
The Polytechnique is one of the grandes écoles that have traditionally prepared technocrats to lead French government and industry, and has been one of the most privileged routes into the elite divisions of the civil service known as the grands corps de l'état. This role is evolving. Since 1995, Polytechnique has admitted a significant number of international applicants to its polytechnic engineer program, and 20% of each cohort are now foreign students. The portion of graduates pursuing further university education, such as a second Master's degree or a doctorate, rather than entering the French civil service, has been growing in recent years to over 30%.