Collective name for the leading specialized higher‐education institutions outside the university system in France. Their graduates provide most ministers, in governments of all persuasions, they educate the highest echelons of the public service, and provide three‐quarters of managers in the 200 largest private companies, as well as filling a huge percentage of responsible posts elsewhere. The most prestigious is the École Polytechnique, followed by the École Normale d'Administration and the École Normale Supérieure. Despite differences in the subjects studied and in style, there is a certain intellectual community which gives a degree of continuity to governments of the left and the right, and to the other ruling groups. The Grandes Écoles demonstrate the hierarchical nature of education in France and its immense importance in political and economic life.