Complicated succession at the head of Polytechnique

Published on September 12, 2023 at 9:05 am

The name of the future president of Polytechnic was expected in mid-July. But, as Eric Labaye’s mandate comes to an end – it ends on Saturday – some are raising the possibility of an interim which could last several months. It could be ensured by the current general director of l’X, Laura Chaubard.

Eric Labaye announced late – at the end of April – his decision not to run for a second term. Six candidates applied, arriving at a “short list” made up of Thierry Coulhon and Thomas Grenon, as revealed by the specialized media “News Tank” last June.

“No agreement between decision-makers”

Thierry Coulhon is president of the High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education and was advisor to Emmanuel Macron in charge of education and higher education during the previous five-year term. Thomas Grenon is Director General of the National Metrology and Testing Laboratory (LNE), former Director General of the Natural History Museum and polytechnician. He is an academic and holds a doctorate – he was admitted to l’X in 1977 but then resigned, reporting to former polytechnicians. “Which did not prevent him from having a rather remarkable academic career,” others point out.

“The Elysée has not decided, because there is no agreement between the different decision-makers,” confides a good expert on the subject. In this case, the procedure is led by the General Directorate of Armaments of the Ministry of the Armed Forces and the final choice falls to Emmanuel Macron, who must appoint the president of the school in the Council of Ministers, on the basis of a recommendation of the Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu.

This is what the procedure provides for but “disagreements” between the Elysée, Matignon, the Ministry of the Armed Forces (supervision of Polytechnique) and Bercy have so far resulted in a lack of decision, according to several sources. Bercy is involved as part of the Polytechnic Institute of Paris (IP Paris). Created around the supervision of Bercy. It is chaired by Eric Labaye. The Ministry of Higher Education also has an advisory role, but is not a decision-maker.

To get everyone to agree, “we could very well have two nominations, one with a university profile for IP Paris (Thierry Coulhon), and the other, more military, for l’X (Thomas Grenon)”, confides a good connoisseur of the file. ” The process [de succession] follows its course”, we are content to indicate at the Elysée. If this scenario were confirmed, this would require modifying the current decrees relating to Polytechnique and IP Paris. The boards of directors of the five schools would then have to give their agreement. The nomination procedure could take six to twelve months.

Consequences on strategy

If the organization were to be reviewed, this would also have effects on the strategy of the school and IP Paris. Some speak of the return of “two-headed governance, as before 2017”. Others ure that it would be a completely different scenario. Still others question the fact of changing the organization of the school to give priority to appointments – two names instead of one -, for lack of political agreement.

Unless a third, more political candidate enters the home stretch, “La Lettre A” recently suggested, evoking the name of Sébastien Soriano, director of the IGN (National Institute of Geographic Information). and forestry) and former special advisor to former minister Fleur Pellerin. He too was auditioned last May.

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