The quality of university level education in developing countries (North Africa in my case) is mediocre at best, especially in the sciences (my interests lie primarily in mathematics). I've found that the appropriate places for getting this education would be France or Russia, more specifically ENS and l'École Polytechnique in Paris (I'm aware that going to the classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles is strongly advised, but how can I avoid going there if possible?) and the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow (which teaches in Russian which I will vigorously try to learn).

Can I study in my original country for a little while then go there? How do each of them cost? How can I proceed to achieve this almost impossible goal? If you know of any other good mathematical institution that accepts student from North africa, please suggest it.

  • 3
    You can't avoid going to a class prepa; and to only target these two is way too slim - probably the top 10 if not 20 ecoles d'ingenieur have top math education (...that is, if the recent changes didn't wreck the system). The entry exam to a an Ecole expects what amounts to a B.A. in math/physics, so you must attend a preparatory class. That said, good schools in England or Germany, say, have, language barriers aside, good quality math as well. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 0:37
  • Polytechnique has what is called "Admissions parallèles" for foreign university students .
    – SCO
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 10:56
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    @IbrahimApachi on the contrary, aiming only for two top universities is risky. A more sound strategy is to aim high AND a bit lower, just in case.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 11:49
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    @DanielFaustMontana Sorry, I have no idea. But I would apply for all the schools you wouldn't mind going to.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 12:12
  • 2
    @IbrahimApachi And when you apply only to "top schools" and are rejected, then what?
    – fkraiem
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 14:14

4 Answers 4


The African Institute for Mathematics (http://www.aims.ac.za/) is an institution meant to help those in your situation. Essentially, it is supposed to offer talented budding mathematicians from Africa the fundamentals to be competitive to apply to the top places all over the world.


One alternative, if you wish to study in a French-speaking country is the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in French-speaking Switzerland. It ranks highly in international rankings (overall higher than the schools you mentioned, although I don't know specifically for maths), and costs about 1300$/year in tuition (4.5 - 5 years to get Bachelor and Masters).

On the contrary to the French institutions you listed, the selection does not happen before you start the studies, but during them. The school is typically easy to enter, but there is a high dropout rate.

The typical route for prospective students who do not have a Swiss high school diploma is the Cours de mathématiques spéciales (never mind the silly name). It's a one year intensive math program to get you ready for the EPFL programs.

There is a significant community of French-speaking North-African students there, so it looks like this route is popular for you fellow nationals.

  • Seems pretty good,but I couldn't find any influential mathematician that studied there,does that matter? Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 21:38
  • @DanielFaustMontana I don't know the mathematics field well enough to answer that question.
    – Cape Code
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 22:07

Let me clarify the classes prépatatoires stuff : their sole function is to prepare student to a competitive exam. I don't know if as a foreign student can directly apply to the competitive exam.

However, as a foreign student you can apply for this instead :


It states that :

The Ingénieur Polytechnicien Program of Ecole Polytechnique recruits the best students who have completed two or three years of undergraduate studies in Science or in Engineering

Please check this admissions conditions as well:


You should give a phone call to the schools you mention. It's very likely they will help you sort this out!

As per this : http://www.admission.polytechnique.edu/home/ingenieur-polytechnicien-program/finance-your-studies-how-does-it-cost-to-study-a-l-x-/

Tuition fees are 4.000EUR, 12.000EUR, 8.000 EUR for 1st, 2nd and third year.

Please let me add that Polytechnique is the most prestigious school in France. Not being able to find the aforementioned elements by yourself is a kind of concern. I really don't want to be rude, but really want to emphasize that the education level is very very high!

  • Btw if you are interested, the exam takes place this month...
    – SCO
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 10:57
  • That's kind of expensive,do they offer anything to bypass that? Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 11:34

(Your idea of a 'good' institution seems rather strict to me.)

Montreal is home to a number of students from north Africa (and many other places), and gives you a choice of two languages (although English will be needed for most research careers in mathematics). Their fees are relatively low (although that might be changing).

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