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Mega university planned for Paris’s Left Bank

In order to be more globally competitive, two of the French capital’s most prestigious universities, Paris-Sorbonne and Pierre and Marie Curie (UPMC) are becoming one.

Place de la Sorbonne. No name has yet been decided for the new university of arts, sciences & medicine, but it is expected to carry the global recognised brand, Sorbonne. Photo: Alan

The fusion between Paris 4 and 6 is expected to strengthen their worldwide positioning and increase international visibility.

The merger, set to take place January 1, 2018, will result in a huge university of three faculties with 55,000 students and 6,600 academic staff.

The move is part of a government initiative to create up to 10 French mega universities.

“It is quite a radical step for France, which has been ranked near the bottom in terms of higher education autonomy by the European University Association,” said Professor Jean Chambaz, president of UPMC. “In some ways we are recreating the old Sorbonne, but for the 21st century.”

The merger will result in a huge university of three faculties with 55,000 students and 6,600 academic staff

UPMC, also known as Paris 6, is one of France’s leading institutions in science and medical research. Paris-Sorbonne University, or Paris 4, is a globally known and respected provider of high-quality education in the humanities and social sciences.

However, according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also known as Shanghai Ranking, UPMC held the 35th position in the world, 6th in Europe and 1st in France in 2014. In contrast, the QS World University Rankings recently placed the Paris-Sorbonne University number 222 in the world.

The fusion between Paris 4 and 6 is expected to strengthen their worldwide positioning and increase international visibility.

Thomas Estermann, director for governance, funding and public policy development at the EUA, explained that “bigger universities can gain higher profiles and boost global reputation”.

Speaking with The PIE News, Katherine Tyrka international communications officer at UPMC said the merger is a natural choice “because in addition to their long history of collaboration, [the two universities] have the same status in terms of public research and are geographically closest”.

A little more than a kilometre away from each other, both institutions sit in Paris’s Latin Quarter, on the iconic Left Bank.

The move will also partly undo the 1971 break-up of the unified University of Paris into separate structures which is seen today as resulting in an uneven distribution of academic domains.

“In some ways we are recreating the old Sorbonne, but for the 21st century”

“Universities began to recognise that societal challenges require holistic responses,” said Tyrka. This means creating academic programmes that have a much broader range of disciplines working together, she said.

The organisation and governance adopted by the new university must ensure that each faculty department or school retains its current structures, internal shared services and decision-making capabilities.

No name has yet been decided for the new university of arts, sciences & medicine, but it is expected that it will carry the globally recognised brand, Sorbonne, in its designation and open its doors at the start of 2018.

The Ministry of Higher Education and Research is expected to endorse the merger in a decree early next year.

Similar mergers have already taken place in other major French higher education centres, including in Marseilles, Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Grenoble.

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