Paris, University of

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Paris, University of

Paris, University of, at Paris, France; founded 12th cent., confirmed 1215 by papal bull. The most famous of its colleges was the Sorbonne, which opened in 1253 and gained academic and theological distinction during the late Middle Ages and early modern times; the name Sorbonne was often used to designate the university itself. The university was suppressed during the French Revolution and replaced in 1808 by an academy of the centralized Imperial Univ. of France (later the Univ. of France). In 1890 it was reestablished as a university.

The student riots of 1968, which paralyzed Paris for weeks, centered around the university and led to radical changes. In 1970 the university was divided into 13 universities located in Paris and its suburbs, and further reforms followed under the Higher Education Act of 1983; some of the successor universities have since consolidated. The new universities are state institutions enjoying academic and financial autonomy, operated under the jurisdiction of the minister of education and financed by the state. Each institution has a different focus and scale, appropriate to its status as an autonomous “unit of teaching and research.” Paris Dauphine Univ., for example, which focuses on business, finance, and computer sciences, has some 10,000 students, while Panthéon-Sorbonne Univ., with a more general curriculum, enrolls some 40,000.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Paris, University of


(the Sorbonne), one of the most important centers of education and scholarly and scientific research in France.

The history of the University of Paris goes back to 1215, when it was formed from cathedral schools. The first secular university in Europe, it had four faculties (divisions): arts, law, theology, and medicine. In 1257 a college named the Sorbonne, after its founder R. de Sorbon, was opened in the Latin Quarter of Paris. In the 17th century it merged for all practical purposes with the University of Paris, and its name became synonymous with that of the university. The buildings of Sorbonne College presently house a number of subdivisions of the university. The central building houses the Academy of Paris, libraries, lecture halls, laboratories, study rooms, and administrative services for a number of faculties in the humanities.

Throughout the Middle Ages and up to the 17th century, the University of Paris was the most important European educational institution and scholarly center in theology and jurisprudence. It was closed in 1793 by a resolution of the National Convention and reopened in 1806. Prominent scientists, such as J. Gay-Lussac, A. Lavoisier, L. Pasteur, P. Curie, J. B. Perrin, and P. Langevin were associated with the university.

The university has (as of 1972) faculties of law and economics, natural sciences, literature and humanities, medicine, and pharmacology. It has been divided into 13 independent units, ten of which have teaching and research divisions in economics, law, literature, and the humanities. One unit is devoted to medicine and biology, and the remaining two specialize in physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and the earth sciences.

The University of Paris houses more than 100 research institutes, centers, and higher schools (grandes écoles). It maintains close ties with the National Center of Scientific Research and the Commission on Atomic Energy, for which it prepares scientific workers. It has 35 specialized libraries. In 1972 it had a student body of 183,000 and a faculty of approximately 4,500. The famous scientists L. de Broglie (physics), A. Denjoy (mathematics), J. Dresch (geography), and J. Coulomb (geophysics) are among the professors who have taught at the university. The rector of the university is appointed by the French president upon the recommendation of the minister of national education.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.