FRANCE: More super-campuses announced

Valérie Pécresse, Minister for Higher Education and Research, has announced the four remaining locations for Operation Campus - a plan aimed at making French universities internationally competitive through substantially increased funding for a selected few. While Paris was conspicuously absent among the first six projects chosen at the end of May, three of the four new campuses will be situated in the capital or the surrounding Ile-de-France region. But a decision has been postponed on which of two inner Paris proposals will go ahead.

The 10 'super-campuses', each an alliance of several higher education establishments and research organisations, will share EUR5 billion of state funding in a bid to fulfil President Nicolas Sarkozy's ambition for at least 10 French centres of excellence of higher education and research to rank among the world's top universities (see "First super-campuses chosen", University World News, 15 June 2008).

The successful projects were chosen for their pedagogical and scientific ambition, building renovation needs, proposals for improving student life and the extent to which their region would benefit from their "structural and innovative character". They are:

* Pôle de Recherche et d'Enseignement Supérieur Aix-Marseille Université: a joint initiative by the three existing universities which are already planning to merge in 2010. Located in 11 towns in three Provençal departments in south-east France, they cater for a total of nearly 70,000 students, 10% of them from abroad.

Between them the three offer a multidisciplinary range of studies: Aix-Marseille-1, the University of Provence, specialises in arts and social sciences; Aix-Marseille-2, University of the Mediterranean, in health, sport and economics; and Aix-Marseille-3, University Paul Cézanne, in law, political science, applied economics and business management. Exact sciences - mathematics, physics, astrophysics, chemistry, biology, geology, environmental studies and engineering - are spread throughout the three establishments.

* Campus Condorcet Paris-Aubervilliers: this group brings together the universities of Paris-1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris-8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis and Paris-13 Paris-Nord with the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Ecole d'Economie de Paris and Ecole des Chartes. Pécresse has predicted the future campus will be a "centre of excellence in the social sciences".

* Campus de Saclay: situated south of Paris, this will be a vast scientific collaboration between 21 higher education and research partners. Among them are the University of Paris-11 Orsay, grandes écoles Polytechnique, HEC school of management, Mines Paris Tech and Centrale; the Commissariat à l'énergie atomique, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and research organisations specialising in areas including agronomy, physics, computer science, optics and telecommunications.

There will also be a super-campus in inner Paris but the decision on which project it will be has been deferred until a further audit has been carried out. There are two contenders: Campus Universitaire Paris-Centre is a joint proposal of the Universities of Paris-5 Descartes and Paris-7 Denis-Diderot, with the Institute of Political Sciences (Sciences Po) and the Paris Observatory.

The other, Paris Campus Quartier Latin, was submitted by Universitas, an alliance of the Universities of Paris-2 Panthéon-Assas, Paris-3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle, Paris-4 Sorbonne, Paris-6 Pierre et Marie Curie and Paris-Dauphine, with the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Collège de France.

Pécresse also promised state support for another seven projects to be designated "campuses of promise", in Lille, Nancy-Metz, Paris-Est, Campus Numérique de Bretagne, Nantes, Nice-Sofia Antipolis and Clermont-Ferrand; and four "innovative campuses" at Valenciennes, Le Havre, Cergy and Dijon.

The first six campuses announced at the end of May are in Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lyon, Montpellier, Strasbourg and Toulouse.