Universities in Paris, France
About Universities in Paris, FranceParis, the “City of Light” and capital of France, has over a thousand years of history as a center of higher learning. In the 9th Century AD, a decree by the Emperor Charlemagne declared that all cathedrals in France had to offer higher education to people in their districts. Thus Paris, which was already a major center of worship and had a Catholic Cathedral, immediately became one of Europe’s first university towns. This reputation for higher learning accelerated as time went on, notably with the founding of the Sorbonne (1150), Notre Dame Cathedral (1345), and the Lycée Louis-le-Grande (1563).
Today, Paris maintains an illustrious reputation as one of Europe’s great centers of learning, and boasts a population of over 600,000 college students in its various public and private colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning. Given that the population of the Paris Metro Area is roughly 12 million, this translates to a rate of 5% - in other words, 1 out of 20 Paris residents are enrolled as college students – which does not even include the many graduate students, professors, staff members, independent researchers, library employees, and other higher-education employees. In total, the higher education industry accounts for a very significant proportion of Paris’s enormous population, hence its popularity as an academic destination.
With all this profusion of scholarly activity, the educational possibilities in Paris are effectively unlimited. They range from study-abroad programs in French language and culture all the way to doctoral programs in all areas of the arts, sciences, and humanities. Although most college degrees in Paris are conducted in French, many (especially those short-term study abroad programs) are taught in other languages, especially English. Due to the large number of international students attracted by such programs, and the general character of Paris as a crossroads of global culture, higher education in Paris is extremely diverse. This diversity is compounded by the wide range of academic work that takes place in Paris – not only are Paris’ students diverse in terms of their cultural backgrounds, but they also have an enormous range of interests and skills, making the student culture of this ancient city all the more dynamic.
One feature of French higher education that sets it apart from other countries is the small size and broad focus of most colleges and universities. Although there are a number of very large public institutions (notably Panthéon-Sorbonne, which has roughly forty thousand students), the majority are small, eclectic schools more along the model of American liberal arts colleges than the standard research university. They tend to offer a broad range of courses and do not specialize in any one area. As a result, degree programs in Paris and throughout France are often administered as consortium programs that combine faculty and resources of multiple institutions. A student may take classes at a number of different universities, and have borrowing privileges at multiple university libraries, all while pursuing a degree at a single college or university.