The newly-elected boards from two of the most reputed Paris-based universities, University Pierre and Marie Curie (UPMC) and Paris-Sorbonne University, have formally agreed to merge by January 2018 following the re-election of pro-merger presidents at both of the elite institutions.

The merger will combine UPMC, one of France’s leading institutions in terms of science and medical research, and Paris-Sorbonne University, the globally-respected provider of high-quality education in the humanities and social sciences.

The brand-new university will host a total 55,000 students, including those at doctoral level, alongside 6,600 highly-qualified academic staff.

The consolidation plan is to be presented to an international academic panel on 26th April 2016, set up by the French government to support the nation’s Grand Excellence Initiative, which forms part of a drive to form ten French ‘mega’ universities, or federations, capable of competing among the global elite of higher education.

Mergers have already taken place in major provincial centres such as Marseilles, Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Grenoble.

Professor Jean Chambaz, president of UPMC, and his counterpart at Paris-Sorbonne, Professor Barthélémy Jobert, both voiced their dedication to the merger in what University World News has described as “the biggest shake-up of higher education in the French capital for 45 years”.

Jobert says Paris-Sorbonne is incredibly excited by the prospect of the merger, stating it will create an interdisciplinary teaching and research powerhouse based in the French capital that is capable of rivalling the world’s leading universities.

Chambaz told University World News: “One of the biggest limitations of French universities came over four decades ago when they separated along disciplinary lines. One had all sciences, another only the humanities, another just law and economics.

“UPMC was created from the science and medical faculties of the old Sorbonne, the University of Paris, which split in 1970. Paris-Sorbonne had the arts and humanities.

“But to address the challenges of the world, like climate change, we need to build a comprehensive university containing all these disciplines.

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

The new merger forms part of the government’s plan to increase cross-disciplinary collaboration between French institutions. It is reported that the government has already provided an investment of €900 million (US$1 billion) to assist the merging process, though details of the institutions involved are yet to be made public.

“Success will be creating a new model of global university in France, with independent, autonomous faculties as well as a presidency who will speak for the whole university,” says Jobert from Paris-Sorbonne.

“It’s quite a radical step for France, which has been ranked near the bottom in terms of higher education autonomy by the European University Association.

“In many ways, we are fortunate in being able to benefit from the experience of the mergers so far in Marseilles and elsewhere in France,” he says. “But we have also looked abroad at other mergers, such as those in Manchester in the UK, Berlin and the creation of Aalto University in Finland, for inspiration.”

The University of Technology of Compiègne and Panthéon-Assas University’s school of law economics, otherwise known as the Sorbonne University Group, could form part of the new merged university in the near future.

As of yet, no name has been decided for the university created from UPMC and Paris-Sorbonne, but both Chambaz and Jobert have confirmed it will include the word ‘Sorbonne’ to carry through the university’s strong, global brand.

Additional reporting by University World News.

Image via Flickr.

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