Millennium project a runaway success

June 30, 2000

Halfway into its life, the Universite de Tous les Savoirs, France's millennium celebration of learning and knowledge, has been hailed as a huge success.

So far, more than 70,000 members of the public have attended the "university", which consists of a different free lecture by an eminent academic every day throughout this year. More than 300,000 people have also logged on to the university's internet sites.

Since January 1, topics covered have included life, biology and human sciences. The second part of the project, which began in mid-June, will include maths and the exact sciences, and the third section, which begins at the end of August, will cover education, technologies and culture.

In December, which has been left free to respond to public suggestions, the university will leave its Paris base at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers to give people in other French towns an opportunity to attend.

An average of 400 people a day are attending the lectures. A survey found that nearly four-fifths had some higher education; more than 40 per cent were employed full-time; 14 per cent were students; and 23 per cent were retired. All age groups were represented and three-fifths were women.

Jean-Jacques Aillagon, head of the organisation responsible for arranging France's millennium celebrations, said last week: "It is astonishing to see how the university has become a place for discussion between the public and lecturers, between lecturers and between members of the audiences - and to see how the debate continues outside the lecture hall, on the Metro or on the internet."

The first 40 lectures have been published as Universite de Tous les Savoirs, Volume One, Qu'est-ce que la vie? Editions Odile Jacob, (Pounds 16.66) and

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