The university presidents of inner Paris last week unveiled ambitious plans to turn their old, cramped faculties into an international showcase for the new millennium, with modernised premises, new inter-university sites and improved amenities.
Thirty years after the Sorbonne split into eight separate institutions, the presidents are returning to closer collaboration, with proposals for common facilities such as libraries and an international university centre, and for setting themselves up as a consortium with other partners.
Neglected under the Universite 2000 expansion plan set up a decade ago, Paris is determined to benefit fully from the priority it was promised by education minister Claude All gre under the University of the Third Millennium programme. The project, which could cost e2.3 billion (Pounds 1.6 billion), will be organised and financed by the state, the Ile-de-France regional authority and Paris city hall.
Mayor Jean Tiberi this month offered 200,000 square metres of space near the new national library in a Left Bank redevelopment zone, where the presidents plan to relocate University Denis-Diderot (Paris 7), the Institut de Physique du Globe and the languages institute Inalco.
Other projects include an institute of art history, a centre of image and sound, a geography and science centre and an institute of Iberian and Latin-American studies.
To make student life more comfortable, new libraries, housing, and sports and cultural centres are needed, and a canteen near the Sorbonne will cater for five of the universities located nearby.
The presidents are also determined to restore the reputation of Paris as a leading international centre of learning by providing reception and conference facilities and accommodation for researchers and academics visiting from abroad.