Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions

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French University: From Napoleonic tradition to contemporary transformation

  • Jean-François CondetteAffiliated withCREHS (EA 4027) Laboratory Research, Artois UniversityESPE-Lille-Nord-de-France Email author 

Following a long period of common history with the other western countries, universities in France experienced a major break when they were closed in 1793 due to the French Revolution. The universities were revived only partially following the Revolution in the form of isolated faculties and were closely watched by the political powers of the time. The re-emergence of real universities turned out to be difficult in a context corresponding to the massification of higher education.

A Long Common Past with European Universities

In the early years of the eighteenth century, universities were corporations, i.e., communities that gathered professors and students around franchises. The oldest Paris University statuses were found in 1215. The academics of the time placed themselves under the direct protection of the Papacy, reducing the right of the local elites (bishops, princes, the king) to interfere. Considered to be an association of defence and mutual aid, the university gave its members a ...

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