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Q: University of Paris: Sorbonne ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: University of Paris: Sorbonne
Category: Reference, Education and News > Education
Asked by: gnossie-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 11 Feb 2005 08:19 PST
Expires: 13 Mar 2005 08:19 PST
Question ID: 472915
Everybody knows the University of Paris:  Sorbonne has a long and
distinguished history.

What a lot of people don't know is that the university was broken up
(around 1968, I think, as a result of student activism) into a slew of
smaller universities, some of which retained the Sorbonne name, some
of which did not.

All the universities now are known as the Sorbonne system.  Many of
them retain "Sorbonne" in their name; some do not.

Further, many of these universities these days, from what I
understand, are decidedly run-of-the-mill (i.e. non-competitive or
less competitive colleges), even if they boast the vaunted Sorbonne

However, there is supposedly still one Sorbonne university in Paris
that retains the exclusivity and high academic standards.

But which one is it?  The Sorbonne 5?  I believe it's Universite de
Paris IV:  Sorbonne.

So, the question: which of these universities still has the reputation
and high standards (if true), and DOCUMENT!
Subject: Re: University of Paris: Sorbonne
Answered By: leli-ga on 12 Feb 2005 06:57 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello gnossie

Paris IV is considered one of the leading French universities, with a
fine reputation, especially for literature and other humanities
subjects. Paris I also has a very good reputation, with more emphasis
on social sciences, and perhaps a less "traditional" image than Paris

The Nouvel Observateur says:

- Paris I and Paris IV have an international reputation for humanities.

"En France, la réputation mondiale va à Paris-I-Panthéon-Sorbonne et à
Paris-IV-Sorbonne, autant liée à la qualité des professeurs qu'à leur
lieu d?implantation."
(Typo in "le Top" list  confuses Paris I with Paris II)

- Toulouse I and II combined are the third university in France, after
Paris I and Paris IV, for research in humanities and social sciences.

"Ainsi en sciences humaines et sociales, Toulouse-I et Toulouse-II
réunies sont sans aucun doute la troisième université française
derrière Paris-I et Paris-IV."

See the associated table at:

The universities themselves say:

- Paris IV has, to a great extent, inherited the old Faculty of
Letters and Humanities. Since university re-organisation in 1971, it
has kept up the cultural heritage of the Sorbonne, centred on literary
disciplines and humanities, giving priority to the study of
civilisations and sound classical teaching.

"L?Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) a recueilli, en grande
partie, l?héritage de l?ancienne Faculté des Lettres et Sciences
humaines de Paris.
. . . l?héritage culturel de la Sorbonne, et cette vocation est axée
sur les disciplines littéraires et les sciences humaines, en plaçant
au premier rang des activités de l?université l?étude des
civilisations et le maintien de solides enseignements classiques."

- Paris I was formed from parts of the old Faculty of Law and
Economics and the Faculty of Letters and Humanities. It is the leading
French university centre for all disciplines deriving from economics,
administration, arts, humanities, law, and politics.

"Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne est le premier pôle universitaire français
toutes disciplines confondues : Sciences économiques et de gestion,
Arts et Sciences humaines, Sciences juridiques et politiques."

Paris III is the other university with Sorbonne in its name. There
don't seem to be any competing claims on its website.

Brown University says:

- "Paris I emphasizes art history, history, and political science;
Paris III is well known for modern literature and languages, as well
as film and theater studies; and Paris IV offers a traditional
approach to the humanities and classical studies"

1995 reports by the National Committee for Evaluation of Higher Education

The acknowledged excellence of much of Paris IV's teaching and
research gives it particular responsibilities, while its rich and
diverse strengths give it a national role.

"Conclusions et recommandations
L'excellence reconnue à un grand nombre des enseignements et des
recherches de Paris IV lui impose des devoirs particuliers. En
concentrant en son sein un potentiel souvent remarquable de
compétences riches et diversifiées, cette université joue un rôle
national dont elle est consciente à un point très aigu mais qui
mériterait, dans les faits, d'être sans doute encore plus soutenu."

Unfortunately the equivalent report for Paris I is inaccessible at the moment.
Google's cached version doesn't include the conclusions, but we can
see that Paris I's prestige is mentioned.
"une institution dont le prestige rejaillit un peu sur chacun"

I also came across an article written by a political activist at Paris
IV saying, approximately, that it has tended to be in the rear-guard
of modernisation and, while the university system is breaking down,
Paris IV has been able to keep its prestige.

I hope this answers your question, but please let me know if I should
clarify something.

Best wishes - Leli

search terms:

ancienne Sorbonne
Paris I
Paris IV

I also searched for "vraie Sorbonne" (true Sorbonne) and came up with
one vote for Paris IV:

and one discussion of Paris I:
gnossie-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
No, that's basically all I was looking for.  Thanks.

Subject: Re: University of Paris: Sorbonne
From: alexismartinez-ga on 13 Apr 2005 20:49 PDT
One may add that your answer is entirely accurate with regard to
humanities, which is in keeping with the Sorbonne's past as a college
of the Faculty of Theology within the larger University of Paris
(although the latter was/is often called Sorbonne by

With regard to the other subjects, as your references illustrate, and
as a further consequence of the division, one has to turn to other
universities. All the Medical Schools are excellent and roughly equal.
Paris II Panthéon-Assas is the leader for the study of Law

Paris IV does not compete in any of those subjects and Paris I does
not have a medical school. Paris II, which was founded as the
continuance of the Law Faculty of Paris, also teaches political and
social science but still has 80% of its student body studying law
Subject: Re: University of Paris: Sorbonne
From: j053f-ga on 17 Jul 2005 09:42 PDT
"Sorbonne" can be used for Paris I, Paris II, Paris III, Paris IV and
even Paris V.  Paris V is the only one of the five schools which is
oriented towards Science and Medicine (probably much more towards
Medicine than Science).

The original question is misleading in that the poster seems to think
that the high academic standards of the original University of Paris
were somehow lost when it was divided into smaller universities.  In
fact, the academic standards of all these universities (i.e. not just
the Sorbonne schools) remains quite high.  Where things gets confusing
is how they handle admission.  One of the peculiarities of the French
system is that in a quest for equal opportunity, any French citizen
who obtains a Bac is automatically entitled to attend university.

The Bac is the diploma granted at the end of French high school and is
roughly equivalent to first year university in the US.  Bac exams are
tough but anyone who passes them cannot be denied a spot at
university.  (Although this automatic access to university may be
limited to the region where the bac was obtained.)  However, getting
into a Paris university is no guarantee of being able to graduate from
it.  As mentioned before, all the University of Paris schools have
high academic standards.  It is left up to the students to prove that
they can meet these standards and many cannot.

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