A college that become the epicenter of knowledge: the history of Sorbonne University is closely linked to that of the creation of the French university.

Sorbonne University: excellence by tradition

In the thirteenth century, the masters and students of the capital organized into a corporation to offer a complementary education to that of the school of theology of Notre Dame. Students flocked immediately from the "four Nations" - French, Picardy, Norman and English—and were lodged in pious foundations called "colleges", including the one founded by Robert de Sorbon in 1253 on the flanks of the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève.


Intended for the poorest students who were eager to undertake theological studies, the college of Sorbon obtained the approval of King Saint-Louis who confirmed its foundation in 1257. The establishment is quickly established as a faculty of theology renowned and establishes itself permanently in the heart of medieval Paris. The Italian poet Dante and the philosopher Saint Thomas d'Aquin both stayed there.

The Sorbonne over the centuries

From century to century, the college that is later called "the Sorbonne" plays a growing role in the life of the kingdom and actively participates in the intellectual debate—oscillating, according to an eventful history, between jealous conservatism and enlightened liberalism. Briefly closed after the French Revolution, it was reassigned to teaching during the Restoration by King Louis XVIII, who took the opportunity to also install the Academy of Paris and the School of Charters in 1821. The prestigious college became synonymous with the University of Paris, gradually bringing together the faculties of letters and science in the capital.


At the end of the 19th century, the city of Paris and the university were rebuilt together, which is why many university buildings, including the Sorbonne, belong to the city. In ten years, from 1885 to 1896, the French universities acquired the legal identity even if the rector remained the great master as happened under Napoleon. At the end of the 50s, in front of the poverty and the dilapidation of the premises of the Sorbonne, the faculty of sciences was allowed to move to the Halle aux Vins (the wine market), which became the future campus Jussieu.


After the events of May 1968 and to cope with the democratization of higher education, the Edgar Faure law reshaped the organization of universities. Thus, the University of Paris was divided into 13 universities, including Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris IV), specialized in letters, arts and humanities, and Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC - Paris VI) ), specializing in science and medicine. (see also the heading Patrimonies).

The creation of Sorbonne University on January 1, 2018

Paris-Sorbonne and UPMC started collaborating to create academic programs during the 2000s, which they reinforce as of 2010 with the creation of the Sorbonne Universities Foundation. The winner in 2012 of the Excellence Initiative (Idex) call for projects launched by the national governement, it enabled the communities of the two universities to create many ambitious projects. It is in the continuity of this common history that in 2015, the two institutions proposed to their communities to create a new merged university that would be multidisciplinary and world class: Sorbonne University. It was created on January 1, 2018.

Cours d'honneur de la Sorbonne
Sorbonne University: excellence by tradition © Sorbonne University
Updated on 25 JUL 2018