Monday, February 6, 2012

Campus Paris-Saclay

Of course, I like to follow what happens to places where I used to work and live. One of these was the Plateau de Saclay, and this, it seems has just been selected for gargantuan funding under IDEX-2.

IDEX appears to be the French version of the "Exzellenzinitiative" in Germany, in which I partook six years ago. This came when Germany recognized that having a couple of universities in the top twenty would do wonders for its image, so the Minister concerned suggested creating a Teutonic MIT. Now you can't just do this, because it takes a lot of dosh, and putting all that money in one place wasn't politically viable (too few would benefit and the rest would lose), so it was diluted a bit, and instead gave a useful but, in my opinion, indecisive helping hand to the top 10-15 universities. (A minuscule fraction of the Heidelberg funding went to paying part of my visits there over the last 5 years).

Now, it appears, the French are thinking likewise, and with massive amounts of dough (about $10bn). Now this goes against the mores of the egalitarian France I used to know that would fund individual CNRS researchers with small salaries, no equipment and give them complete freedom for life with no accountability. But even France, it seems, can't abide languishing way down in the Shanghai rankings, and so it is that there will be the haves and have-nots. Paris-Saclay is a big 'have' and will be drinking champagne. Grenoble, another candidate, and where I did my Ph.D., lost out, so they will have to hit the whisky.

Paris-Saclay: Le Campus Aujourd'hui

Le Campus Demain

1 comment:

  1. Kudos to the Paris-6 one as well (now "Sorbonne Universites"). Looks like the 1960s' academic fragmentation is over - now it takes some work to put the pieces back together. Looking at the Saclay map: looks like Oxford or Cambridge colleges. Will these units be able to work together, or is it just a real estate coup? I don't see what good can come out of it if inter-institute collaboration is not encouraged beyond just having them geographically close to each other. It takes more than physical proximity to make a MIT: complete administrative, pedagogical, financial and executive autonomy of the universities, in particular in recruiting faculty and students, and of course awarding $$ on a competitive basis.