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France’s “Silicon Valley” makes room for mega-university

Harvard and Oxbridge, beware. The University of Paris-Saclay, France’s latest bid for global excellence in higher education, will open its doors to its first full generation of students and researchers on September 2015. Paris-Saclay is no ordinary university: It is a community of 19 higher education institutions, including two universities, ten grandes écoles, and seven national research institutions, all coming together alongside a business hub on the outskirts of Paris. Among the 19 “Founding Members” one finds heavyweights such as the École Polytechnique and the École Normale Supérieure, as well as the university of Paris-Orsay and the HEC business school. Together, these “Paris-Saclay’s strategic location among industry giants such as Siemens, Thalès and Danone will allow the mega-university to establish strong links with industry, encouraging the output of world-class research that can be quickly applied to France’s manufacturing and service sectors. Already, new public-private joint labs are being developed in the fields of information technology and energy efficiency, among others, which will benefit from the support of private and public contributors. 
The project is being funded in great measure by the State. EUR 2.8 billion have already been allocated for the construction of the campus and the relocation of some of the founding institutions, as well as for the development of research, academic collaboration and internationalisation initiatives, to mention a few. The Metro line will also be extended to connect the high-tech hub to the centre of Paris in 35 minutes.
Although the first full academic year in Paris-Saclay starts this coming September, the campus already hosts 300 research laboratories and over 15 000 masters and doctoral students combined. Academic publications under any of its 19 member institutions are already using Paris-Saclay as a common trademark. Still, it remains unclear just how this large group of markedly different institutions will cooperate, and how much autonomy they will be willing to cede in order for a common project to succeed. The transition is not likely to be seamless. 
Read more: The Conversation