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Following the previous pioneering fusion of three French universities – Louis Pasteur University, Marc Bloch University and Robert Schuman University – into a single University of Strasbourg, two new “champion universities” were inaugurated in January in France. Aix-Marseille University (Université d'Aix-Marseille) was created by the merger of three universities in the southern France: the University of Provence, the University of the Mediterranean and Paul Cézanne University. As of 1 January, it is the largest university in France, with nearly 70 000 students. In parallel, a single University of Lorraine (Université de Lorraine), with almost 55 000 students, was created in a fusion of Lorraine National Polytechnic Institute, Henri Poincaré University (Nancy 1), Nancy 2 University and Paul Verlaine University.
These mergers are largely inspired by history and the new realities of the higher education landscape in France. As a result of student protests in 1968, bigger regional universities were divided into smaller institutions with less autonomy. With the launch of the “operation campus” programme, regional universities are encouraged to (re)create so-called territorial pacts within their traditional contours. It is assumed that this move will help merged universities boost their international visibility and evolve into engines of regional growth. The newest mergers will likely produce a systemic impact on the French university landscape, with other university cities expected to follow their pattern.Université d'Aix-Marseille Université de Lorraine