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The Sorbonne (UK: /sɔːrˈbɒn/, also US: /sɔːrˈbɔːn/,[1][2] French: [sɔʁbɔn]) is a building in the Latin Quarter of Paris which from 1253 on housed the College of Sorbonne, part of one of the first universities in the world, later renamed University of Paris and commonly known as “the Sorbonne”. Today, it continues to house the successor universities of the University of Paris, such as Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Sorbonne University, Sorbonne Nouvelle University and Paris Descartes University, as well as the Chancellerie des Universités de Paris. Sorbonne Université is also now the university resulting from the merger on January 1, 2018 of Paris 6 UPMC and Paris 4 Sorbonne.[3]

Collège de Sorbonne

The name is derived from the Collège de Sorbonne, founded in 1257 by the eponymous Robert de Sorbon as one of the first significant colleges of the medieval University of Paris.[4][5] The library was among the first to arrange items alphabetically according to title.[6] The university predates the college by about a century, and minor colleges had been founded already during the late 12th century. During the 16th century, the Sorbonne became involved with the intellectual struggle between Catholics and Protestants. The University served as a major stronghold of Catholic conservative attitudes and, as such, conducted a struggle against King Francis I's policy of relative tolerance towards the French Protestants, except for a brief period during 1533 when the University was placed under Protestant control.

The Collège de Sorbonne was suppressed during the French Revolution, reopened by Napoleon in 1808 and finally closed in 1882. This was only one of the many colleges of the University of Paris that existed until the French revolution. Hastings Rashdall, in Middle Ages (1895), which is still a standard reference on the topic, lists some 70 colleges of the university from the Middle Ages alone; some of these were short-lived and disappeared already before the end of the medieval period, but others were founded during the early modern period, like the Collège des Quatre-Nations.

Paris Faculty of Theology

With time, the college came to be the main French institution for theological studies and "Sorbonne" was frequently used as a synonym for the Paris Faculty of Theology despite being only one of many colleges of the university.

May 1968

After months of conflicts between students and authorities at the University of Paris at Nanterre, the administration closed that university on May 2, 1968. Students at the Sorbonne campus in Paris met on May 3 to protest against the closure and the threatened expulsion of several students at Nanterre.

On May 6, the national student union, the Union Nationale des Étudiants de France (UNEF) — still the largest student union in France today — and the union of university teachers called a march to protest against the police invasion of Sorbonne. More than 20,000 students, teachers and other supporters marched towards the Sorbonne, still sealed off by the police, who charged, wielding their batons, as soon as the marchers approached. While the crowd dispersed, some began to make barricades out of whatever was at hand, while others threw paving stones, forcing the police to retreat for a time. The police then responded with tear gas and charged the crowd again. Hundreds of students were arrested.

May 10 marked the "Night of Barricades", where students used cars, wood, and cobblestones to barricade the streets of the Latin Quarter.

When the Sorbonne reopened, students occupied it and declared it an autonomous "People's University".

Current state of affairs

In 1970, the University of Paris was divided into thirteen universities, managed by a common rectorate, the Chancellerie des Universités de Paris, with offices in the Sorbonne:

The thirteen universities are still managed by the same Rectorate and have their offices on the same original site as the Sorbonne.

Three of those universities maintain facilities in the historical building of the Sorbonne, and thus have the word in their name

These three universities can be considered as privileged successors, because they are housed in the same building and because they are located in the same Latin Quarter, home of the original "Sorbonne de Paris", and because they share the same professors, the same administration and the same quality of teaching.

The Sorbonne Chapel was classified as a French historic monument in 1887. The amphitheatre (Le Grand Amphithéâtre) and the entire building complex (façades and roofs) became monuments in 1975.[8]

Sorbonne name dispute

Despite being a highly valued brand, the Sorbonne universities did not register their names as trademarks until the 1990s. Over the following years, they established partnerships, merging projects and associated institutions with the name Sorbonne, sometimes triggering conflicts over the usage and ownership of the name.

Following the May 1968 events, French higher education was reorganized in the Faure law of November 12, 1968.[9][10][11] Some of the 13 autonomous universities created after the breakup of the University of Paris maintained operations in the Sorbonne building and decided to keep the word Sorbonne in their names: The University of Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne), the University of Paris 3 (Sorbonne-Nouvelle) and the University of Paris 4 (Paris-Sorbonne). Two other universities maintained operations in the building but opted to abandon the name: the University of Paris 5 (Paris Descartes) and the University of Paris 7 (Paris Diderot).[12]

Two additional higher education institutions also remained active in the historical Sorbonne building: the Ecole des chartes and the Ecole pratique de hautes études.[12] Furthermore, the University of Paris 2 (Panthéon-Assas), while not based in the Sorbonne building, does operate from the Panthéon site across the Cujas street.[13]

The common heritage and estate of the University of Paris (including the Sorbonne building) was not divided and instead placed under the authority of a common administration: the Chancellerie des Universités de Paris, whose headquarters are also located in the Sorbonne building.[9][14]

The building as a whole is then a common asset of the 13 successor universities of the University of Paris, and particularly the monumental sections are not attributed to any single university (but shared by all of them): the Sorbonne Chapel, the Cour d'honneur, the Pérystile and the Grand amphithéâtre.[12][15]

Some of the dependencies are administered by one of the successor universities (while remaining a common asset).

The classrooms, libraries and administrative offices are attributed to the Universities maintaining operations in the building: Panthéon-Sorbonne, Sorbonne-Nouvelle, Sorbonne-Université (which also has its headquarters), Paris Descartes and Paris Diderot. All of them also operate in other campuses established across Paris.

Despite being a highly valued brand, the Sorbonne universities did not register their names as trademarks until the 1990s. Over the following years, they established partnerships, merging projects and associated institutions with the name Sorbonne, sometimes triggering conflicts over the usage and ownership of the name.

However, almost 30 years went by without any of them registering their names as a trademark.

The local governments of Paris and the Île de France region threatened to block the merger of Paris 2, Paris 4 and Paris 6, who had trademarked the brand "Université de la Sorbonne",[17] if they persisted in taking over the name Sorbonne for themselves at the expense of the other Sorbonne universities.[21][22][23][24][25]

Later the merging project advanced only between the Universities of Paris 4 and Paris 6[26] but was forced to reconsider the name Sorbonne Université.

The new naming is then "Université Sorbonne Université" or "Université Sorbonne-Université"[27] though colloquially and in most communications, and in registered trademarks[17] is simply "Sorbonne Université". The first "University" in the name refers to the fact that it is a University – only public higher education institutions are allowed to use that term in France[28]– and the second "University" comes from the naming convention of adding a name after the City-number designation. Currently Sorbonne-Université is the only Sorbonne university not using a number in its name.

The University of Paris 2 (Panthéon-Assas) trademarked the brand "Université Sorbonne-Assas" in 2007 and "Sorbonne-Assas" in 2013.[17] It offers an international degree in its Sorbonne-Assas International Law School.[29]

See also

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