In the early 9th century, the emperor Charlemagne mandated all churches to give lessons in reading, writing and basic arithmetic to their parishes, and cathedrals to give a higher-education in the finer arts of language, physics, music, and theology; at that time, Paris was already one of France's major cathedral towns and beginning its rise to fame as a scholastic centre. By the early 13th century, the Île de la Cité Notre-Dame cathedral school had many famous teachers, and the controversial teachings of some of these led to the creation of a separate Left-Bank Sainte-Genevieve University that would become the centre of Paris's scholastic Latin Quarter best represented by the Sorbonne university.

Twelve centuries later, education in Paris and the Paris region (Île-de-France région) employs approximately 330,000 people, 170,000 of which are teachers and professors teaching approximately 2.9 million children and students in around 9,000 primary, secondary, and higher education schools and institutions.[1]

Primary and secondary education

Paris is home to several of France's most prestigious high-schools such as Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Lycée Henri-IV, Lycée Janson de Sailly and Lycée Condorcet. Other high-schools of international renown in the Paris area include the Lycée International de Saint Germain-en-Laye and the École Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel.


In the academic year 2004–2005, the Paris Region's 17 public universities, with its 359,749 registered students,[2] comprised the largest concentration of university students in Europe. The Paris Region's prestigious grandes écoles and scores of university-independent private and public schools have an additional 240,778 registered students, that, together with the university population, creates a grand total of 600,527 students in higher education that year.[2]


Sorbonne Chapel

The cathedral of Notre-Dame was the first centre of higher-education before the creation of the University of Paris, Le Sorbonne, which was founded in about 1150.[3] The universitas was chartered by King Philip Augustus in 1200, as a corporation granting teachers (and their students) the right to rule themselves independently from crown law and taxes. At the time, many classes were held in open air. Non-Parisian students and teachers would stay in hostels, or "colleges", created for the boursiers coming from afar.

Already famous by the 13th century, the University of Paris had students from all of Europe. Paris's Rive Gauche scholastic centre, dubbed "Latin Quarter" as classes were taught in Latin then, would eventually regroup around the college created by Robert de Sorbon from 1257, the Collège de Sorbonne. [4] The University of Paris in the 19th century had six faculties: law, science, medicine, pharmaceutical studies, literature, and theology. Following the 1968 student riots, there was an extensive reform of the University of Paris, in an effort to disperse the centralised student body. The following year, the former unique University of Paris was split between thirteen autonomous universities located throughout the city of Paris and its suburbs. Each of these universities inherited only some of the departments of the old University of Paris, and are not generalist universities. Panthéon-Assas University, Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Paris-Descartes University and Paris-Nanterre University inherited the law faculty; Paris Descartes University, Paris-Diderot University and Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University inherited the medicine faculty, and the latter two inherited the scientific departments; Paris-Sorbonne University and Sorbonne Nouvelle inherited the arts and humanities.[5]

In 1991, four more universities were created in the suburbs of Paris, reaching a total of seventeen public universities for the Paris (Île-de-France) région. These new universities were given names (based on the name of the suburb in which they are located) and not numbers like the previous thirteen: University of Cergy-Pontoise, University of Évry Val d'Essonne, University of Marne-la-Vallée, École supérieure Robert De Sorbon and University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.

Grandes écoles

The Paris region hosts France's highest concentration of the prestigious grandes écoles – specialised centres of higher-education outside the public university structure. The prestigious public universities are usually considered grands établissements. Most of the grandes écoles were relocated to the suburbs of Paris in the 1960s and 1970s, in new campuses much larger than the old campuses within the crowded city of Paris, though the École Normale Supérieure has remained on rue d'Ulm in the 5th arrondissement.[6]

The Paris area hosts 55 grandes écoles, including a high number of engineering schools, some of them led by the prestigious Paris Institute of Technology (ParisTech) which comprises several colleges such as Arts et Métiers ParisTech, École Polytechnique, École des Mines, AgroParisTech, Télécom Paris, and École des Ponts et Chaussées. Other prestigious engineering schools are located in Paris, including École Centrale Paris, considered one of the top 3 in France, and Supélec. There are also many business schools, including INSEAD, ESSEC, HEC and ESCP Europe. The administrative school such as ENA has been relocated to Strasbourg, the political science school Sciences-Po is still located in Paris's left bank 7th arrondissement. The Parisian school of journalism CELSA département of the Paris-Sorbonne University is located in Neuilly-sur-Seine.[7]

The grandes écoles system is supported by a number of preparatory schools that offer courses of two to three years' duration called Classes Préparatoires, also known as classes prépas or simply prépas. These courses provide entry to the grandes écoles. Many of the best prépas are located in Paris, including Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Lycée Henri-IV, Lycée Saint-Louis, Lycée Janson de Sailly, and Lycée Stanislas.[8] Two other top-ranking prépas (Lycée Hoche and Lycée privé Sainte-Geneviève) are located in Versailles, near Paris. Student selection is based on school grades and teacher remarks. Prépas are known to be very demanding in terms of work load and psychological stress.[9]


  1. ^ La Préfecture de la Région d'Île-de-France. "L'enseignement" (in Français). Archived from the original on 24 August 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2007. 
  2. ^ a b Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Paris –Île-de-France (2006). "Paris Region : key figures 2006" (PDF). Archived from the original on 22 July 2006. Retrieved 4 July 2006. 
  3. ^ Tellier 2009, p. 283.
  4. ^ Compayré 2004, p. 205.
  5. ^ "Paris-Sorbonne University". MICEFA. Retrieved 2 July 2023. 
  6. ^ "Contact and Maps" (in French).  
  7. ^ "Accès" (in French). Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  8. ^ "L'étudiant League Table 2008". Retrieved 5 May 2009. 
  9. ^ Power, Angie (17 November 2003). "France's educational elite".  

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