Newest Review: ... still far too many students for the lecture theatre capacity etc. You have to really want to attend (get there early, sit on the floor...... more
Paris in the Springtime? (almost..)
University of Paris, Sorbonne
University of Paris, Sorbonne
Date: 02/04/02, updated on 10/12/03 (532 review reads)
Advantages: Well respected, In Central Paris, Cosmopolitan student population
Disadvantages: Very competitive, No 'campus' atmosphere, Unhelpful admin system
In comparison, you feel that you were 'spoon fed' at your typical UK university.
I studied French Law for two years at La Sorbonne-Paris 1, supposedly one (if not the) most respected university in France. Obviously the experience as a whole was very enriching, and you should never turn down the chance to live in such a beautiful, exciting city.... But from day one it was an administrative nightmare.
Obtaining a place at university in France is a right, not a privilege. As long as you have the grades and live in the catchment area they cannot exercise their discretion like UK universities- they have to let you in!
This results in a five-hour queue to enrol (designed to discourage those who just thought they'd give it a go). The outcome is still far too many students for the lecture theatre capacity etc. You have to really want to attend (get there early, sit on the floor...)
In addition, the exams are structured as 'concours' as in, only the top x percent will get through at any given stage. Here, we (the foreign) students were actually lucky, we were given fixed thresholds to obtain (otherwise, as you can imagine, we didn't stand a chance).
Another result of having catchment areas is that many French students live at home throughout university (certainly those in Paris did). This means that help with accomodation is virtually non-existant. You can try at the CROUS (Bvd St Michel Paris 75005)) but places are limited and much sought after. It is definitly advisable to start looking early - take a flat for the summer if you have to!
Something else that really surprised me was that there were virtually no PCs for student use, in fact for anyone's use. The whole admin system still works by paper and filing cabinet (hence the slow enrolment and total disruption if you ever dare to change group, re-schedule an exam...) I guess the plus side to this is that it is still perfectly acceptable to hand-write es
says etc, whereas that's considered a bit second-rate in our universities, isn't it?
Bien sur, your French improves quicker than you ever thought possible, you meet people from all over the world, and when you achieve the results it's that much more rewarding because, my word, you worked for them!
What I'm trying to do is warn of the difficulties, not put anyone off. Quite possibly Paris 1 is an exception due to its prestige. It is also a fact that this university attracts many of the top professors from accross Europe. It's not unusual to walk into a lecture and find that it's being taken by someone who is constantly quoted in articles and text books.
The range of courses available is somewhat limited, Paris 1 specialises in Law and Economics. This means that there is an excellent library containing books on every aspect of these subjects, however as expected, it too is rather over-crowded.
I would recommend studying abroad to anyone and one of the best ways is to go through a UK uni (a sandwich course or the Erasmus programme). If you do it this way, then at least you maintain a minimum of support.
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