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PSL* (PSL Star)
LogoPSLetoile rvb 90x35.png
TypeResearch and Higher Education Institution
LocationParis, France
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PSL* (PSL Star)
LogoPSLetoile rvb 90x35.png
TypeResearch and Higher Education Institution
LocationParis, France

The PSL* project is a project presented in January 2011, in response to a tender of the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research for "Excellence Initiatives". This tender, which takes place within the framework of the "Investments for the Future" programme, launched by the French government, aims at overcoming the fragmentation of the French higher-education and research landscape and encouraging the formation of world-class universities. PSL* brings together 13 chartered institutions, located in Paris and the greater Paris area, and is represented by the Paris Sciences et Lettres - Quartier latin Foundation.

Chartered institutions[edit]

Member institutions cover a wide academic field, ranging from astrophysics (Paris Observatory), to arts (Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris, Conservatoire national supérieur d'art dramatique, École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs and École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts), as well as economics and management (Paris Dauphine University, Institut Louis Bachelier), engineering (École supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles de la ville de Paris, École nationale supérieure de chimie de Paris, MINES ParisTech), medical research (Curie Institute (Paris)). The project also includes the Fondation Pierre-Gilles de Gennes pour la recherche, named after the 1991 Nobel Prize laureate Pierre-Gilles de Gennes: this foundation is designed to develop links between scientists and the private sector, with a view to developing industrial and technological uses for fundamental research. Some commentators have considered the diversity of the stakeholders as a potential weakness, but PSL* proponents have rejected these claims and emphasized the great complementarity between partaking institutions.[1]

Paris-Dauphine University

PSL* and the "Investments for the Future" programme[edit]

Within the "Investments for the Future" programme, € 21.9 billion are to be allocated to higher-education and research projects. PSL* was constituted as a way to pool forces and reap benefits from this programme, so as to promote its excellence science and training tradition. PSL* has answered almost all tenders organized by the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research, notably: the Excellence laboratories (Labex), the Excellence facilities (Equipex), the Carnot institutes, the Research & Technology Institutes (RTI) and the Vehicles for Technological Transfer Acceleration (VTTA). The results of these tenders are announced following different schedules since the end of January 2011.

Excellence facilities (Equipex)[edit]

On January 20, 2011, the French minister for Higher Education and Research, Valérie Pécresse, unveiled the selected Equipex projects. The 52 laureates had been selected by an international committee, under chairmanship of the Canadian Philippe Le Prestre. The Equipex grants are intented to fund capital-intensive facilities for advanced scientific research, in all academic fields. The overall allotment for the Equipex is of € 340 million, of which € 260 immediately usable and € 80 million temporarily blocked as an endowment.[2] The selected projects will be awarded between 2 and 10 million euros.

PSL* institutions have obtained 7 of the 10 Equipex they had applied for. They represent all academic fields, from humanities to life sciences and physics. Most of the time, scientists belonging to non-PSL* institutions have been associated to these projects. Conversely, PSL* scientists may use Equipex facilities supported by other institutions.[3] For PSL*, the selected projects are:

Prominent scientists within PSL* perimeter

2 Nobel Prize laureates

4 Fields Medals

4 CNRS Gold medals

30 European Research Council Grants

40 Academies fellows

Excellence laboratories (Labex)[edit]

The results of the Excellence laboratories tender were published on March 25, 2011 by the French ministry for Higher Education and Research. Sometimes coupled with Excellence facilities, the Labex are to help promising research teams in all academic fields. Though some academics claimed that the Labex tender, as well as the Equipex one, had favoured hard sciences in comparison to social sciences and humanities, senior officials working for the "Investments for the Future" programme have absolutely denied it.[4]

PSL* institutions have obtained 11 Labex projects. Of this number, 6 projects directly supported by PSL* have been awarded a grant. Among those projects are the ENS-ICFP (physics), IEC (cognitive sciences), IPGGM (microfluidics), MemoLife (biology), TransferS (humanities and social sciences) and WIFI (wave physics). In addition to those awards, PSL* contributes to 5 national or regional Labex, through its member institutions: ESEP (astrophysics), FIRST-TF (frequencies), L-IPSL (climate modelling), OSE (economics), SMP (mathematics). PSL* institutions are also involved, on a freer basis, in many other selected Labex, such as the "Cultural industries and artistic creation" Labex, "Lifesenses", "UnivEarthS", "MiChem", "Matisse", and so on[5]

Observatoire de Paris

The tender for the Labex received harsh criticism, as a rumour spread that the French government had made a last-minute intervention to include laboratories led by leading scientists in the selection.[6] Among PSL* projects, only one project is said to have been saved thanks to this intervention, the Wifi Labex, supported by the physicist Mathias Fink.

Carnot Institutes[edit]

The second call for proposal of Carnot institutes enabled PSL* to reap 2 Carnot institute labels, while three projects had been submitted.[7] Those two institutes are:

The Carnot label aims at supporting joint research in financing partnerships between public laboratories and private actors. The label "Carnot Institute" is awarded for 4 years (on a renewable basis) to public research centers.[8]

Research & Technology Institutes[edit]

PSL* has applied for a Research and Technology Institute (RTI). This RTI will be focused on market finance and is supported by the Institut Louis Bachelier. It will concentrate on applied uses for mathematics in technical analysis. The results for this tender have not been revealed yet.

Vehicles for Technological Transfer Acceleration (VTTA)[edit]

The results for this tender are to be announced before June 2011.

The "Excellence initiative" Project[edit]

Beyond all those tenders, the PSL* "Excellence initiative" (Idex) project, submitted on January 7, 2011, encompasses a global growth strategy. PSL* partners have developed a strategy with 4-year and 10-year targets. On March 25, 2011, it was announced that the PSL* Idex belonged to the 7 short-listed projects. The final decision by the international committee in charge of the tender is to happen by the end of June[9]

The PSL* Idex lays the emphasis on the strong complementarity between member institutions. It asks for a € 1.2 billion endowment out of a € 7.7 billion nationwide allotment. Such an endowment would generate a yearly income amounting to € 40 to 50 million. PSL*'s goal is to form a collegiate research university, merging all member institutions within a new entity. They would nonetheless retain their autonomy and identity as "colleges" of the new PSL* establishment. Such a merger would considerably improve the international rating of these institutions.[10] The project may consistently be considered as an answer to anxieties about the low visibility of French institutions in international rankings.


Promising initiatives include:

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Such criticism may be read in Gilbert Béréziat's blog. He is himself a professor at the UPMC, a competing university (in French).
  2. ^ Official press release by the Ministry, January 20 2011 (in French).
  3. ^ Full list of selected Equipex, January 20 2011 (in French).
  4. ^ Interview de "La Tribune" avec René Ricol, senior manager for the "Investments for the Future Programme", April 15, 2011.
  5. ^ Official PSL* press release, March 25, 2011 (in French).
  6. ^ Article by the newspaper "Le Monde": "Grand emprunt: 100 projets de laboratoires d’excellence retenus" (in French).
  7. ^ PSL* press release, April 29, 2011.
  8. ^ Basic facts about Carnot Institutes.
  9. ^ Official press release by the Ministry for Higher Education and Research, March 25, 2011.
  10. ^ According to an impact-factor study quoted by the Idex document, PSL* would rank among the top 20 universities worldwide (ARWU and THE rankings) and even among the top 10 in some subjects (mathematics, physics, astrophysics).
  11. ^ "Les Echos": "Classement de Shanghaï : les universités françaises piétinent au niveau mondial" (in French).
  12. ^ Interview Paris-Dauphine University Chairman, Laurent Batsch, in "Le Monde", 27 avril 2011.
  13. ^ The website of the Collège de France alone claims 9 million individual watchings for its online video offer.