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The history of Paris Descartes University

In 1971, René Descartes – Paris V University was created through the reform of the University of Paris. This shift separated the original institute’s faculties (medicine, pharmacy, literature and human sciences, sciences, and law) into eight separate and newly created universities in Paris.


The first additions included the University Technology Institute, the Sports and Physical Activity Techniques and Sciences Training and Research Unit, the Faculty of Dental Surgery, and the Saints-Pères Biomedical Training and Research Unit. The Malakoff Faculty of Law was added in 1976.
In 2004, the university underwent significant changes once again. The three faculties of medicine affiliated with Paris 5 (Necker, Cochin, and Broussais) merged to become the Paris Descartes Faculty of Medicine, thereby offering students a new, wider range of specialty and training options.
At the same time, the university was one of the first to switch its degree program to a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree system (also known as the 3-5-8 year system) in an effort to align its approach with that of other European universities. This program, which is based on the European Credits Transfer System (ECTS), makes students’ skills easier to understand outside of France and fosters increased international mobility.

René Descartes (1596 – 1650)

When it was founded, the university decided to align itself with the philosophy of René Descartes (1596-1650), whose truly modern scientific approach, which covered the full range of human knowledge, proved to be the perfect fit for a multi-disciplinary university.

Born in Touraine, René Descartes studied at the Jesuit Faculty of Henri IV. While serving in the army, Descartes experienced three dreams in one night that re-wrote the course of his life. These dreams showed him a glimpse of “the foundation of an admirable science” that he strove to explain for the rest of his days. This mathematician, physicist, metaphysicist, moralist, and philosopher ushered in the era of modern thought.