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The history of UTC

UTC, with its legal sta­tus as “a scien­ti­fic, cultu­ral and pro­fes­sio­nal public esta­blish­ment” was crea­ted in 1972 by the French Govern­ment as its first ‘expe­ri­men­tal Uni­ver­si­ty of Technology’.

Guy Deniélou, founder of UTC

Guy Denié­lou was born in Tou­lon, June 14, 1923 and he signed up with the French Navy in June 1940, moving to Cher­bourg, as a sub­ma­rine Offi­cer, to help desi­gn a French nuclear pro­pel­led sub­ma­rine. Trai­ned in nuclear engi­nee­ring 1957–1958, lea­ving the Navy in 1959, he was recrui­ted by the CEA (French Ato­mic Ener­gy Com­mis­sa­riat). Repor­ting to Prof Louis Neel, Guy Denié­lou par­ti­ci­pa­ted in the deve­lop­ment of the CEA-CEN nuclear research site, Gre­nobles; also gave courses on neu­tron phy­sics and reac­tor theo­ry at the Ins­ti­tut poly­tech­nique de Gre­noble (IPG). He desi­gned the rapid neu­tron reac­tor cal­led 'Phé­nix', fore­run­ner to the 'Super­phé­nix' bree­der reactor.

Genesis of an idea

During the 1960s, Guy Denié­lou joi­ned a 'govern­ment ad hoc group with some front-line per­so­na­li­ties such as Pierre Guillau­mat, inter­im minis­ter for Edu­ca­tion or Pierre Aigrain, Senior Direc­tor for Higher Edu­ca­tion schemes, who began thin­king about crea­ting a new applied science pilot ins­ti­tu­tion; they pro­po­sed the esta­blish­ment of a new uni­ver­si­ty which they bap­ti­sed "Paris Nord".

As they saw mat­ters, rela­ti­ve­ly back­ward posi­tion of France in tech­ni­cal mat­ters resul­ted from scorn for tech­no­lo­gy, seen as a sort of sub-culture that would not enable those who stu­died tech­no­lo­gi­cal sub­jects to attain high mana­ge­rial posi­tions … The ad hoc group pro­po­sed a novel engi­nee­ring diplo­ma course with its own merits and values.

Ope­ning the UTC vision to embrace the world was the second chal­lenge. Tech­no­lo­gy was to be taught in the esta­blish­ment, with the pro­vi­so of having indus­tria­lists not only on the Uni­ver­si­ty Board to have their say in stra­te­gic poli­cy choices, but also on the Aca­de­mic Scien­ti­fic Stee­ring Com­mit­tee to help define science poli­cy options, or to be present in the UTC depart­ments to help orient trai­ning course contents and choices.

In 1971, the year when 'tech­no­lo­gy' was intro­du­ced into French secon­da­ry schools (4th grade and 2nd grade, Pierre Bille­cocq, junior Minis­ter for Edu­ca­tion pre­sen­ted the fra­me­work of the new uni­ver­si­ty. Guy Denié­lou was then appoin­ted by Oli­vier Gui­chard, Senior Minis­ter for Edu­ca­tion, to over­see the crea­tion, esta­blish­ment and to be the first Pre­sident of the pro­to­type University.

Why choose Compiègne ?

The new uni­ver­si­ty was to be loca­ted in the Paris area, in a place cal­led Vil­le­ta­neuse. The govern­ment was pur­suing a poli­cy of deve­lop­ment of land plan­ning and eve­ry oppor­tu­ni­ty to lower the den­si­ty of the Paris area. But with the student riots in 1968, there was a fear that a new uni­ver­si­ty ins­ti­tu­tion at Vil­le­ta­neuse would sim­ply repro­duce the explo­sive condi­tions of Nan­terre. The choice fell on Com­piegne in 1969. Close to the Paris region, to the near­by Motor­ways and to (then future) Charles-de-Gaulle air­port at Rois­sy, Com­piegne has lots of land for deve­lop­ment pur­poses. It rein­forces the level of inter­ac­tions bet­ween engi­neers and the 'City'. It is a sym­bio­sis that can also be deve­lo­ped bet­ween the UTC under­gra­duates and Com­piegne, which at the time was not very deve­lo­ped in terms of ser­vice sec­tor acti­vi­ties. The final deci­sion was sup­por­ted by the then Mayor of Com­piegne, Jean Legendre, who imme­dia­te­ly saw the oppor­tu­ni­ties the new uni­ver­si­ty could offer his city.

Network of French universities of technology

Fif­teen year later, in Februa­ry 1985, Pre­sident Fran­çois Mit­ter­rand accom­pa­nied by Jean-Pierre Che­vè­ne­ment, Senior Minis­ter for Edu­ca­tion, came to Com­piegne and announ­ced publi­cly that sup­port in terms of man­po­wer and other resources would be for­th­co­ming. This was the context that led to the idea of crea­ting "a lit­tle sis­ter" uni­ver­si­ty of tech­no­lo­gy, a sub­ject of spe­cial inter­est to Jean-Pierre Che­vè­ne­ment. In May 1985, a series of nego­tia­tions took place bet­ween the Ecole de Micro­mé­can­qiue de Besan­con, major indus­trial concerns in the Franche-Com­té region (Alstom, Bull and Peu­geot) and UTC. The new branch uni­ver­si­ty was to spe­cia­lize in sur­face treat­ment tech­no­lo­gies and to desi­gn of indus­trial pro­ducts. The new esta­blish­ment was first loca­ted in the pre­mises of châ­teau Seve­nan, near the local city of Bel­fort. The first aca­de­mic intake took place Octo­ber 15, 1985. March 31, 187, Pre­sident Fran­çois Mit­ter­rand laid the cere­mo­nial "first stone" of the buil­ding that was to house (and become) the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tech­no­lo­gy Bel­fort-Mont­be­liard (UTBM).

UTC confir­med its "dif­fe­rence" in terms of uni­ver­si­ty struc­tu­ral inno­va­tion and was the new model to fol­low in the ear­ly 1990s. In 1992, a third branch uni­ver­si­ty was pla­ced on the dra­wing board, at the ini­tia­tive of the Aude Depart­ment Coun­cilUni­ver­si­ty of Tech­no­lo­gy of Troyes (UTT). The govern­ment decree to confirm the esta­blish­ment was signed in 1994 and the first gra­duates recei­ved their diplo­mas in 1996.

These three uni­ver­si­ties (UTC, UTBM and UTT) are now inter-rela­ted in a net­work and have cho­sen toge­ther to face a new chal­lenge: deve­lop­ment of inter­na­tio­nal affairs. In this fra­me­work, a joint edu­ca­tio­nal pro­ject was esta­bli­shed with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Shan­ghai (inas­much Chi­na has now become a key player in world-class higher edu­ca­tion. The ambi­tion assi­gned to UTSeuS (Sino-Euro­pean Uni­ver­si­ty of Tech­no­lo­gy of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Shan­ghai, ope­ned in Februa­ry 2005) is to train Chi­nese engi­neers to meet the needs of major inter­na­tio­nal groups and to enable French under­gra­duates to gain insights and hand-on prac­tice in Chi­nese culture. 
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