“After 10 years, PSL now has its own identity” Frédéric Worms, Director of the ENS-PSL
On the 10th anniversary of Université Paris Sciences & Lettres, Frédéric Worms, Director of the École Normale Supérieure - PSL, looks back on the major scientific and academic achievements that have marked the University’s first ten years and shares his vision for the main challenges of the decade ahead.
PSL: Ten years ago, the École normale supérieure, along with four other schools, laid the foundations of the future Université PSL. How do you look back on how far you have come?
Frédéric Worms: It’s very simple: PSL now has its own identity and ENS has truly become ENS - PSL. Let’s start with this second point. ENS-PSL is now formally a component school of a University with its own original and well-established statutes. It is now fully a Grande Ecole University, as a result of all the PSL degrees (the ENS’s own graduate degree - the DENS -, Master’s degrees, Doctorates, and also participation in the CPES Multidisciplinary Undergraduate degree) and all the Graduate Programs. It has opened up a new dimension in its research policy at both national level (e.g. through the “Investments for the Future Program” - PIA) and international level (PSL rankings, visibility as a world class graduate school). Nor must we forget everything else that makes up life at PSL: relations between Schools, which are fundamental, relations between colleagues, between students, in this exceptionally rich common framework which extends across all aspects of university life, on all the university campuses located in the very heart of Paris. If we consider the famous ENS-PSL pairing from the other direction, we could say this: PSL has become a global and original University in its own right, confident in its collaboration at all levels, in its statutes, study courses, research programs and student life, fully acknowledging the activities of its component schools, and everything that connects them, in a way that is unique and whose potential we have only just begun to glimpse. The building of PSL and the transformation of the ENS (and of all the other component schools) are therefore entirely logical. They go hand in hand, and will affect all areas of study, across all of society, through their fundamental mission, research – in all disciplines of science and literature and between disciplines – where reinforcement and renewal are more essential than ever in the face of today’s scientific and societal challenges.
PSL: What are the main scientific and academic achievements that have marked these first ten years?
Frédéric Worms: Of course we must mention the major joint successes: the creation of graduate programs bringing together Master’s degrees and Doctorates in all areas of study and across all the schools, and with elective courses too. The major research projects that are only possible as a result of the unity of PSL: to give just a few of the many examples, PariSantéCampus and its institutes (Prairie, Q-Bio, Digital Health in Society), major Équipex facilities, Translitteræ, the SACRe program. Consider also the role played by PSL in national programs (Priority Research Programs and Equipment - PEPR), not to mention major programs to structure the campuses and student life (with success in calls for Excellence), coordinated actions in response to the pandemic, to gender-based and sexual violence and to the war in Ukraine. All this would be impossible without the gradual and impressive construction of governance, along with a shared culture and activity, from the School heads to the students and including all levels of responsibility. The École normale supérieure will continue to be at the heart of these projects, as was of course the case during Monique Canto-Sperber’s term of office and the two terms served by Marc Mézard.
PSL: In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing PSL over the next ten years?
In ten years we should be able to say: PSL is unique, it is the only global university that is really involved in building relationships between schools and individuals (especially its students) where everyone is and must be considered as an invaluable asset.
Frédéric Worms: The major challenges still to be faced are both external and internal. We must develop major scientific programs in different disciplines and fields of study (and of course reinvigorate the Labex), but there are also joint challenges, around health certainly, but also around climate, public policy and its link with research, and relationships between science and society. We must also build social and international openness, through controlled, properly funded, coherent growth, which must be truly innovative and appealing for all those whom this University is now attracting so strongly. And finally, PSL must ensure that it is fully appreciated for what it is, in its regional, national and international contexts, because its innovation and effectiveness are still little known yet full of potential. As for the internal challenges, these are clear too. The running of the university can be simplified now that the statutes have been acquired and understood. The specific features of the different schools can be pooled so that they can be a strength for us all to benefit from. We must fully adopt a European and international approach in actions that demonstrate the University in all its aspects. In ten years we should be able to say: PSL is unique, it is the only global university that is really involved in building relationships between schools and individuals (especially its students) where everyone is and must be considered as an invaluable asset.
PSL, 10 years on
This year PSL celebrates its tenth anniversary. To mark the occasion, we invite you to look back on some of the highlights over the past ten years — major scientific projects, new study programs, an increased and diversified range of services, and international visibility— focusing on the strengths of our schools.