Let's come together to build the next century

Once upon a time...
the University of Burgundy

Birth of a faculty

Bernard Pouffier

Louis II (le grand Condé,
then Duc d’Enghien)
and his great grand-father
Henri II in 1638-1639

Once upon a time, an ancient ducal capital was very badly off indeed. The unfortunate city was in fact sorry to have neither a bishopric nor a university. For the first, the city had to wait until 1733; for the second, the happy event occurred in 1722. This moment had been in preparation for a very long time and thanks to its two protectors, the Parliament of Burgundy and the Prince of Condé, governor of the province, the city of Dijon could legitimately hope for the creation of its own university. But the gestation period had been difficult, and no doubt some evil fairies had conspired in the shadows, for the Sovereign finally authorized only a Faculty of Law. At its birth, the poor child seemed a bit puny. As for the other academic disciplines, they had to be taken under the wing of a good fairy godmother, the Academy of Sciences, Arts and Belles-Lettres of Dijon.

Street of law school
The hostel Despringles

But the worst was yet to come

But the worst was yet to come when, in 1793, institutions of higher learning were forced to close. Just over seventy years after the beginning of the adventure, all seemed lost. Fortunately, the interlude was short-lived. As early as 1808, our heroine came back to life with the reopening of the Faculty of Law. And very quickly, siblings arrived to keep this first faculty company, since in 1809 a Faculty of Sciences and in 1810 a Faculty of Letters were born. However, for a long time, Dijon had to settle for a Practical School of Medicine and Pharmacy, since the Faculty of Medicine was not established until 1967. Everything happened so quickly then that the newcomers had to make do with makeshift housing, still located in the historic heart of the city.

1896 the faculties become the university

However, for a good half of the 19th century, these faculties had little success (stagnation of the number of students, suppression of certain chairs, etc.). Everything changed in the last decades: Dijon was in the midst of a demographic boom (thanks to the Paris-Lyon-Marseille train line) and for the Third Republic, education was a priority. The long-awaited crowning achievement came in 1896 when, thanks to a new law, the various faculties finally formed a university. This event was celebrated with all kinds of festivities at the beginning of 1897. In the same spirit, it was finally decided to provide the new University with premises worthy of it, the jewel in the crown of which was the Faculty of Letters building (completed in 1914).

If the years around 1900 had been auspicious ones, the inter-war period was different. In 1922, we were about to celebrate the bicentenary of our heroine when the rumor began to spread that her end was near. Indeed, by decision of the Prince (the Ministry), a number of universities were to disappear the following year. And among them, the University of Dijon. As in the worst melodramas, the unfortunate university was to die on its birthday, or almost. Fortunately, resistance sprang up.

By inviting the President of the Republic (Alexandre Millerand) in 1923 to inaugurate the buildings which, in principle, were destined to be abandoned, the Ministry was forced to back down. But it was only a postponement, because in 1934 the whole thing started again: a new threat of closure, a strong resistance movement, and finally a new reprieve. In spite of these blows of fate, our heroine lavished her energies without counting the cost: a good mother, she now fed her students and sheltered them (the Maret housing site; the residence for female students); and she welcomed many foreigners, some from very far away. In spite of it all, the future remained uncertain.

Alexandre Millerand

Fate strikes again

Indeed, fate would strike again. On December 30, 1945, Santa Claus had barely come and gone when the bogeyman arrived. Lurking in a bill, a treacherous article planned to deprive Dijon and Besançon of their Science Faculties. Fortunately, the ruse was foiled. The inimitable Canon Kir took up the cause and the Ministry retreated once again. But yet again, the alert had been sounded. Marcel Bouchard, the new Rector who arrived in 1946, had learned his lesson. He understood that our heroine, cramped in ill-adapted premises, was doomed to wither. He decided to invite her to breathe deeply of the fresh air and to build her the palace she deserved, namely a campus. Like a true knight in shining armor, he fought tirelessly to save his Princess. So successfully did he do so that in 1957, the first completed Faculty of Science building was inaugurated. The campus was thus born, and it was a second birth, as the buildings multiplied: the different faculties, which were finally united (including for the first time a Faculty of Medicine, in 1967), libraries, a technological institute (IUT), restaurants, university residences, etc. Once in her new kingdom, our heroine regained her health and prospered beyond all expectations (large numbers of students; diversified educational programs).

Marcel Bouchard
The canon Kir
Françoise Moret-Bailly

Following the events of May 1968, our heroine felt the need to emancipate herself. Like her sisters, she was offered the possibility of choosing a President; this she did in 1971, except that she alone designated a female Présidente (Françoise Moret-Bailly). Then, like in all good fairy tales, a series of metamorphoses took place. Thus, in 1984, the University of Dijon became the University of Burgundy. At the same time as it welcomed new structures on the campus, the university sent out roots throughout the entire region thanks to a number of different locations.

However, in the early years of the 19th century, our heroine began to tire of her solitude, so much so that, in search of a soul mate, she renewed contact with her neighbor, the University of Besançon. The reunion was going well, and soon people started talking about marriage. But that was forgetting that the single life of several centuries leaves its mark. Instead of a formal wedding (a merger), they decided in 2013 to stick to an engagement (a federal structure).

Epilogue ?
Today, after so many stormy winds, the young 300-year-old awaits her next birthdays with the confidence that they will be both many and joyful.

To be continued