Created in 1972 as an ‘experimental’ university of technology, UTC, a public establishment of a scientific, cultural and professional nature, welcomed its first class of students in 1973. I propose we explore these fifty years of history in the company of the person who carefully preserves the school’s archives. Claire Etienne, in charge of the archives at UTC (University of Technology, Compiegne) whose responsibility it is to ensure that these collections are well preserved in her secure, temperature- and humidity-controlled storage.
Let’s start this beautiful story beginning in the 1970s
October 2, 1972
UTC was created by Government decree. Guy Deniélou, a naval officer and research engineer at the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique (CEA), had been working on the idea since the early 60s. Approached by Olivier Guichard, then Minister of Education, he left his post as head of the neutron reactor department at the CEA in 1972 to move to Compiègne, where he served as president of UTC from 1974 to 1986.
In the absence of any new buildings, the newly founded university had no choice but to spread out over the town. It therefore multiplied its addresses while waiting for the construction of the Avicenne building, known as “Le Château”, in October 1973, followed by the gradual opening of the Benjamin- Franklin Centre (1975–1976) and the Royallieu Research Centre (1977–1978).
The first 41 students graduated from UTC, 27 majoring in Mechanical engineering, 10 in Biological engineering and 4 in Chemical engineering.
Four personalities from the Chinese Embassy in Paris visit UTC to negotiate the enrolment of Chinese students. This visit was reported in the UTC’s house magazine, informations.UTC n° 201 covering he week November 2 to 8, 1978, a real “Intranet” at the time! It already read: “These contacts follow on from the negotiations between the Chinese authorities and the French Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Universities to welcome Chinese students and research staff to France. The recent visit by the Deputy Prime Minister of Beijing comes to mind. A delegation from Compiègne could be sent to China to establish closer relations with a Chinese university.
Moving on to the 1980s
In the spring of 1980
Spring-time 1980 saw the opening of the new Industrial Design course, created in 1979 within UTC’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
The UTC model had proved its worth. The then President of the French Republic, François Mitterrand, and Jean-Pierre Chevènement, the French Minister for Education and Higher Education, visited URC and announced their support in terms of human and material resources. It was against this backdrop that UTC’s first “little sister”, was initiated by Jean-Pierre Chevènement. In May 1985, negotiations were held between the Besançon School of Micromechanics, UTCCompiegne and Franche-Comté’s major industrial partners, Alstom, Bull and Peugeot. This branch, the future UTBM (University of Technology – Belfort – Montbeliard), dedicated to surface treatment and the design of industrial products, was initially planned be located in the château in the town of Sévenans, near Belfort. The first matriculation of students took place on October 15, 1985.
1986 The Department of Technology and Human Sciences (TSH) was created, as a successor to a former division of “General Personality Development”.
31st March 1987
President François Mitterrand came to lay the foundation stone of what would later become UTBM, the Belfort- Montbéliard University of Technology.
So, let us now pursue the journey celebrating the 50 years of the UTC with the years 1990s
The first graduation ceremony took place at the Cultural Centre (Espace Jean Legendre), coupled with the award of Honorary Doctorates to three presidents of partner universities.
Creation of the University of Technology, Troyes (UTT).
Inauguration of the Pierre Guillaumat building (PG). It bears the name of one of the founders of UTC, also 4th President of the University’s Academic Council.
Now we have reached the year 2000
The first academic year begins for students enrolling in the brand new Urban System Engineering (GSU) branch.
Opening of the Science and Technology Master’s degree following the Licence, Master, Doctorat (so-called L.M.D.) reform.
Creation of the Shanghai Sino-European University of Technology.(UTSEUS), founded on a pioneering and unique partnership in the fields of education and research between UTT, the two other French universities of technology, UTBM (Belfort-Montbeliard) and UTC (Compiègne), and Shanghai University.
August 17, 2008
Julien Bahain, who was to graduate in 2011 in Mechanical systems engineering after his admission to the “elite sports” programme proposed from the UTC, won the bronze medal in the Men’s Four rowing final with his three team-mates, behind Poland and Italy, at the Beijing Olympics. He will be the God-Father of the 40th class of UTC graduates, on the occasion of the UTC’s 40th anniversary.
September 6, 2012
The first stone of the UTC Innovation Centre is laid in the presence of Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, responsible for European Affairs. Supporting the local UTC innovation ecosystem, the innovation centre will be similar to a research, training, development, industrial and technology transfer platform, integrating and supporting the innovation process in the conduct of collaborative projects.
The UTC became a founding member of the cluster Sorbonne Universités Community of Universities and Establishments (COMUE) (which became Sorbonne Université in 2018) along with six other French higher education establishments: Paris- Sorbonne University (Paris IV), Pierre and Marie-Curie University (UPMC), the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD), the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle (MNHN), the Pôle supérieur d’enseignement artistique Paris Boulogne-Billancourt (PSPBB), and the Centre international d’études pédagogiques (CIEP).
December 5, 2012
Claudie Haigneré, France’s first female astronaut and Minister for Research and New Technologies in Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s Government, was welcomed to UTC-Compiegne by Prof. Alain Storck, President & Vice-Chancellor of UTC, to attend the presentation of the CSTI (Scientific, Technical and Industrial Culture) network in Picardy. She had already visited UTC on several occasions, notably on October 17, 2003 for the Fête de la Science, when she decorated Francis Goubel, then Director of the doctoral school, who had been her physiology professor.
January 12, 2015
The Daniel Thomas Innovation Centre is inaugurated in the presence of Ms Fioraso, Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research to the Minister for National Education, Higher Education and Research.
Marie Gayot, a student engineer at the UTC, took part in the 4 x 400 metres relay at the Olympic Games in Rio, thanks to her runner-up finish in the European Championships for French women in the 4 x 400 metres.
And what happens in the “world after”?
Ecological transition and social commitment are becoming two of the institution’s strategic priorities.
From January to July 2022, a major consultation of all UTC stakeholders will take place. It covers the UTC’s 6 main areas of activity: research and innovation, student and staff training, communication, inter-campus transfers, real estate assets and administrative management. A total of 1 447 responses were received, including 927 from students and 441 from staff. Five priority actions were identified, including a core training programme for students, thermal renovation of buildings and solutions for soft mobility.
An SD&RS (Sustainable development/Social Responsibility project manager was recruited in July 2022 to help implement the selected actions.
The “introduction to environmental issues for engineers” foundation course will open at the start of the 2022–2023 academic year. It concerns all new UTC students, i.e., 483. Its objective is not only to provide an understanding of global changes (climate, resources, biodiversity, pollution, etc.) and their systemic dimension, but also of their implications for Society, particularly those that directly concern the engineering profession.
A new course, the cross-disciplinary Sustainable Engineering label, is also offered. It offers students a choice of credits in all the specialisations. These cover three dimensions of sustainable engineering: the systems approach and modelling, the lowtechnology approach, and critical reflection on our own cultures.
In addition, training courses have helped to raise awareness of climate issues among 20% of staff, and various initiatives are aimed at reducing the institution’s carbon footprint.
Finally, to mark this strong commitment, in March 2023 the UTC will sign the ‘Grenoble Accord’, committing itself to 134 of the 180 measures in the accord.
And all this is just the beginning: a new department, “Ecological Transition and Societal Commitment”, will be launched in June 2023, with the transverse mission of rolling out the approach to all the institution’s activities, in order to create the conditions that will enable i to apply for the SD&RS label in 2025.