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Strategy Needed

A French government auditor says that plans to develop a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-like university outside of Paris have faltered, Nature News reports.

Former French President Nicholas Sarkozy announced plans in 2010 to turn the Paris-Saclay site from a collection of private and public research labs into a world-class university — now called the University of Paris-Saclay — by moving institutes of higher education there and structuring the site around certain research themes.

However, Nature News says the plan is suffering from a lack of a cohesive strategy. It adds that the auditor's report has found that it has no "real coherence and international visibility" and that there is "real risk that despite the huge investment of public funds, the initial ambition will be watered down."

Gilles Bloch, the president of University of Paris-Saclay, tells Nature News that the report's conclusions are wrong and that the heads of seven of the institutes on the campus meet weekly to develop proposals to strengthen ties. However, two engineering institutes, including the École Polytechnique, don't attend those meetings. École Polytechnique's Jacques Biot has argued that Paris-Saclay should be a cluster more akin to Silicon Valley than a university.

This has raised the possibility that Paris-Saclay might split in two, and form a science cluster and an engineering cluster, but Bloch says he hopes the engineering institutes with re-join the effort.