Every weekend I cross the Saclay plateau to go food shopping. The road is straight flat and boring, so I have a game; I count cranes! The record over the last two years is 38, last weekend there was 32, and this is important. Let me explain…

I took this on Sunday. It shows the smaller part of campus with the housing and research facilities near the Polytechnique campus.

The ambition of what’s happening on the plateau amazes me, and I’m saying this as a child of Milton Keynes. From the outside, France is consolidating universities onto a new campus. The more I look at it, they’re creating something unique in Europe.

The Economist wrote about the project this weekend…

A huge modernist university campus is emerging amid farmland on a plateau south of the French capital. The University of Paris-Saclay, officially launched this year, merges some 20 higher-education and research institutions. It has a teaching and research staff of 9,000, catering to 48,000 students—more than Harvard or Stanford.

They wrote about Paris-Saclay this week because the University has been ranked 14th best in the world in the Shanghai rankings. This is great result for year one and The Economist give the impression that things stop here.

Which brings me back to the cranes. The rankings this year are based on the data of 2019 and they’re not forward looking. However, the project is not even half completed, the investment continues and it’s massive.

This year the campus was extended with the arrival of the Ecole Normale Superieure. The building is stunning!

The end result will be a town of 50,000 people on the edge of Paris, connected to the city by a new metro, containing a massive university and a enormous number of research facilities.

Most of these facilities are not new but having them in one location is. 48,000 is greater then Stamford or Oxford.

I’m convinced that I’ll be counting cranes for years!