The College de France, which is an institute of higher education where basic research is jointly pursued and taught, was founded by Franois I, King of France from 1515 to 1547. In 1530 he appointed the first Royal Readers : three for Hebrew, two for Greek and one for mathematics. Their function was to teach subjects that were not yet accepted by the University.
Источник информации: www.college-de-france.fr
In the 18th century, the number of Readers was increased to twenty and then to forty at the end of the 19th century. It was not until 1870 that this institution took on the name of College de France after having been called College Imperial under both Empires.
Today, the Readers have become fifty-two Professors working with several hundred researchers, engineers, technicians and administrative staff. The chairs cover a wide range of subjects: mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, history, archaeology, linguistics, oriental studies, philosophy, the social sciences... In addition, two chairs are reserved for foreign scholars who are invited to give lectures. Two further chairs were then created, one in 1989 for a European scholar for a year-long series of lectures; the other International chair was created in 1992 for scientists and scholars from any part of the world, also for one whole academic year. Since then the College is allowed to elect a foreign scientist or scholar to one of the existing fifty-two ordinary chairs.
Since its foundation, the role of the College has been conditioned by two factors:
its members are elected by the Professors from amongst eminent French scholars in a wide range of subjects (no particular qualifications are required);
it does not set examinations nor does it award diplomas.
The teaching does not deal with established knowledge but with knowledge in the making; it changes every year, in accordance with the latest research and has no pre-established pattern. Part of the teaching may be given in French institutions of higher education, outside Paris, in France or other countries; or in Universities and research centres abroad. Most Professors are in charge of a laboratory or a research centre. The College houses a number of libraries which are open, under certain conditions, to both French and foreign researchers.
The chairs are not of a permanent nature. It is at the initiative of the Assemblee des Professeurs (the full congregation of elected professors) that the title of a chair which has become vacant is maintained or (more often than not) changed. Thus, the College enjoys not only considerable freedom in teaching and research, but can also adapt to progress and the latest developments in all fields of knowledge.
Admission to the lectures and seminars is free and open to all. About five thousand people attend the various lectures each year. Access to the laboratories and research centres, on the other hand, is reserved to research staff.
Once a year the College publishes an Annuaire that gives a resume; of the teaching given by each Professor and of the research carried out by his or her chair, research centre or laboratory. The Annuaire also contains a brief history of the College that includes the succession of chairs since the beginning of the 19th century. The College de France also publishes the texts of all the inaugural lectures.