The reform of French universities began under the Second Empire, and was given a strong impulse by defeat in the Franco–Prussian war in 1871. The need to learn from Germany created a reform movement which captured the educational administration under the Third Republic, particularly associated with Louis Liard. German methods of scholarship were admired and imitated, the Sorbonne was rebuilt, provincial faculties developed new scientific and technical strengths, the arts and science faculties took on a proper educational role, and universities recovered their corporate identity. The rationalist philosophy of French academics and their belief in science and progress corresponded to Republican ideology. This became apparent at the time of the Dreyfus Affair around 1900, provoking a backlash against the ‘new Sorbonne’ by right-wing nationalists. But in France, unlike Germany, it was the liberals who retained control of the established institutions.
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