Studying for the sake of learning, not degrees

A new form of English study starts in Paris in October offering courses to anyone interested in culture and critical thinking where the emphasis is on learning for learning’s sake and not on gaining a diploma.

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Set up by international university scholars as a non-profit association, it is called PICT, the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking (

Public relations and research co-ordinator David Selim Sayers, a Sorbonne professor, said: “Paris is hard to beat for its cultural and intellectual vibrancy and I am really quite jealous of all that is on offer for fluent French-speakers, but there is not much that is very challenging in English.

“So we want to offer courses for the huge English-speaking population and for French speakers with a high level of English who do not want yet another language class.”

Courses will have 20 students maximum to encourage interaction and will be in a variety of formats, with a basic structure of 18-20 hours of instruction over four to six weeks.

Topics in autumn are Women Authors of Surrealism, Politics and Cinema: The Republic of Turkey, Philo­sophy of Art: Merleau-Ponty’s Cézanne, Existential­ism: Kierke­gaard’s Fear and Trembling and Gender in the Middle East.

Occasional workshops will also be held. “Make-up artists flying in for Paris Fashion Week in October will teach a two-day course on Make-Up Through the Decades.

“It may not sound academic but they will talk about the social background and history as well as teaching participants how to recreate styles at home. You can apply critical thinking to many different subjects.”

Courses are around €400 with scholarships available. In all, 70% of fees go to the teachers and the rest in costs in a bid to attract young enthusiastic academics who are low-paid.

As universities aim to give qualifications for future careers “there is an interest in intellectual stimulation and critical thinking and we want to offer something that is not quantitative or utilitarian.”