The first stone of the “Collège de l’Institut britannique” was laid by the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII) in July 1927, but construction of the Collège franco-britannique didn’t actually start until 1933, following negotiations between the British and French institutions concerning the number of rooms, the statute and the funding for the College.
Created after the First World War as a testament to the friendship between France and Great Britain, the Collège franco-britannique was intended to welcome an equal number of French and English students. A committee created in 1927 was charged with collecting donations including from the French State, or from the important legacy of Edward and Helen Nathan, who allowed for its construction.
The house was inaugurated on the 16th July 1937 in the notable presence of Albert Lebrun, the president of the French Republic, of Jean Zay, the French minister of National Education, of Sir Eric Phipps, the British ambassador in France and around twenty representatives of British universities.
The Collège franco-britannique is managed by the Fondation nationale Cité internationale universitaire de Paris.
Unlike the older universities, founded between 1096 and 1592 and mainly built out of freestone (such as Oxford or Cambridge), the red brick universities are more recent. They were mostly founded in the Victorian Era and were built using red brick that was typical for construction in large industrial towns in the North of England (such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester) in the 19th century.
The neogothic interior also refers to the Victorian Era. Above the entrance gate, the seals of the United Kingdom and France surround that of the Sorbonne recalling the building’s historic origins. The three sections of the building form a “U” shape surrounding a garden. Its southern orientation and its view of the Cité internationale’s park makes it a popular place for residents in the summer months. The house has 272 rooms.
The Collège franco-britannique was created by Pierre Martin and Maurice Vieu, two architects who also designed the Maison des étudiants de l’Asie du Sud-Est. They envisioned a simple and harmonious building. Its style of architecture is grounded in British tradition of “red brick universities”: simple red brick, steep sloping roofs, gables lit by bow windows, mullioned bay windows, turrets for the staircases, recalling the colleges across the channel.
Important renovation work was undertaken between 1999 and 2001, then again in 2007-2008 and were entrusted to the architect Vincent Sabatier. The works were funded by grants from the Île-de-France region and the City of Paris and by a loan from the Cité internationale. This allowed for the modernisation of the house and to make it more comfortable but also to increase and vary the rooms on offer. In addition to the student rooms, studios reserved for researchers were created in the residence. The house now has 206 rooms with independent sanitary facilities and 66 studios equipped with a kitchenette.
In 2015-2016 the garden was redesigned and renovated to introduce numerous colourful vegetable varieties on the principle of mixed-borders, referencing the English tradition. In 2016, within the PRM accessibility plan, all of the building’s exterior access points were redesigned.