The earliest French college of chemistry

Today’s college originated in March 1822 when Mulhouse city council set up an applied chemistry course along with a teaching laboratory, soon followed by research facilities. Industry asked for and participated in the foundation of this institution which developed under the scrutiny of Société Industrielle de Mulhouse, the local learned society of industrialists, to become the first ever French college of chemistry. By the 1850’s, the reputation of the college was already firmly established.

From 1870 to 1915

After the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent annexation of Alsace and despite German authorities’ contempt for Société Industrielle de Mulhouse which was deemed to be too overtly francophile, Mulhouse’s College of Chemistry flourished spectacularly and gained international fame. The duration of this high-level degree programme was progressively increased to three then to four years. It also introduced students to research: between 1880 and 1915, more than one hundred PhDs were completed under the supervision of Emilio Noelting.

The interwar period

The College of Chemistry was closed during the 1914-1918 War and had to adjust to a changed situation due to its return to France and fast-paced scientific progress. Its programme focused on training non-specialised chemists with solid practical skills enabling them to promptly enter the industrial world. Run by a Foundation comprising the state, the city council and the local communities involved, it was entitled to train and graduate chemical engineers after the establishment of the committee responsible for the accreditation of higher education institutions training engineers in 1934. However, it should be noted that the College had already been awarding this degree since 1919. In 1935, it became the first College to set up a polymer chemistry course, soon followed by a dedicated research laboratory.

Returning to Mulhouse after the war

Relocated in Lyon during the Second World War, the College returned to Mulhouse in 1945 and became one of the French National Colleges of Engineering in 1948. It was rebuilt in 1965 on the new Mulhouse campus and kept on developing. Its ever active research laboratories contributed to the creation of the Mulhouse Center for Textile Research as well as to that of the French National Center for Scientific Research’s own laboratory which has become the Mulhouse Materials Science Institute (IS2M).

From 1977 to the present – creation of UHA

The college was nationalised in 1977 in order to become one of the main departments of the newly created Université de Haute-Alsace. However during the implementation of the so-called 1984 Savary Law on higher education which made it illegal for any public institution to be part of another public institution, The National College of Chemical Engineering of Mulhouse (ENSCMu) decided to retain its autonomy and become a so-called “Établissement Public à Caractère Administratif”, that is to say a public institution of an administrative nature, connected to the University of Mulhouse by decrees. This status lasted until 1st November 2006 when it reintegrated the University in accordance with the government’s commitment to redefining the French university landscape. The National College of Chemical Engineering of Mulhouse thus joined again the university it had helped create and brought to it its prestige based on a strong identity.