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The Basque Coast Summer School is part of the University of Pau, which belongs to the French system of public universities. The school is run by the university's IAE "Business School of Management" which has campuses in Pau and in Bayonne on the Basque Coast, a few kilometers from Biarritz.

The school is multidisciplinary and will propose courses in a variety of disciplines which will change from year to year.



The Basque Coast Summer School is the brainchild of Marc Artzrouni, a French/American professor at the University of Pau. He is based at the university's main campus in Pau about 90 mn from Biarritz.

A couple of years ago Marc was walking through Biarritz and strolled into a small street called  "Rue de l'Université Américaine" ("American University street"). A Biarritz fan, he was puzzled and wondered what the story was behind that name. 

Sure enough he found out about "Biarritz American University" at a local museum which has a permanent exhibit devoted to the town's history. BAU was set up by the United States War Department in August 1945 to provide training to demobilized American soldiers who had served during World War II.  Similar universities were created in Florence, Italy, and Shrivenham, UK.

Soldiers who had spent months sleeping in draughty barracks across the war zones of Europe suddenly found themselves being housed and taught in luxurious villas and hotels vacated by rich locals inconvenienced by the war. The whole town was involved in the operation with 2,000 French civilians and 750 German prisoners of war providing support.

About 10,000 soldier-students came through Biarritz for two-month courses in subjects ranging from agriculture to engineering, liberal arts and science. Legend has it that Marlene Dietrich gave a drama class at BAU. Students would get college credits toward future degrees earned in the United States.


Teaching and learning at Biarritz American University
by J.G. Umstattd

The atmosphere was very relaxed at BAU and there was a great sense of academic and other freedoms. Men and women mingled easily. Blacks and white students lived and learned together when the U.S. military was otherwise still segregated.  Its mission completed Biarritz American University closed down in March 1946.

Click here for an article with more details on this fascinating story.


Charles Donald Price (1915-2004) in Biarritz, Sept. 1945.


Captivated by this history Marc decided that his background and varied academic interests made him a good person to revive BAU university. As they say the rest is history.

The University of Pau enthusiastically supported Marc's idea of such a revival in the form of a one-week multidisciplinary summer school taught at its Anglet campus just outside Biarritz.  Renowned American professors would be brought in specially for the occasion. 

It is fair to say that without a random turn into "Rue de l'Université Américaine" the Basque Coast Summer School would never have come into existence.

It seems fitting to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Biarritz American University with its 21st century "reincarnation".  The spirit of BAU will live on: the Basque Cooast Summer School is attracting top level professors and students from all walks of life and countries interested in folding a week of learning and relaxation into a unique Anglo-Saxon academic experience.



Marc Artzrouni, Professor
Department of Mathematics
University of Pau
64000 PAU

tel: +33 - 5 59 40 75 50
e-mail: Marc.Artzrouni@univ-pau.fr
skype: marc.artzrouni


Laetitia Mathieu, Head
International Relations
IAE Management School

tel: +33 - 5 59 40 81 13
e-mail: Laetitia.Mathieu@univ-pau.fr

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