France has slipped from 6th to 8th place in the annual Shanghai ranking of the world’s universities.

"/> France has slipped from 6th to 8th place in the annual Shanghai ranking of the world’s universities.

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EDUCATION

France slips in university rankings

France has slipped from 6th to 8th place in the annual Shanghai ranking of the world’s universities.

Université Paris-Sud
David Monniaux

The respected league table of 500 universities, officially known as the Academic Ranking of World Universities and compiled at the Shanghai-Jiaotong university, is released each year.

It ranks universities according to the quality of their teaching faculty and research. The table has been criticized in some countries, including France, for its focus on scientific research rather than humanities and teaching.

In the newly released table, American universities took 17 of the top 20 places. Harvard, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology took the top three spots.

The non-American positions in the top 20 were taken by British universities Cambridge, Oxford and University College London. France only managed three spots in the top 100.

The top French positions were taken by three Paris-based institutions. The Paris-Sud Orsay University in 40th position was just ahead of the Pierre-et-Marie-Curie University (UPMC) in 41st. The Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS-Ulm) took 69th place.

In total, American universities took 151 of the top 500 places. In Europe, Germany achieved 39 closely followed by the UK with 37. France had a total of 21 universities in the top 500.

Newly-appointed higher education minister Laurent Wauquiez told newspaper Les Echos that the list suggested some “slight progress” for France and that there would be a “strong upward leap” in the future.

He said that a new policy of grouping several universities together would help the country’s position in the future.

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EDUCATION

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules

Around three-quarters of French teachers plan to go on strike onThursday to protest the government's shifting rules on Covid testing for students, forcing the closure of half the country's primary schools, a union said Tuesday.

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

The strike led by the Snuipp-FSU union, the largest among primary school teachers, comes after the latest of several changes on testing and isolation requirements for potential Covid cases announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex late Monday.

After seeing long lines of parents outside pharmacies and labs in recent days to test children in classes where a case was detected, Castex said home tests could now be used to determine if a student could return to school.

But teachers say class disruptions have become unmanageable with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Students cannot learn properly because attendance varies wildly, and a hybrid of in-house and distance learning is impossible to put in place,” the Snuipp-FSU said, adding that absent teachers are not being replaced.

It is also demanding the government provide facemasks for staff, including the more protective FFP2 masks, and CO2 monitors to check if classrooms are sufficiently ventilated.

“Not only does the current protocol not protect students, staff or their families, it has completely disorganised schools,” the union said, claiming that classes have effectively been turned into “daycare centres.”

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said the government is doing everything possible to avoid outright school closures that could cause havoc for parents and jeopardise learning for thousands, especially those in low-income families.

“I know there is a lot of fatigue, of anxiety… but you don’t go on strike against a virus,” Blanquer told BFM television on Tuesday.

As of Monday some 10,000 classes had been shut nationwide because of Covid cases, representing around two percent of all primary school classes, Blanquer said.

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