• France's news in English
French universities in crisis
'It's no surprise half of French students fail'
Students and academics protest at the state of higher education in France. Photo: AFP

'It's no surprise half of French students fail'

The Local · 12 Dec 2014, 10:29

Published: 12 Dec 2014 10:29 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The protesters marched across Paris to the famous Pantheon monument to vent their anger about the crumbling state of French universities, job insecurity, and low quality teaching.

Sporting banners, chanting slogans, and setting off firecrackers, the participants made it crystal clear what they thought of the current state of the higher education system in France.

“It’s no surprise 50 percent of people in their first year of university fail their courses and unemployment among graduates is up 33 percent,” Matthieu Bauhain from the Communist student’s union (Union des Étudiants Communistes) told The Local. “Our facilities are in a terrible state, certain rooms don’t have heating during the winter months and there aren’t enough lecturers. We’re here to show our anger about this.”

On the Tumblr account “Universities in ruin”, students have uploaded pictures that back Bauhain’s words, showing everything from dead cockroaches in university bathrooms to leaking ceilings in canteens

But it’s not just the buildings that are in real need of a revamp, the lack of investment is also having consequences on the quality of the teaching.

“They are narrowing down education programmes,” said Julia Le Noé, who is studying environmental sciences at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris. “Positions are being eliminated, which in turn lowers the quality of teaching. You don’t get to interact as much with your lecturer because there are too many students.”

Stéphanie, a researcher in sociology at the University of Rouen who didn’t want to give her last name, says the lack of staff in French academia is another issue the protesters want addressed.

“We need to recruit more people,” she said. “France has such a high unemployment rate yet there aren’t enough lecturers and researchers at universities.”

If mediocre infrastructure and low quality teaching aren’t enough to deter young people from pursuing a teaching career in higher education, then subsequent dire job prospects could be the nail in the coffin.

 “We are protesting against the lack of job security in academia,” said Charlotte Leduc, one of the demonstrators. “Even with a Ph.D. it’s not guaranteed you will find employment.”

She went on to explain that after obtaining their diplomas researchers often only land short-term contracts limited to a few years.

“This causes the quality of the research to suffer because there isn’t enough time to be thorough and see things through to the end,” she said.

Philippe Sindzingre, a lecturer at the Pierre and Marie Curie University, agrees that in order to do successful research the prospects for young people need to improve.

“We need people that have confidence in their future,” he said. “They need to know that they’ll still be doing well even in ten or 15 years.”

The protesters' efforts seem to have had some initial success with President Hollande expected to announce later on Friday that a proposed cut of €70 million to the higher education budget will be shelved.

Story continues below…

According to Guillaume Bossis, a researcher at the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS), this move isn’t enough.

“It doesn’t even come close to the previous situation since it’s not €70 million that are threatened but €136 million,” he told newspaper Le Figaro. “We’re far from the €2 billion needed to properly operate research in France.”

The discontent among those involved in academia in France is reflected in the global reputation of French universities which continue to tumble according to annual rankings.

Speaking to The Local earlier this year Chris Parr from the Times Higher Education magazine said: "It's worrying. For a country with a great reputation in so many sectors this should sound alarm bells."

by Simone Flückiger

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Millionaire Riviera hotel boss kidnapped in broad daylight
The city of Nice where the millionaire was bundled into a car infront of shocked onlookers. Photo: AFP

The millionaire head of a luxury hotel in the French Riviera resort of Cannes was kidnapped in front of shocked onlookers in the middle of the day on Monday.

Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available