French students march over universities crisis

Students took to the streets of Paris on Friday to protest against the sorry state of French universities, which are suffering from overcrowding and a chronic lack of funding.

French students march over universities crisis
Students protest in Paris over lack of funding as well as many other gripes.

After farmers, taxi drivers, Air France staff, and police, on Friday it was the turn of students to take to the streets in protest.

Several student unions called on members to march through Paris to show their displeasure at everything that is wrong with the creaking French university system.

Overcrowding – there are 65,000 more students this year, lecturers that are not replaced and researchers struggling for funding are just three of the issues that brought hundreds of students out on the streets of Paris.

They marched to the finance ministry to demand more funding. Student unions claim there’s a short fall of around 30,000 teachers and researchers, needed to give adequate supervision to teachers.

“It's the states responsibility to invest and they aren't. These cuts have an impact on students and we are feeling it especially harshly this year,” Sacha Feierabend, the secretary general of UNEF student’s union told The Local. 

“We are mainly protesting the budget cuts. We have a big public university system, low fees, and little private investment,” he said.

“65,000 more students means we need a bigger budget and we don't have it.

“We want a rise in the budget and that's our main goal. That is why we are on the streets. And we will be out here for weeks, months if we have to. Today's march is not a one off,” Feierabend said.

Students revealed just how overcrowded their lecturers are by setting up a Tumblr account where people could post photos of the classrooms.

Images should students cramped onto steps or even forced to listen to the lectures from outside.

And last year a similar account was set up to show the sorry state of university buildings that appeared in desperate need of upkeep and investment.

The 2016 budget for higher education is set at €25.6 billion, but with the rise in student numbers unions say it needs to be increased.

The Prime Minister recently stumped up €100 million extra but student union leaders say they need billions not millions.

Selim, a 21-year-old law student at the University of Nanterre, says it's painfully obvious that the budget is insufficient.

“Here in France, there is so much failure among first year students, 60 percent, they say,” he told The Local.

“Some of my law lectures have 1,000 students in the classes. There shouldn't be more than 30. These kinds of classes shouldn't be taught in lecture theatres.”

“France should be more like Sweden or Finland, where the funding per student is far higher.

“France has the lowest student funding among the world's developed countries. It's not good enough.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Police probe opened after poster campaign against ‘Islamophobic’ lecturers at French university

The French government condemned on Monday a student protest campaign targeting two university professors accused of Islamophobia, saying it could put the lecturers in danger.

Police probe opened after poster campaign against 'Islamophobic' lecturers at French university
Illustration photo: Justin Tallis/AFP

Student groups plastered posters last week on the walls of a leading political science faculty in Grenoble that likened the professors to “fascists” and named them both in a campaign backed by the UNEF student union.

Junior interior minister Marlene Schiappa said the posters and social media comments recalled the online harassment of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty last October, who was beheaded in public after being denounced online for offending Muslims.

“These are really odious acts after what happened with the decapitation of Samuel Paty who was smeared in the same way on social networks,” she said on the BFM news channel. “We can’t put up with this type of thing.”

“When something is viewed as racist or discriminatory, there’s a hierarchy where you can report these types of issues, which will speak to the professor and take action if anything is proven,” Schiappa said.

Sciences Po university, which runs the Institute of Political Studies (IEP) in Grenoble in eastern France, also condemned the campaign on Monday and has filed a criminal complaint.

An investigation has been opened into slander and property damage after the posters saying “Fascists in our lecture halls. Islamophobia kills” were found on the walls of the faculty.

One of the professors is in charge of a course called “Islam and Muslims in contemporary France” while the other is a lecturer in German who has taught at the faculty for 25 years.