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UNIVERSITY

Living costs for students on the rise in France

As the beginning of the academic year draws closer, there's some bad news for university students, with living costs for those enrolled in higher education up by just over two percent.

Living costs for students on the rise in France
The situation has been dubbed “alarming” by the president of France's main students' union, Unef in an interview with Journal de Dimanche
 
The rise in the cost of living for students, set to go up by two percent, or 2.09 percent to be exact, is more than twice the increase seen in past years, according to an annual report from Unef. In 2015, the cost of living for students went up by 1.1 percent and by 1.23 percent in 2016.
 
The percentage is equivalent to three times the rate of inflation (0.7 percent). 
 
The main reasons behind the increase is the rise in rent seen in most of France's big cities along with the raising of transport fares, like the Navigo in Paris
 
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According to the report, the price of both rent and transport has increased in 11 towns and cities, notably the big student cities of Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg, Angers and Rennes, and the cost of renting small apartments has increased in 37 cities. 
 
With rent amounting to around half of a student's budget – 53 percent according Unef – the price hike is no joke. 
 
In Clermont-Ferrand, students are facing a rent increase of 5.12 percent and transport fares going up by 3.63 percent. 
 
The French press have said that the report is sure to fuel debate, particularly after the controversial news that France's personal housing allowance (APL) is set to drop by €5 a month from October, a move that Unef has slammed.  
 
Personal housing allowances benefit 6.5 million French homes, including around 800,000 students and cost the state 18 billion euros every year. 
 
But prices aren't going up everywhere. 
 
In Lille, where rent capping has been in place since February 1st, the rents for small dwellings have gone down (0.33 percent), Unef said, adding that it hopes to see this measure applied to every university city and town in France. 
 
Unsurprisingly, this won't be of much comfort for students studying at the moment in one of France's many university cities. 
 
Indeed the only ray of sunshine for the general student population in the coming term is that the price of university registration fees and the cost of meals in university restaurants has been frozen. 
 
This helping hand has been welcomed by Unef but deemed insufficient, as it calls for the launch of an “emergency plan” for students, which the union says should exempt them from council tax and the creation of special public transport fares for students. 

ISLAM

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.

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