Education reforms

Sarkozy has major plans to reform French universities. Universities will be given "independance" from the state. The first consequence of this will be large rises in fees, at the moment undergraduates pay around 300 euros (£200) a year to enrol. The second major consequence will be the introduction of selection; currently any french person with a baccalaureat (roughly equivalent to A-levels) or who has worked full-time for three years has the right to enrol in any university for virtually any course that they wish. Students obviously have to pass exams to progress to the next year, but to get onto the course they do not need to do so. There are some exceptions, for example the Bi-Deug courses at Nanterre (joint Law and English or joint Economics and English degrees.) but for the most part there is no selection.

The other major difference involves 'security'. At Nanterre there has been a piloted security programme to prevent a repeat of the CPE protests last year. The first stage was to hire security guards, wearing uniforms that closely resemble those of police and carrying truncheons and tear gas, these guards are the most obvious sign of the new system. The other major change is that all the central administration is now locked in a seperate building and in order to get to any of the offices you must pass through a remotely operated security door. Within this building and others exits have been padlocked shut so that buildings can be more quickly sealed off.

Less obvious methods have also been used. Security cameras have been placed across campus, they have not been placed to protect areas where students have been mugged or attacked (which has been a problem) they have been placed at strategic points for campus security.

The corridor that linked six buildings was at first closed and has now been reopened with the entrances between buildings have been narrowed down to prevent quick movement by students. The administration building has been blocked off altogether so students must now go outside before they can reach the building.

The internal roads on the campus have been given to the local council. This easily missed change means that the Principal no longer needs to give permission for the police to enter the campus. Which speeds up any police repression of demonstrations and allows the university administration to avoid any responsibility for this.

These security measures are a pilot scheme, it is expected that they will be rolled out in universities across France. The culture of resistance at Nanterre is not what it was, it's sad to see that a famously rebellious university cannot resist these measures. That said at the recent student protest march there was a relatively large contingent of Nanterre students, and those were only the ones that I recognised.

Posted By

jef costello
May 30 2007 20:36


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