French claim jobs promises broken

July 21, 2006

France's academics have accused the Government of breaking its promises to higher education.

Education Minister Gilles de Robien and his deputy Francois Goulard, who has responsibility for higher education and research, announced 22 initiatives and reforms planned or under way throughout the education system. These include measures aimed at cutting student dropout rates, improving university-employment links and a "Pact for Research" that should establish a High Council of Science and Technology and agencies to commission and evaluate research.

But university presidents and public sector unions are concerned about the Government's failure to honour its promises over new posts, and claim that the number created next year will be only half that pledged by President Jacques Chirac.

In August 2005, after 18 months of protest over cuts in funding and posts, President Chirac made a commitment to "release substantial financial resources on a level with our ambitions: E6 billion (£4 billion) over three years, 3,000 additional posts in 2006 and the same number in 2007".

But the 2007 budget announced by the ministers late last month will axe 15,000 public service jobs, nearly half of them in education, although 1,500 new posts for researchers, university teachers and technical staff will be created.

The Conference of University Professors said the Government was "breaking its commitments, a decision that will only reinforce a climate of distrust".

SNTRS-CGT, which represents researchers, said the decision was "unacceptable" and claimed the Government was counting on privatisations to finance its new national research agency.

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