(Photograph) - French education minister Francois Bayrou renewed his promise of an emergency plan to redress funding inequalities between universities after the cabinet met on Wednesday to review this week's demonstrations by thousands of students in a dozen towns across the country.
But he had no extra money to resolve the crisis, simply offering consultations on reforms by the end of the year and a commitment to correct under-funding within four years. And he tempted fate by announcing he was to send special envoys to every university to talk to students about their grievances.
Student organisers in Paris claimed more than 40,000 demonstrators joined the national march, while 20,000 students protested in Toulouse and 10,000 in Aix-en-Provence. When the Paris march broke up, some trouble-makers broke windows and looted shops.
All over France, students insisted they would continue their protest action until their demands were satisfied. Over 20 of France's 90 universities are on partial or total strike aboutlack of teaching posts and funding. The movement and student anxiety over poor job prospects have received public sympathy.
Two days before the national day of action, prime minister Alain Juppe again insisted that solutions had to be found by redistributing the existing higher education budget. Mr Juppe's recently-formed second government has made budget control and the lowering of interest rates its priority.
As students, often strongly supported by university teachers, kept up their pressure, the position of the Conference of University Presidents hardened too. After the ministry received all the university heads to settle their allocation of resources, the CPU warned that the redistribution plan would not be enough and that a budget increase was "the only way to meet its aims". The CPU has added further demands of its own to those of the students - in particular over repair of dangerous university buildings.