Campus life gets easier in France

November 17, 2000

An information service open all day from 8.30am, an afternoon left free each week for sporting or cultural activities and a joint student and business club are among initiatives introduced at one French university to improve student life.

The annual report of France's inspectorate of administration of education and research praised projects such as those introduced by the unidentified university and the more streamlined management and administrative techniques that were being adopted in higher education. But it said the improvements did not outweigh "isolated cases of negligence". These were caused most often by disregard for regulations in areas such as anonymity of exam papers, conformity of teaching to established practices and methods of testing students' knowledge.

The report, released last week by inspectorate head Jacky Richard, found that cooperation was improving between the universities and the regional centres overseeing student wellbeing and aid, or CROUS. There are, however, still gaps in the system. The report highlighted catering as an area of conflict: universities sometimes contract private firms to run canteens that compete with similar facilities provided by the CROUS.

The greatest problems arose from merit-based scholarships. The system relies on universities sending necessary information monthly to the CROUS, which administers the money. Inspectors found, however, that the universities provide inconsistent data and are often careless when forwarding documents.

Despite rapid changes in demands for services, new administrative methods had greatly improved how CROUS handled scholarships and grants, and complaints about late payment were now rare, inspectors said.

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