France's internationally renowned women's studies centre headed by author Helene Cixous is in jeopardy after the renewal of its doctoral accreditation for only one year.
The ministry of higher education and research first opposed any renewal of accreditation for the Centre de Recherche en Etudes Feminines, at Paris VIII University, saying the DEA (Diplome d'etudes approfondies) course lacked scientific content.
The veto came at the first stage of the review progress last March, in spite of a recommendation for renewal from the review board of the CNESER, the national council of higher education and research.
News of the ministerial opposition caused a wave of indignation in international academia.
Letters from nearly 150 universities and research centres in 30 countries, stating the high scientific value of the research carried out at the centre, have poured in. More than 3,000 academics signed a statement of support for the centre.
Ms Cixous believes this pressure led to the renewal for one year in the second stage of the review process, but says such limited renewal is an attempt to kill the centre.
"This DEA has been recognised for 21 years and has now suddenly come under threat. A one-year renewal is not long enough to allow us to take on new PhD students or to organise symposia," she said. "It is an attempt to prevent us resisting, no research centre in the world can function on a 12-month basis."
Ms Cixous has received strong support from Jacques Derrida who has links with the centre and who attests to the "exemplary value" of its research.
DEA accreditation is normally given for four years. However, this year, accreditation for an unusually high number of human science courses has only been renewed for two years.
The women's studies' DEA appears to have been singled out for uniquely short-term renewal. It is France's only women's studies, DEA course and attempts at Paris VII University to set up another have been turned down.