Decade of disruption

October 27, 2006

French taxpayers are forking out millions in rent for temporary premises because the Government is dragging its feet over the renovation of France's leading scientific and medical university, according to its head.

Jean-Charles Pomerol, president of Pierre and Marie Curie University, which is placed 93rd in The Times Higher 's 2006 World Rankings, said conditions at its Jussieu campus were continuing to cause disruption a decade after work started to remove asbestos.

Although most buildings on the 1960s campus were decontaminated three years ago, many - including the landmark central tower - are still closed, awaiting refitting. Many departments and facilities, including laboratories, continue to operate in temporary locations away from the campus, costing the university, and ultimately the taxpayer, between € million and €30 million (£18 million to £20 million) a year in rent.

Over the past ten years eight different teams of ministers have been in charge of higher education and research. Mr Pomerol said that "at least two or three years of delay" had accumulated in this time due to ministerial intervention resulting in "extra costs of at least €50 million".

The university was experiencing "extremely difficult working conditions on a campus, where building works have been held up because of the state's lack of vision concerning the role and missions of a great university", he said.

Despite this, the university's student numbers are rising, largely thanks to initiatives such as recruitment drives in lycees in disadvantaged areas and greater support for new students.

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