France gears up for work

October 27, 2000

France's universities are preparing to introduce courses geared increasingly to enterprise and the world of work and to increase and improve student mobility - into and out of the country.

Last week, at the start the new academic year, Andre Legrand, senior vice-president of the Conference of University Presidents (CPU), outlined problems facing universities.

Problems included: implementing the University of the Third Millennium plan to renovate campuses and improve student life; training management to deal with internationalisation and new staff responsibilities towards students' needs; and adapting to new teaching methods, such as distance learning.

Universities are evolving from their traditionally theoretical teaching programmes to degrees based more on the needs of professional life. One of the CPU's first initiatives this year will be a conference on raising students' entrepreneurial awareness. It will bring together education ministry directors, university managers and executives, heads of research departments, industrialists and business innovators to discuss how this can be achieved.

This is the year that the licence professionnelle will make its debut. The first 4,000 students, who already have a two-year diploma, are starting 170 new one-year courses designed to qualify them for direct employment in sectors ranging from the food-processing industry and microbiology to computer science, business studies to tourism.

Student mobility in both directions between France and other countries, especially European ones, continues to be a big preoccupation for the universities.

The CPU last month held a study day on mobility to discuss external relations, teaching methods and living conditions.

There will be a conference at the end of this month on the role of human and social sciences in constructing a European research area.

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