France may restrict entry rights

February 3, 1995

A report on the future of French universities, commissioned by higher education minister Francois Fillon, raised a storm of protest when its contents were leaked to the press.

Mr Fillon has now promised that no decisions will be taken before next May's presidential election.

The report of the committee chaired by Daniel Laurent, interim head of the new Marne-La-Vallee University, tackles taboo subjects including enrolment fees and an end to unrestricted access to university for all baccalaureat holders.

It says that the expected influx of students with a technical or professional baccalaureat will increase failure rates and suggests separate institutes be set up by regional councils to cater for them. If the problem of mass entry on to first-level courses is not tackled, the whole university system will be poorer, it warns.

The report proposes reorganising the academic year to provide continuous teaching, a bonus for staff teaching first and second-year courses, more part-time studies, an end to most student rent rebates, increased enrolment fees and student loans after the second year of study.

Cuts to the student support programme would be balanced by means-tested grants.

Most criticism has focused on the proposals which appear to signal the break-up of the national system. The report "executes public universities," UNEF, the student union said, while the academic union FSU warned of a "splintering of the state system and its takeover by regional councils and industry".

Mr Laurent says he is only advising autonomy a la francaise with continuing state control of degrees and "the national coordination of teaching".

Roger-Gerard Schwartzenberg, a former higher education minister said: "French universities do not need Americanisation, just democratisation. This ultra-liberal project is an assault on the republican tradition."

Mr Fillon promised that the report was simply the "starting contribution to a debate in which all members of the academic community are invited to take part".

Academics, researchers and students are organising a national day of protest against government policy next week.

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