French leaders demand freedom

February 7, 2003

University leaders in France are to step up their push for greater autonomy.

Michel Laurent, newly elected first vice-president of the Conférence des Présidents d'Universités, has placed staff appointments, ability to sign public contracts and overall budget control to develop individual strategies, high on the agenda of the body, which speaks for the French equivalent of Britain's vice-chancellors.

Mr Laurent, president of the University of Aix-Marseille-2, Méditerranée, has taken over as chief representative of an organisation whose members are responsible for 1.5 million students and 1,000 academics, in addition to 13,000 researchers from national research organisations.

Also elected to the CPU were second vice-president Michel Kaplan of Paris-1, Panthéon-Sorbonne, and Pascal Level of Valenciennes et du Hainaut Cambresis as third vice-president. The minister of education, Luc Ferry, is nominally the CPU's president.

The CPU was also concerned with the harmonised European degree system that universities were committed to introducing by 2010, and France's position in Europe regarding higher education and research, Mr Laurent said.


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